Way back in October, when the Chicago Blackhawks were struggling to score two or three goals a game, coach Joel Quenneville was patient.
He wasn’t worried about this team scoring goals, he said over and over. Obviously, he had reason not to worry.
Michal Handzus garnered a short-handed goal that proved to be the game-winner and six other Blackhawks also scored as they pummeled the Philadelphia Flyers 7-2 at the United Center on Wednesday night. It was the third consecutive victory for the Blackhawks, who have scored 19 goals in those three games. On Wednesday, a lackluster first period gave way to a bountiful second in which the Blackhawks scored five goals.
Duncan Keith, Andrew Shaw, Kris Versteeg, Jonathan Toews (snapping an eight-game goal-less streak), Brent Seabrook and Patrick Sharp all scored for the Blackhawks. Sharp also had two assists and Marian Hossa had three helpers.
Antti Raanta, playing in his first NHL back-to-back, stopped 28 of 30 for his fifth victory of the season.
No, Quenneville was never worried about the goals coming. But did he see them coming at this rate?
“They’ve gone in the last three games. The quality probably wasn’t there (tonight) but they managed to go in,” he said. “The start to the second is what we were looking for. It was an ordinary first period. But it was a great second period for us and we kind of went from there.”
Indeed, they did. The Blackhawks weren’t too happy giving up two more power-play goals, especially after they recorded 10 consecutive kills in their last two games. But scoring seven goals on the other end, they’ll get over it.
“It’s a credit to our team game,” Sharp said. “We have guys who can put up big numbers. But when we’re playing well in all three zones and that’s when our offense clicks.”
Ray Emery bore the brunt of the Blackhawks’ offensive barrage, allowing six goals on 18 shots before Steve Mason relieved him early in the third period.
“We go into the second with the lead and just kind of a funny one, you know? I’ve got to make a save and pucks are kind of bouncing around a bit,” Emery said. “But you can’t make excuses. As a whole, we have to play better in the second.”
Asked if he struggled to see some of those goals tonight, Emery said, “just the first one (the power-play goal from Keith). I didn’t see that one. Other ones I saw. I just didn’t get them.”
But the first period was the last time the Blackhawks would be gracious to anyone in a Philadelphia uniform. While the Flyers doled out the majority of hits (35) the Blackhawks retaliated with shots that really hurt.
“Sometimes it just comes down to getting our chances,” said Keith, who scored his second of the season on an early power play. “The power play’s scored some key goals the last few games. That kind of gets guys feeling good, especially guys who are used to scoring. Just getting that goal to give the team a boost helps.”
Raanta took care of the rest. The 24-year-old was strong again, saving his best for last when he stymied Brayden Schenn and Michael Raffl on short-handed breakaway attempts.
“I was thinking, we have the power play, so I won’t get any shots there,” Raanta said. “It’s good to get those and get some good saves sometimes, get some emotion going. The crowd was standing and yelling, so it was pretty nice.”
The Blackhawks are rolling right now. Those goal-scoring troubles of October seem like a distant memory. Sure, it’s not all about their goals – the Blackhawks have been pretty good denying the opposition goals on the other side. But they’re getting the overall game they want. And they’re getting the goals Quenneville predicted they would.
“We have a lot of depth in the organization and Antti was great tonight when he had to be,” Keith said. “I think we just have confidence in one another in this room, that we have the ability to win games. I think when we’re playing the right way, everything just takes care of itself.”