Blackhawks have a 2010 Stanley Cup feeling
BY MARK LAZERUS firstname.lastname@example.org January 21, 2013 10:01PM
Chicago Blackhawks v Phoenix Coyotes
BLUES AT BLACKHAWKS
The facts: 7:30, CSN, 720-AM.
Updated: January 22, 2013 10:23AM
GLENDALE, Ariz. — To say the 2013 Blackhawks are looking an awful lot like the 2010 Blackhawks after two games is the kind of hyperbolic, knee-jerk reaction that so often makes pundits look silly and irrational.
Only we didn’t say it. They did.
‘‘Right now, it feels like 2010,’’ piping-hot winger Marian Hossa said after the Hawks’ 6-4 victory Sunday against Mike Smith and the Phoenix Coyotes, a goalie and a team they had so much trouble with last season. ‘‘We had the four lines going [then], and right now we’re doing similar things. I know it’s only two games and it’s early to be talking about it, but I feel good about rolling four lines, so everyone’s more energized, instead of playing two or three lines so much.’’
Nobody feels better than Hossa, who has returned from his concussion looking better than ever. Against two of the best goalies in the world — the Los Angeles Kings’ Jonathan Quick and Smith — he has four of the Hawks’ 11 goals. He looks fast, fit and physical.
And he doesn’t think that he’s anywhere near his sharpest. He said that he’s playing mostly on instinct, not on technique, and that his confidence only can go up.
‘‘To tell you the truth, the legs are going, but the hands and head are still adjusting to the faster game,’’ Hossa said. ‘‘You have to try to not do too much, just use your instinct and slowly build your confidence. Sometimes I play much better and don’t get any points, and I feel good about my game. And sometimes I don’t feel great about my game and end up with two goals.’’
Dave Bolland said Hossa is the best player in the game. This from a guy who watched just-as-hot Patrick Kane (four points in two games) snake his way through seemingly the entire Coyotes roster before sliding a pass to Bolland for an easy chip-in goal. It was one of two goals for Bolland, who just might be the long-awaited answer at second-line center.
‘‘It’s a lot easier just sitting there and waiting for the puck,’’ Bolland said with a smile. ‘‘Kaner’s a tremendous player. You can tell by the way he plays and with his hockey sense and his poise with the puck. To play with him, it’s pretty fun.’’
Everywhere Bolland looks, it seems, there are guys playing at that level offensively. Sure, the Hawks have gotten a few breaks around the net; Smith looked lost Sunday, juggling pucks and failing to corral rebounds. But the Hawks spent the first 36 hours of the season putting relentless pressure on two stout defensive teams.
The top two lines have been at the top of their games, but what has the Hawks talking about the Stanley Cup team is how all four lines are getting that kind of pressure.
Maybe the best shift of the game Sunday came from the fourth line of Michael Frolik, Marcus Kruger and Brandon Bollig, who mucked and scraped their way into two or three golden scoring chances in a row during the first period. They didn’t score, but the point was clear: On this opening weekend at least, the Hawks were deep — 2010 deep.
Again, their words. Not ours.
‘‘The 2010 team, we had four lines we were rotating,’’ coach Joel Quenneville said. ‘‘Everybody was going, and that’s what we’re talking about this season. We like that they’re all capable of playing against anybody. We like the depth.’’
What’s not to like? Eleven goals in two games, the top players at the top of their games, the checking lines looking like wrecking crews, the defense moving the puck, gorgeous goals and garbage goals alike — everything’s clicking offensively.
It’s ridiculously, preposterously, stupidly early to make any grand statements and proclamations, of course. But on Tuesday, the Hawks are having a red-carpet gala with 20,000 of their closest friends. And when the puck drops in their game against the St. Louis Blues — a matchup between perhaps the top two teams in the Western Conference — they’re all hoping to keep partying like it’s 2010.
NOTE: The Blackhawks bolstered their organizational goaltending depth by dealing a seventh-round pick in the 2013 draft for Calgary Flames goaltender Henrik Karlsson. The team sent Karlsson to Rockford of the AHL.