The Chicago Blackhawks’ top line was setting the pace right from the start, attacking, shooting and, eventually scoring. And when the Blackhawks are dictating the pace, they’re hard to stop.
The Winnipeg Jets were reminded of that on Wednesday night.
Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane scored, and Duncan Keith garnered two assists as the Blackhawks beat the Winnipeg Jets 4-1. It was the second time in five days the Blackhawks beat the Jets, who they outscored 9-2 in those two contests. On Saturday it was a big second period pacing the Blackhawks. Tonight, it was their fast pace, from start to finish.
“Our ability to handle the puck and make plays and keep possession, in some games can help us a long way,” said Keith. “Tonight, it was a big part of it.”
Indeed, the Blackhawks nearly scored seconds into the game, their top liners pouncing on an early Jets turnover. They didn’t score then, but it wasn’t long before they were. Toews’ goal was his eighth of the season. Patrick Sharp came in later with his fourth of the year.
“It’s just three players who want a whole lot of the puck and make plays,” Sharp said. “You don’t see anyone trying to beat people 1 on 1. It’s give and go’s, it’s moving the puck back and forth, and all three guys like to score goals, so that’s a good thing.”
Coach Joel Quenneville said Toews, Sharp and Marian Hossa combined for the top line’s best game of the season.
“They had the puck a lot, they had a lot of zone time, quality chances and had some production as well to show for it,” he said. “Good motion, good rotation, good cycling and good finish.”
Yes, there was a lot of good that came out of game for the Blackhawks, who were in control from the onset, even though they didn’t get on the board until late in the first period. Toews’ goal came off a loose puck. Then with six seconds remaining in the first, Kane laced one through a Brandon Saad screen for a 2-0 lead.
And remember when that third goal used to be so elusive to the Blackhawks? It isn’t right now. Brandon Pirri added it – his third of the season – on a breakaway late in the second period.
“We’ve gotten a lot better than the first 8-10 games,” Quenneville said of getting that breathing-room goal. “That third goal turned out to be a big one, and it put us in a good spot to start he third.”
As for Pirri’s shot, Keith said, “He’s got a really nice shot. You saw that on his first goal in the NHL; it was a rocket. Nice pass by (Ben) Smith, too, but nice finish, for sure.”
The Blackhawks didn’t relent despite that 3-0 lead, which grew to 4-0 after Sharp’s goal four minutes into the third period. The defense was stellar, as was Corey Crawford in stopping 24 of 25 shots.
Toews was also 15 of 17 from the faceoff circle.
The Blackhawks were dictating from the start. The top line was right at the front of the onslaught, and when it’s playing that well, victories are usually going to follow.
“They started well too but I thought we were ready to play from the outset,” Quenneville said. “Good play, good purpose from start to finish.”