For nearly 40 minutes on Sunday the Blackhawks looked like — the Blackhawks.
We mean the dominating, four-line-rolling Blackhawks that people have been used to watching the last few seasons. That team, for nearly two periods, was very evident on Sunday.
“I know that was as good as we’ve played. That’s the pace we have to play at, with consistency and purpose,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “Meaning in every shift.”
And that team is going to have to be more evident — and for 60 minutes or more, not just 40 — as they head into the postseason.
The Blackhawks would rather forget the final 20-plus minutes of Sunday’s victory over the Bruins. That was a combination of Blackhawks breakdowns and Bruins mettle that made a once lopsided game more interesting than the Blackhawks would have liked. But for the first 40 minutes — or as Quenneville more specifically noted, “the first 39 and change” — the Blackhawks liked what they did.
It would be easy to focus on the six goals the Blackhawks scored during that time, and certainly the outburst was a welcome sight. But it several cases, it was what the Blackhawks were denying on the other end during those minutes that was leading to the Blackhawks’ scoring opportunities.
“We saw it there for 40 minutes, how good we can be. And it all starts with how well we defend. You see six goals coming fast, and it’s all about how we defend,” Trevor van Riemsdyk said. “It seems counterintuitive or whatever it may be, but it really is when we’re turning them over, giving them nothing and using our transition and our speed and skill. We have so many great forwards up there that can make so much happen. If we can just stay patient and really focus on how we defend, that leads to our offense.”
The Blackhawks had a few goals down this regular-season stretch. They wanted to shore up their overall game and rekindle their offense — the second line of Artemi Panarin, Artem Anisimov and Patrick Kane was looking strong again on Sunday. They wanted to get the most out of a defense minus Duncan Keith, who still has four games remaining on his suspension. Through (nearly) the first two periods on Sunday, the Blackhawks were playing as they hoped to all season.
Now they need to rinse and repeat — and do it for more than 40 minutes from here on out.
“I think we’re happy with our first 40 for sure. That’s something we need to continue to play and build off that,” Brent Seabrook said. “It goes to show when we’re playing our game we can play that way.”