After an embarrassing 5-3 loss in front of their hometown crowd last Saturday night against the Minnesota Wild, the Chicago Blackhawks must have heard coach Joel Quenneville loud and clear. Quenneville called the loss to the Wild at home one of the worst games the Hawks have played all year.
The Hawks then responded with force as they visited the Wild in the final part of the home-and-home games between the two teams with a convincing 5-1 victory. That game could possibly be the turning point early on in the season as not only did the usual stars produce, but also youngster Brandon Saad had one of the best games of his young career.
Saad channeled his inner Patrick Kane during the third period against the Wild as he received an open pass from fellow rookie Brandon Pirri and performed a “spin-o-rama” that had Kane wide open for a tap-in goal. Saad then closed out the game with a goal of his own to make it 5-1.
After the momentous victory, the Hawks returned home on Tuesday to face the weaker Ottawa Senators. Backup goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin started in order to potentially give Corey Crawford a rest after playing in straight games. But that would not be the case Tuesday night as the Senators lit up the backup for four goals in two periods and that would be enough as coach Quenneville took out the backup in favor of Crawford.
As posted before, the chances that the 40-year-old backup has to prove himself is very limited and if goalie Anti Raanta continues to play well in the minors, General Manager Stan Bowman may not have a chance to pull the plug on Khabibulin.
Although the backup goaltending issue needs to be addressed soon, the night belonged to captain Jonathan Toews. In a game where coach Quenneville said Toews had “a special game”, the captain took over in what looked to be a long night for Hawks.
Toews had one of his best performances of his prestigious career, tallying a hat trick on four shots and an assist while netting the game-winner in the third period to cap off the comeback effort against the Senators, winning 6-5.
Marian Hossa also had stellar game as he ended the game with three points (1 goal and 2 assists). Hossa continues his hot streak as he has tallied five points in his last five games.
When the Hawks are connecting on all cylinders, this team is going to be a force to be reckoned with every single night no matter who they play. As mentioned before, the stars will show up and for one night, one star came up even larger. But, if players like Saad and Andrew Shaw step up from night to night, the Hawks might not have to worry about backup goalie issues this season.
The Blackhawks get back on the ice Saturday as they head to Winnipeg to take on the Jets. Puck drop is scheduled for 2:00 p.m. (Central) and can be seen on WGN and CBC.
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