In a Sunday matinee, the Blackhawks capped off a very good weekend with a 3-2 shootout win over the Boston Bruins.
Defeating top tier opponents in January only matters so much. What is more important and apparent is the Hawks have the ability to reach another gear when fully focused.
The Bruins could have easily won, it wasn't as if they didn't deserve at least one point. What was most impressive is the Hawks did it the hard way. Getting a goal scored against in the last minute or first minute of a period is normally a recipe for disaster.
Boston's Brad Marchand accomplished both feats. The hard nosed winger scored with 19 seconds remaining in the opening frame and again 50 seconds into the second period.
After the Blackhawks came out strong and Marian Hossa potted his 20th goal the Bruins were able to steal the momentum. Then Jonathan Toews drew a 10 minute misconduct penalty at 5:50 of period two. Toews was whistled after breaking his stick and accidentally flipping the shaft over the glass. The Hawks could have thrown in the towel but champions don't quit, they find a way to win.
To recap, the Bruins scored two quick goals to take the lead, Toews was in the box for 10 minutes and the stage was set for a bad ending. Instead the Chicago offense held their own, the defense stayed solid and then the Hawks caught a break. Brandon Bollig took a shot from a bad angle which surprised Tuukka Rask and the game was knotted at two.
The Bruins are also a club with great resolve and they fired 14 shots at Corey Crawford in the third period. Again the Hawks didn't take the easy path as they put Boston on the power play twice. The Bruins couldn't solve Crawford and they made what seemed to be a very costly error in the waning seconds of regulation time.
Defenseman Matt Bartkowski committed a cross check on Ben Smith which resulted in a 1:55 of power play time in overtime. Joel Quenneville loaded up and put his best four forwards on the ice for the power play. The Blackhawks recorded only two shots during the four on three man advantage and the Bruins weathered the storm.
This was a very good game and unfortunately it had to be decided in a shootout. Quenneville finally changed things around and did not shoot first. My thinking has always been a home team should shoot second in a shootout, but Quenneville likes to do the opposite.
On Sunday Quenneville broke from the norm and Toews quickly gave his club a one goal lead. After Patrick Sharp and Patrice Bergeron missed, Marchand came through and beat Crawford again. Then the table was set for Patrick Kane to be a hero.
The right winger didn't disappoint and put the game winner past Rask. Kane is now 1-9 in the shootout and the Hawks are 20-0-5 when scoring first in the game.
Hossa has had a great season and with a marker on Sunday now has five goals in his last five games. It is unusual for a winger to win the Selke Trophy, which is given to the best defensive forward. Last year Toews won the award and this season Hossa should be given strong consideration.
The Blackhawks proved they are still the measuring stick for other clubs . Now their schedule will be road heavy until March.
The Hawks will finish January with four of five games on the road. The last game at the United Center until March will be on Sunday versus Winnipeg. Before facing the Jets they will travel to Detroit and Minnesota on Wednesday and Thursday.
In February the Blackhawks will head West to play four matches and then break for the Olympics. After the Games conclude the Hawks will finish the month by playing the Rangers in New York.
Playing nine of the next 10 on the road could either provide fuel for doubters or confidence and momentum for the final 21 games.
Zdeno Chara is a horse and played 28:08 which included 2:46 of ice time in OT.
Bollig recorded a game high seven hits on only 17 shifts.
Rockford IceHog Notes
On Saturday I took in the IceHog-Wolves contest in Rosemont. It was good to see a capacity crowd of 16,000. That's the largest crowd I have seen at a Wolves game. It was a loud and jumping place as many in attendance were Girl Scouts and their families. The Wolves do a great job of keeping everyone involved and they have a loyal fan base.
As for the game the IceHogs lost 2-1 but the score was flattering to them.
After the opening period they were soundly outplayed. Jason LaBarbera had a strong outing and needed to be very good. The IceHogs are an adventure in their own zone.
Common thinking of those who watch the IceHogs on a regular basis is they aren't bad in the offensive zone. The issue is getting the puck out of their own zone and through the neutral zone.
On Saturday night they played an even opening period and then poor outlet passes, turnovers and incorrect positioning was evident. The puck was in Rockford's zone for the majority of the time over the final 40 minutes.
Talented young defenders like Adam Clendening and Klas Dahlbeck will likely be NHL players someday, but that day is not around the corner. They are sometimes exposed and not really helped all that much by playing with veterans. The more experienced players had their share of missteps too. It's fun to watch both Clendening and Dahlbeck play in the offensive zone. Sometimes they are paired together, but that can't be the case always.
In any event I can understand why GM Stan Bowman signed Michal Rozsival to a two year contract extension this past summer.
Brandon Pirri has been out for a few weeks. Supposedly Pirri has a lower body injury, which is thought to be same issue he had in Blackhawks training camp. Pirri hasn't bounced back quickly and only recently has begun skating.
As for the forwards, Joakim Nordstrom and Phillip Danault caught my eye.
Nordstrom isn't flashy but he appears to be the most polished young player in Rockford. It looks like he has the hockey sense to not be far off for a promotion. He has good vision and makes solid decisions.
Danault came alive in the second period. He is an energy player with skill but still has lessons to learn. He was playing on the fourth line, which was Rockford's best line. Danualt likes to do a lot on his own and that needs to change. He looks to be strong willed player with a motor that doesn't stop.
Another player who falls into the trap of trying to be a one man gang is Jeremy Morin. By now Morin should know better. Morin could be better suited in Chicago because there he realizes his place. That said his inability to use others on the ice could be a big reason Morin is still in Rockford.
The word on Mark McNeill, who wasn't very noticeable is that he could be tired. I expected more out of McNeill, but the midpoint of the AHL season is tough to get through for some of the younger players.
The IceHogs are basically a .500 team with some promising young talent. Unless things change the Hogs shortcoming in their own zone will limit their success.
I will be back on Thursday and you can follow me on Twitter @AlCimaglia.