A few days ago we got the final verdict: Jonathan Toews, just like teammate Patrick Kane, was out the rest of the regular season.
For Toews’ sake, it was the smart move. Health becomes a priority, especially with the postseason so close. But for a Chicago Blackhawks team already struggling, even with most of their lineup intact, the questions abounded. What would they do without those two? How would they cobble together victories and collect much-needed points?
But there was another question, one that was posed to Andrew Shaw entering the Blackhawks’ game vs. the Minnesota Wild: Could this be the kick in the butt the Blackhawks needed down the stretch?
“I think so,” Shaw said. “We’re going to have to work, compete for each other. It’s not going to be easy. We have to go out there and take it.”
The Blackhawks have done just that these past two games, where they picked up four points in back-to-back victories over the Wild and Columbus Blue Jackets. Pretty? Hardly. Convincing? Oh, not even close. But these were character victories, games in which the Blackhawks had to pull themselves up from their skate laces and, as Shaw often says, “play for each other.”
Now the massive weekend test comes on Sunday morning, when the Blackhawks host the St. Louis Blues. St. Louis is coming off a 4-0 loss to Colorado on Saturday, so the Blues will probably be even more snippy than usual. The Blackhawks need to apply the same mantra they have the past two games: keep it simple, get to the net and scratch and scrape for everything you can get.
Other random thoughts about the Blackhawks’ back to back:
1. When injuries arise, coach Joel Quenneville always talks about someone taking advantage of the situation. It looks like Jeremy Morin has been doing that the past two games. Morin’s had a few go-arounds with the Blackhawks this season but hasn’t done much with them. That’s changed on his latest call-up. Morin has been feisty, he’s been opportunistic and he’s brought that energy that a weary Blackhawks team needs right now. Good on him for taking advantage of this chance.
2. Yes, kids, I know you’re upset that Teuvo Teravainen isn’t playing more. Hey, we warned you when he first came over; so did he. One of Teravainen’s first quotes on his return to this side of the pond was that, “everything I do here is a bonus. I’m just trying to have fun.” He’ll still get a game or two down the stretch, but the first year of that entry-level contract should be safe.
3. Oh, and if you’re planning to see Teravainen in Sunday’s lineup vs. the Blues, I wouldn’t bet on it. We all know how much Quenneville doesn’t like to change the lineup when the team is winning.
4. You could probably measure every goal the Blackhawks have scored the past two games with a yardstick. They’ve all been close, battling, scrapping, net-presence goals, something the Blackhawks have needed more of anyway. Even when Toews and Kane return, they can’t lose that net-driving aspect from their game.
5. Re-sign Ben Smith. The guy’s gotten past some tough injuries and has become a big part of the Blackhawks’ depth, be it on that fourth line or as a solid emergency second-line center. Re-sign him.