What a difference a few tweaks make.
Yes, its hardly a secret that Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville will make tweaks, switches, alterations, whatever you want to call them, when things arent going so well. He was doing it again this week.
Two games, a few changes and 10 goals later, the Blackhawks are liking what theyre seeing. Theyre back to playing complete games again, and back atop the Western Conference standings again.
We witnessed two games where it was easy to make alterations with the lines. The way weve come out of it, I feel theres balance on the offensive and the defensive side of things, Quenneville said. Seeing our four-line rotation improve, thats what we wanted. Weve seen it better in the last two games, so we like that trend.
The winning trend doesnt hurt, either. Even when the Blackhawks were grabbing three out of four points in Florida, things were starting to look a little shaky. The defensive pairings were fine, but the true chemistry just wasnt there. As for the forward lines, Patrick Kanes trio was rolling along splendidly. Others were more hit and miss. And when Kanes group got quiet, the others didnt fill in the void.
So change was gonna come. It did, and its working. How, you say? A few reasons
Familiarity: This is especially true among the defensemen, where Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook are together again. Yes, theyre two world-class defensemen who can play with anyone, but theyre still at their best when together.
Speed kills: Kanes line already had plenty of this, but even with changes they havent lost a step with Dan Carcillo and Patrick Sharp flanking him now. The top line needed to get that back again, and now has thanks to Viktor Stalberg and Marian Hossa joining Jonathan Toews. Those changes were especially evident against Calgary on Friday, when the top two lines seemed to skate at will.
On my line, with the speed of Stally and Hoss, we feel like were getting chances off the rush every single shift, Toews said. The rest of our lines have been playing well offensively.
The Blackhawks have been rolling again these past two games, and it doesnt come a moment too soon. That monstrosity known as the Circus Trip is looming, and the Blackhawks want to be playing their road-trip best hockey on it.
All it took was a few little tweaks.
Were getting that swagger and that energy back on 5 on 5 and we had it (Friday) night, Toews said. Were back to playing our team game the way we wanted to these past few games. We have to hang onto that and keep building on it.