Win some, win some more: there really hasn’t been a “lose some” part of that phrase lately.
The Blackhawks, so uncertain and shaky through the first month plus of this season, are starting to look like the well-oiled machine of old. They were winning again on Sunday, when they claimed a 5-2 victory over the Montreal Canadiens for their 11th consecutive victory. The streak has the Blackhawks sitting atop the Central Division, three points ahead of the Dallas Stars they were chasing the first few months.
So before we hit the road, let’s look at Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ victory over Montreal.
[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]
1. Jonathan Toews nets two more. Remember when we talked about the captain’s lack of scoring, at least outside of overtime goals? Yeah, that was adorable. Toews has been part of the top line’s resurgence in recent games, and he scored his 18th and 19th of the season in the second period on Sunday night. Toews said the chemistry between he, Andrew Shaw and Marian Hossa is growing. “We're not having to work as hard at trying to get pucks back and when we get it, we keep it for longer,” he said. “We're keeping plays alive. We're able to find guys with time and space and get them away from pressure in the zone, and eventually we're going to get confidence.”
2. Marian Hossa gets closer to 500 career goals. Hossa thought he had what ended up being Toews’ first goal of the second period – “I thought it was in the net and Jonny had the quick hands,” Hossa said. But he did get career goal No. 494 in the waning seconds when Duncan Keith’s pass went off his stick. Hossa, who also added two assists, was in a rut as much as anyone earlier this season. He’s coming out of it now.
3. Erik Gustafsson continues to be a great find. The Blackhawks won the two games Gustafsson missed with a knee injury but there’s no doubt the impact the defenseman has when he’s in the lineup. He was barely back two minutes on Sunday when he laced a beautiful pass to Richard Panik, who scored for a 1-0 lead. Coach Joel Quenneville said Gustafsson is a defenseman who thinks like a forward. His crisp passes, eight of which have been assists this season, attest to that.
4. Corey Crawford ties a streak of his own. Crawford won his eighth consecutive game on Sunday, matching a streak he set during the 2010-11 season, his first full one with the Blackhawks. When the Blackhawks have been up and down offensively and defensively this season, Crawford was the constant. He also thwarted his hometown team once again, and improving to 5-0-2 against the Canadiens in his career.
5. The power play scores again. Oh, those days of the power play being a much-maligned mess are over. It’s not great at home – 20th in the league entering Sunday’s game – but it’s nevertheless producing. Even if it isn’t, it’s not draining momentum from the Blackhawks, as it has in years past. Again, when it’s all going right, it’s really all going right.