Brandon Saad (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
After two consecutive heartbreaking defeats, the Chicago Blackhawks got a bit of a breather on Tuesday night, defeating the Calgary Flames 2-0. Goaltender Ray Emery stopped 16 shots to earn his first save since February 2010, and Nick Leddy and Brent Seabrook netted goals in the victory.
With a more detailed breakdown of what happened in the game, here are a few lessons that fans can take from the win.
Puck possession returns to dominance
On Monday night, the Hawks couldn’t stop the Los Angeles Kings from establishing possession in the offensive zone, lost just about every puck battle along the boards, and couldn’t clear any rebounds from in front of goaltender Corey Crawford. It was a bad night overall for a team that prides itself on puck possession and aggressive forechecking, and it was something the Hawks needed to overcome in order to find success against Calgary.
With the exception of a first period onslaught by the line of Michael Cammalleri, Jarome Iginla and Alex Tanguay, the Hawks did a great job of keeping the Flames from getting anything going offensively. Not only did Chicago hold the Flames to only 16 shots, but they were able to cycle the puck effectively, got plenty of quality opportunities, and did a good job of fighting through the neutral zone without turning the puck over nearly as much as they did in their previous outing.
Brandon Saad once again shows his mettle
When the Blackhawks took Saad in the second round of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, it was widely guessed they had gotten one of the biggest steals of the draft. His final year in the junior ranks was a productive one, with the youngster scoring 34 goals and dishing out 42 assists in only 44 games with the Saginaw Spirit.
This season has been even better for the 20-year-old. He has four goals and 12 assists so far this season, and he has been a solid complementary piece to the top line with Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa.
On Tuesday, Saad didn’t find his way onto the scoresheet, but he was continuously pushing the tempo, managed to get three shots on goal, and didn’t look like 20 minutes of ice time was too much to handle. If he can continue to play this way, then it would appear that head coach Joel Quenneville has found a long-term solution to the team’s need for top line talent.
The real test comes Friday
As nice as it was to see the Hawks keep the Flames in check for 60 minutes on Tuesday, the real test for this team will come when the Anaheim Ducks skate into the United Center Friday night.
This is a team the Hawks will almost certainly have to play come playoff time, and in both games the teams have played against each other, Anaheim has managed to nose out the Hawks on the scoreboard. The last matchup last Wednesday was particularly painful, with the Ducks winning on a goal late in the third period.
The knock on the Blackhawks after that game, as well as after the Kings game, is they cannot win a game that is played with a high level of physicality. In order to counteract that notion, they are going to have to come ready to battle hard with the Ducks. Whether they can or not remains to be seen.