Patrick Kane was asked about his goal, the one that came just 62 seconds after the Edmonton Oilers’ lead-taking score. But he wasn’t the only one who had a timely “answer” on Monday night.
“I think we responded to a lot of things all game,” the Chicago Blackhawks’ wing said. “After their second goal, to come back and regroup here between the second and third and come out and score a quick one (from Viktor Stalberg) was huge. This team just keeps finding ways to win.”
Indeed. And one of the reasons the Blackhawks keep winning is because they keep responding to their opponents’ actions. Be it answering a goal, taking advantage of a power play or making a big hit, the Blackhawks’ responses this year have been critical. And in many cases, they've also led to success.
A few examples:
• When Dallas Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen was stopping everything the Blackhawks threw at him on Jan. 24, Kane said it was “almost fun to watch” Lehtonen’s outing. The calm attitude worked, as the Blackhawks came back to win in overtime, 3-2.
• The Blackhawks are not at their best against the Calgary Flames on Feb. 2. Bad passes, lack of scoring chances, it’s one of their worst games of the season. Enter Ray Emery, who, in his second start of the season, turns in a highlight-reel performance with 45 stops on 47 shots, both career highs.
• Andrew Shaw scores just eight seconds after Martin Handzus does in the Blackhawks’ first meeting with the San Jose Sharks on Feb. 5. The Blackhawks were down 3-1 at the time, and Shaw’s goal was the first of four unanswered in the team’s 5-3 victory over San Jose.
• Jamal Mayers fights with Phoenix Coyotes forward Raffi Torres on Feb. 7, the first for Torres against the Blackhawks since he was suspended for his hit on Marian Hossa’s last April. The Blackhawks talked after that game, a 6-2 victory, that they were sparked by Mayers’ actions.
• With Dave Bolland injured, Brandon Saad gets a little extra penalty-kill time. He responds with the team’s first short-handed goal of the season, which is ultimately the game-winner, in a 2-1 victory over San Jose on Friday.
• Kane’s power-play goal just 1:02 after Jeff Petry’s short-handed score on Monday night. And Stalberg’s goal in the first 2 ½ minutes of the third period, after the Blackhawks talked amongst themselves about a so-so second period.
Remember last season’s Blackhawks? In a few of these scenarios, things would’ve fallen apart. It could’ve happened last night, when the Oilers, who owned the Blackhawks last season, scored that short-handed goal. It could’ve happened in San Jose, when Corey Crawford allowed that bad Handzus goal. It could’ve happened in Phoenix, if the Blackhawks don’t address the Torres situation immediately.
But it didn’t.
“For the most part, this is a group of guys who have been through Cup runs and have had success the past couple of years. Guys are coming around and maybe remembering what it’s like to be hungry like that,” Emery said. “It’s just really encouraging the way we’re taking the bad bounces and finding ways to win, finding ways to battle through every situation we’ve seen so far.
The Blackhawks are so much more confident than last season. They regroup quickly, be it as a team or as individuals. Coach Joel Quenneville used the word “tenacity” after Monday night’s victory. Oilers coach Ralph Krueger chose “relentless.” Each word fits.
There has been no quit in the Blackhawks during this record-breaking run. There have just been a lot of responses.