Ailing forwards, clicking lines and a surging team: when you’re a coach you deal with the ups and downs of your squad on a nightly basis.
Coach Joel Quenneville had a little bit of everything on Tuesday night, as well as a nice milestone for himself in the Blackhawks’ 3-2 victory over the Nashville Predators. Allow us to terminate the suspense: here are Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ victory, their eighth straight.
1. Congratulations, Q. The Blackhawks’ coach tied one of the greats on Tuesday night, claiming his 782nd triumph to tie Al Arbour for second on the all-time coaching victory list. Being a player’s coach means understanding what your players need on a game-by-game basis, as well as off days. The Blackhawks say Quenneville gets that as well as anyone. In turn, his players just win for him. “It’s nice to see him get rewarded with another contract,” Corey Crawford said. “I mean, he’s one of the best and we have a lot of respect for him and he knows exactly how to get the best of his players. We’re all happy for him.”
2. Paging Panik, Mr. Richard Panik. The newest member of the Blackhawks got a big surprise in the early evening: Artem Anisimov was sick and the Blackhawks needed Panik to get ready for tonight’s game fast. Panik did, jumping on the Blackhawks’ third line. It was a tough game for a new player to get integrated in, considering how many penalties there were. But Quenneville was happy with Panik’s debut, saying the forward, “made a good first impression.”
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3. Crawford comes up big again. We mean this in the most last-second sense possible. Ryan Johansen was a gnat’s eyelash away from tying the game and getting the Predators at least a point. Instead Crawford came up with one more save – his 41st of the game. Coming out of Tuesday’s victory, Crawford is tied for second in the league in victories (24) and seventh in save percentage (.927). His six shutouts still lead the NHL.
4. Shaw finding his rhythm. You could say that for the whole top line but, much like the Blackhawks wanted to get Marian Hossa going, they wanted to do the same with their net-front presence guy. That’s where Shaw was for both goals, knocking in a Hossa rebound on his first goal and streaking toward the net and scoring off a Hossa pass on his second. Greasy goals are good for him, aren’t they? “Greasy goals are good for anyone,” he said.
5. Two points behind Dallas. Yes, that’s not something many were expecting when the Blackhawks went into Christmas break. They were playing fine hockey then, but a 4-0 loss to the Stars on Dec. 22 was a punch to the gut. Yet here they are, exactly three weeks later, trailing the Central Division-leading Stars by just two points. The turn of the new year has been a good turn for the Blackhawks.