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At this point, about all I can say is the Hawks don't stink.
They also aren't good but at least a fan doesn't automatically think of them when they catch a whiff of the areas where hockey players change, which are known for being even more pungent than the average locker room.
The Blackhawks finally played a decent period (the third) in the middle of their easiest schedule stretch of the season and that enabled them to knock off the Arizona Coyotes 3-1 on Sunday night. On Friday they rallied to barely edge the Buffalo Sabres 3-2 on an overtime goal with :04.9 remaining.
And just like that, the Hawks have combined with the Bears and the Bulls for a five-game local winning streak after the group lost 20 in a row together (Bulls 10, Bears 5 and Hawks 5).
In the first two time frames at the United Center last night and just about throughout their victory on Friday, the team continued its lousy play of the last couple weeks.
And then last night the Hawks could barely complete a pass during the first period and weren't much better in the second. Finally, with a dozen minutes remaining, the Hawks broke through. And it was the fourth line that led them, again.
Tommy Wingels scored his second huge goal in as many games to put the Blackhawks on the board.
And after the Coyotes scored what could have been a demoralizing goal a few minutes later, Patrick Kane finally got untracked.
The leading scorer who had not scored even an assist in the previous four games first found Hawks leading scorer Artem Anisimov for a deadly wrister.
Then he worked a perfect 2-on-1 with Nick Schmaltz, culminating in a one-timer that put the game away.
Schmaltz is a guy who has shown real potential as a playmaker so far this year. He is one of the young players who will have to come through if the Blackhawks are to avoid falling off a cliff (in the standings) as the championship core (Kane, Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook) ages.
Kane's scoring plays were especially welcome because in these last half-dozen games or so, the Hawks' fourth line, led by Wingels and Peter Bouma, has been more dangerous offensively than their first (the one that features Kane of course). And don't get me started about Toews and Brandon Saad. Actually, do get me started.
Saad has been a flat-out bust so far this year, making fans pine for the little-big gun, i.e. Artemi Panarin, who was sent to Columbus to make Saad's second time around with the Hawks possible. The big winger does a good job of taking care of his defensive responsibilities, but the hoped-for offensive chemistry with Toews has not happened - at all.
And so the Hawks find themselves sixth in their division even after winning a couple games in a row. It is nothing a little winning streak can't fix, but that isn't going to happen if the team doesn't find a way to raise its game, and soon.
The bright side is the team's young defensemen, Jan Rutta and Gustav Forsling. The latter almost single-handedly saved the Hawks from what would have been an embarrassing loss to the Sabres, who have totaled all of seven wins this season.
First, with just under 3:30 remaining in regulation and shorthanded, he sent a shot-pass toward Wingels that the forward tipped into the net to draw the Hawks even.
Then in overtime, Forsling expertly waited until the Sabres goaltender was screened before firing the game-winner between his legs.
Next up for the Hawks are the weak Florida Panthers on Tuesday evening. Then they have to start playing real teams again. You should be able to tell if they are playing better by paying attention to the smell.
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Posted on Feb 15, 2019