It’s been six games since the Blackhawks’ new top line of Patrick Sharp, Jonathan Toews, and Marian Hossa was assembled. In that time, that line’s point totals have skyrocketed – Toews has 5 goals and 3 assists; Sharp has 3 goals and 7 assists; and Hossa has 4 goals and 4 assists. After trying two other top line combinations to kickstart the team’s goal scoring at the beginning of the season, it appears that for coach Joel Quenneville, the third time may have been the charm.
“We try things,” Quenneville told the media, an utterly not-shocking statement for anyone who has watched a Blackhawks game during his tenure as coach and observed the infamous Quenneville Line Blender. “You probably said, ‘Why didn’t we try Bicks, Kaner and Jonny in the playoffs earlier?’ Over the course of the season, you’ll try things and some lines get hot and some lines jell a little bit later.”
The line of Sharp-Toews-Hossa is clearly the former. Four of Sharp’s assists came in last night’s game against the Dallas Stars, assisting on every goal scored in the game apart from the empty net goal scored by Niklas Hjalmarsson.
“Tonight he was unbelievable in finding the passes,” linemate Marian Hossa said after the game. “He’s poised with the puck. He can find you. He can shoot the puck extremely well. Right now he’s hot and I think the whole line is playing well.” Hossa scored two of the goals set up by Sharp, both in the first period.
The other two goals assisted on by Sharp were scored by Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. Toews scored in the first period to tie the game after Cody Eakin scored for Dallas, and that goal briefly tied Toews for the team lead in goals with nine. As typically happens in Hawks games, Kane could not let that stand and tallied a goal of his own late in the second period, scoring twenty-three seconds into the Blackhawks’ only power play of the game.
“We’ve been creating our fair share of chances all season long and early on the pucks seemed to be staying out and now they seem to be able to score with every line,” Sharp said. “Our defense is great at creating and jumping into plays. We don’t try to look at the numbers and say we should be scoring this many goals a game. We’re just trying to help each other and create offense.”
The offensive effort is paying off – last night in Dallas was the sixth time in the team’s past eight games that they have scored eight or more goals, something that should comfort fans who were concerned about the team that couldn’t seem to score a third period goal to save their lives at the beginning of the season.
Chicago takes on the Edmonton Oilers this evening at the United Center at 6:30 CT. Although the Oilers are currently 4-12-2 on the season, no Blackhawks fan (or player, for that matter) can forget that in the recent past, at least, the Oilers tend to blow the Blackhawks out of the water, thanks to players like Sam Gagner, Taylor Hall, and Jordan Eberle, all of whom are healthy coming into tonight’s game. It will be up to Chicago to continue their offensive effort to break that trend and defeat an Oilers team that are coming off a disappointing loss Saturday to the Philadelphia Flyers, and are looking to get a desperately needed win.