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Blackhawks Smoke Ducks, 7 Thoughts From My Brain For FREE

There two things I love more than just about anything in the. I absolutely LOVE winning and a close second to that…I love being right. The only thing better is being right about winning. Which is what happened yesterday. The Blackhawks got embarrassed by Tampa Bay and the mark of a good and prideful team is to bounce back in a BIG way the next time out. That is exactly what we saw. The Blackhawks were competitive and fiery all over the ice. They were organized. They won races, battles, and limited the Ducks chances. It was beautiful to see. Now…Anaheim stinks. I know they’re in first place, but that’s really just because Gibson has stolen games for them all year and he tried to do it again last night. But guess what…the Blackhawks did exactly what they should do. They controlled the majority of the game at home against an inferior opponent and got a BIG 2 points. All these points matter and collecting 2 points in October against Anaheim is huge when your Division is filled with 7 teams who all have legitimate playoff aspirations. The Blackhawks need 2 more against the Rangers on Thursday and then another two against Edmonton. The Hawks are better than all these teams and they MUST get points in matchups like that.

1) THAT is the Brandon Saad The Blackhawks Need EVERY Night

Saad, since he was threatened with being a healthy scratch last week and then demoted to the 4th line has been trending in the right direction. He played pretty well against Colombus. He was one of the few bright spots against Tampa Bay. But last night was an entirely different level. Saad was EVERYWHERE. He was a force. He bulldogged the puck to the net and created chances by himself. He won races. He protected the puck. He supported his teammates. He had 4 shots on goal in the first period which was his season high total for an entire game. He scored on the PP, but even if he hadn’t it still would’ve been his best game. Brandon Saad played the entire night like his hair was on fire. I’ve said it a million times, but hockey is about good habits. When you play the right way you get rewarded and Saad had been trending in the right direction and he played with impact energy from his first shift on. If Saad plays like that every night then I will never mention Artemi Panarin again. Saad played like a $6M power-forward and that’s what they need him to be. It was a beautiful thing to see. Getting that type of impact from Saad takes the Blackhawks to a different level.

2) Credit To Joel(and me) For Knowing That Splitting Up Kane And Schmaltz Is The Way To Go

Saad being an impact player certainly makes this move look better, but that entire line had a good night. Kane is a hockey genius. He knows how to maximize his linemates and set them up for success. Anisimov had one of his better games last night centering Kane and Saad. The Fortin-Schmaltz-Johnson line didn’t have as much success, but they had their moments. I’d rather see Kunitz with Fortin and Schmaltz simply because those two guys have enough speed to win races and control possession and Kunitz can use his brain, get himself in scoring areas, and play off of those guys. Having said that…the Blackhawks need more out of Schmaltz. He has all the talent needed to be an impact guy every night and carry a line by himself, but he needs to play with more chest. Be stronger on his skates with the puck. Shield guys, carry and put the puck into good areas. He needs to show that he’s a guy who should be paid.

3) Corey Crawford Is ALL The Way Back

Crow wasn’t challenged all that much last night because the team defense was pretty solid and organized, but he certainly looks like the Corey Crawford we saw pre-injury. Tracking, anticipation, movement, battle level, it’s all there. He’s one of the absolute best goalies in the world and the Blackhawks are lucky to have him back.

4) Erik Gustafsson Gets Better All The Time

This assist will be obviously talked about a lot and rightfully so because it was GLORIOUS. Look at how happy Kane is in that celebration. He LOVES guys who can think, read plays, and find him when he gets himself open. Gustafsson has those instincts and abilities. It’s showing up more and more.

HOWEVER, I really liked his game defensively last night. He had some pretty deft moves in his own end when recovering loose pucks in the corners. Just creating lanes and time with his feet. An extra second, and extra 2 feet. Sometimes that’s all you need to have a clean breakout and keep the puck. His stick was active. Anaheim is a mean team to play against down low and Gustafsson didn’t back down. VERY strong game for him overall. If he’s in your 3rd pair and running a power-play unit then you have a pretty good defense. Right now he’s probably slotted too high, but he’s not a guy you mind having out on the ice anymore.

5) It Was A Good Night For The Struggling Crew

Brandon Saad, Anisimov, and…Brandon Manning all had strong games. I’ve been hard on Manning so far this year and I still don’t like the signing, but he probably had his best game as a Hawk last night too. His play recognition isn’t terrible. He battles hard. I want him to play well. I’m rooting for him. Anaheim is a good matchup for him because they aren’t particularly fast and they just want to play physical and lean on you in the zone. Well Brandon Manning is here for that type of game and he showed up.

6) I’m In Love With Alex Debrincat

The kid is fearless and he can flat out play hockey. Knows how and where to score. He battles all over the ice. I’ve expressed some concern about committing big dollars and term to some of the Blackhawks young forwards, but that does NOT apply to Debrincat. He does everything you want him to do. He is a guy who you can win big with and I can’t WAIT to see him in the playoffs because he’s an animal and I think he’s going to be a playoff gangster! It takes a certain type of mental toughness and skill to excel in the postseason and Debrincat has that. He has that rare shot to bury the rare chance and he backs down from nobody. I love the kid and that line is ALWAYS cooking. I also love how Debrincat kept on chirping Manson in the box. Ran into him again. And the entire team stood up to Anaheim at the end of the 2nd period. This is a high character team. You can’t push the Blackhawks around anymore. JOIN OR DIE

7) Jonathan Toews Is Looking Fresh As A DAISY!

Don’t right spry. Toews has a legitimate burst in his first couple strides this year that have been missing in the past two. That little stutter step stop and go at the blueline last night made me tingly. He flies past people with speed in the neutral zone and then he also still has that strength to put his shoulder down and get the puck to the net. He’s back to being one of the best centers in the league and NHL better be on notice. Toews is so back.

I’m in love with this team. It won’t be perfect every night, but they battle. This team is worth the price of admission. It’s worth the emotional investment. I am ready to ride with this team for 82 games and beyond. It’s time to believe and enjoy the ride. Let’s GO. Join Or Fucking Die.