Chicago Blackhawks follow the same script, continue to roll - New York News

Blackhawks follow the same script, continue to roll

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

While facing the Coyotes on Sunday night, it took the Blackhawks about seven minutes or so to get their legs under them. Ray Emery got the start in goal and made most stops look more difficult than needed. It didn't matter as Phoenix goalkeeper Mike Smith was less than average and Marian Hossa was special. The end result is the Blackhawks are 2-0 in 2013 after recording a 6-4 thumping of the Coyotes in the desert.

This game was not a masterpiece, somewhat sloppy would be a better description but it was fun to watch. The Coyotes are an easy team to dislike. They whine and aren't above delivering some cheap shots. The Blackhawks will have a tall task on Tuesday night versus possibly the best team in the Central Division, the St. Louis Blues.

For now the Hawks have followed the same script in two games and only need to tighten things up a bit and have better goaltending than Sunday night.

The star players have found ways to score. The defense has been good, especially considering Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook have not been the best players on the blueline. Plus, both have seen reduced playing time compared to the past and if that trend continues it should bode well for later in the season. The penalty killing has been very good and the power play has been better and those are significant improvements.

As long as the Blackhawks can play at a fast pace and fill the net there will be no issues. In case anyone was wondering, scoring 11 goals in two games qualifies as filling the net.

Solid goaltending is still needed and the Coyotes almost mounted a comeback with the help of some turnovers and soft goals, but Smith had a poor outing as well. Actually Smith looked as he did over much of his career before last season when he was great. He wasn't the sole reason for the Coyotes fate as the Hawks controlled most of the play and deserved the victory.

Not to nitpick, or second guess as I tweeted the same before Sunday night's contest. I get why Joel Quenneville wanted to play Emery in goal but Corey Crawford should have gotten the start. Emery needs to share the load at some point but Crawford also has to regain his confidence and should have gotten the call after a solid win in Los Angeles.

All Crawford has heard for the last nine months is he was the main reason the Hawks bowed out in round one of the playoffs. That's not my take but it is popular opinion. It has also been rumored GM Stan Bowman was kicking the tires on acquiring Marty Brodeur, which I feel had no chance of happening. There have been other rumors about the Blackhawks looking to acquire another goalkeeper. My point is Crawford played well in LA, and most likely if he was in goal Sunday night the Hawks would have had a much easier path to victory.

Crawford played on Saturday afternoon, not the night before. He had a short flight to Phoenix and fatigue was probably not an issue. Two consecutive wins would have gone a long way in restoring his confidence. Crawford is a professional and now will face a difficult assignment against the Blues in the home opener.

Even when the Blues had poor clubs they still played the Hawks tough. They are a long way from being bad and their season opener indicated the same. St. Louis rolled over the Red Wings 6-0 in their first game as Detroit was held to only 14 shots on goal. Maybe the Blackhawks will have an edge when the Blues skate into the United Center. St. Louis will be coming off a late Monday afternoon game in Nashville.

So far so good and the UC should be rocking as Blackhawk fans have waited too long for this season to begin.

Al's Shots

Niklas Hjalmarsson has been the best Blackhawk defenseman thus far.

Hammer and Johnny Oduya have played more minutes than any other pairing, including significant penalty killing time.

It has been reported Daniel Carcillo will miss about one month of action after suffering a MCL tear versus LA.

Rookie Brandon Saad took Carcillo's spot on the top line and played well.

A few years ago Dave Bolland was called the lifeblood of the team by then assistant coach Mike Haviland. His hockey IQ is top notch. I don't worry about Bolland being able to handle the second line center role. He has shown the hockey smarts and hands to contribute offensively. Bolland has notched two goals and one assist this season.

The question will be if Andrew Shaw can handle playing third line center at the NHL level.

Maybe Marcus Kruger will move up from the fourth line if Shaw struggles. The third line has been fine for the most part but it mostly has been due to the play of Viktor Stalberg and Bryan Bickel.

The fourth line has been getting significant minutes and has been very good.

Winning faceoffs is an issue for everyone except Jonathan Toews.

Versus the Coyotes, the Hawks as a team were faceoff winners only 44 percent of the time.

Bolland was a meager 29 percent while Shaw was a winner 40 percent of the time.

Toews continues to be machine like as he won 58 percent of his faceoffs last night.

Kruger was a winner at the dot five out of eight times, for 63 percent. He is also on the penalty killing unit, so success in the faceoff circle will come in handy.

Hossa has been lights out. He had five shots and recorded two goals versus the Coyotes.

Keep an eye on St. Louis rookie right winger Vladimir Tarasenko. He had two goals on five shots in his season opener.

I will be back on Wednesday morning to discuss the home opener versus the Blues.

Follow me on Twitter @AlCimaglia

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