CALGARY, Alberta – The Blackhawks weren’t too happy with their game in Winnipeg on Tuesday, and for good reason. They looked flat and uninspired in what ended up being a lopsided loss (at least on the scoreboard).
Friday was a reminder of what the Blackhawks have to do on the road: play smart hockey, be patient and make sure special teams work in your favor. All that happened, and the Blackhawks came out of Calgary with a 3-2 victory. Oh, there were a few other factors, too. We’ll look at some of those now in our Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ victory over the Flames.
1. Getting better with age. Remember back in the winter of 2013 when the Calgary Flames looked like they were headed to victory, despite Ray Emery’s tremendous game? Marian Hossa kept that from happening, thanks to his game-tying goal with mere seconds left on the clock. On Friday Hossa came through with the big goal again, this time the winner. It’s been a great season for Hossa, and he once again came through on a night the Blackhawks needed someone to step up late.
2. Ryan Hartman responds. Hartman was a healthy scratch last game – we’re figuring due to numbers, not performance. But he nevertheless put an exclamation point when he returned on Friday, scoring on a breakaway for his third goal of the season. By the midway point of the second period Hartman, who was active and noticeable throughout, was on the top line with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.
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3. A strong kill. The Blackhawks’ penalty-kill issues continue to fade in the distance, as they went 5-for-5 against the Flames on Friday night. They got away from the discipline that has been more evident in recent games – they took just three penalties in their previous three games prior to this one – but they nevertheless denied the Flames. Including tonight’s game, the Blackhawks have now killed off 25 of their last 27 penalties. Oh, and not to be outdone…
4. A nice (albeit brief night) for the power play. One advantage, one goal. It’s not a bad percentage, really. I wrote Thursday on how the Blackhawks’ power play hadn’t been doing well lately (2-for-23 entering Friday’s game). Well, they made a big impact on the one power play they had on Friday night with a patented Brent Seabrook howitzer. It came in the second period, when the Blackhawks weren’t doing so well, and tied the game. “I mean he really steps into it and that one was another hard one there,” Corey Crawford said of Seabrook’s shot. “Key point in the game, too. We needed a big goal at that point and he got it for us.”
5. Going on without Gaudreau. Give the Flames credit: Johnny Gaudreau is out 4-6 weeks and they could’ve faltered. But they played a solid game against the Blackhawks and that top line of Sam Bennett, Sean Monahan and Troy Brouwer (you remember him) was potent. Each finished with two points. The Flames are missing a couple of guys, including Gaudreau. But Calgary isn’t going to use that as an excuse.