Quenneville a changed man as Blackhawks perfect on the season - New York News

Quenneville a changed man as Blackhawks perfect on the season

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

The Chicago Blackhawks rewarded a United Center capacity crowd of 21,455 with a hard fought 3-2 victory versus the St. Louis Blues. The good news is the Hawks are undefeated in this young season. The best news is they probably can play better. At this point winning three games against tough opponents is a very nice accomplishment. It's hard to believe the last time the Blackhawks began a year 3-0 was in 1972, and in that season they went to the Stanley Cup Finals.

Tuesday night, the Hawks showed they can win without scoring a bunch of goals. Although, if it were not for some very good goalkeeping early in the contest by the Blues' Brian Elliott, the home team may have had another six goal outburst. Elliott kept St. Louis in the game but by the end of the night he wasn't the best goalie on the ice.

Besides having a perfect record so far, the biggest accomplishment concerning this season might be the fact Corey Crawford has outplayed his counterpart in both of his outings. Tuesday night as the game wore on, the Blues took over the play and in the late going if not for Crawford, the outcome would have been different. Give Crawford his due as he has been technically sound and hasn't wilted under pressure. It's too early to say he will rebound to the form of his rookie season but no doubt Crawford has two nice wins under his belt.

The other noticeable factor effecting this season is apparently head coach Joel Quenneville is a changed man. Readers will recall in the past my contention the Blackhawks needed to spread the ice time out among defensemen. Another criticism of mine had been Quenneville never adjusted his style of play to account for different personnel. Three games is a very small sample but so far neither issue can be complained about.

Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook have had significant reductions in playing time compared to any season since Quenneville has been the head coach. Tuesday night, neither played as much as 23 minutes in a closely contested game. Nick Leddy, who may have played the strongest game of any defender, has been part of the third pairing. In the past the number five and six defensemen would be used sparingly. Against the Blues, Leddy was on the ice for 16:44 of playing time.

The Blackhawks would still be considered more of a puck possession, fast transition team but there are some noticeable differences. For the most part, players appear more responsible and aren't as hell bent to fly out of the offensive zone and neglect their defensive assignments. It's significant as Quenneville has been more trusting of everyone and hasn't been as focused on pitting one particular line against a specific set of players for the opponents.

So far Quenneville gets high marks for the new look and if performance is any indication, Blackhawk players have welcomed the change.

Al's Shots

The best players for the Hawks continue to be just that. All the big guns recorded at least one point versus the Blues, except Marian Hossa who had been on fire.

Patrick Kane scored the first goal on a seldom seen three on none advantage.

Goals are often scored because of mistakes and all of the Blues were caught inside the Hawks blue line. Unfortunately for them, a confident Leddy stepped up, captured the puck and quickly sent it out of the zone as Kane, Patrick Sharp and Dave Bolland were off to the races.

It's hard to be perfect and the Hawks weren't Tuesday night. St. Louis scored as Marcus Kruger was a bit hesitant while killing a penalty and because of a poor line change by Kane.

Winning while only scoring three goals required Crawford to come up big when needed. Crawford has been very good while playing the Blues and has only recorded one regulation loss in nine games.

Andrew Shaw had a solid game as well as his linemates, Bryan Bickell and Michael Frolik.

It would be nice to see Bickell drive to the net more instead of settling for 20-25 foot wrist shots. Bickell has a good shot but his size and speed should be used more often.

As I mentioned earlier, Leddy was impressive and was paired with Mikal Rozsival for the second game in a row. Rozsival had a bit of an adventurous night but he doesn't get rattled.

For the most part the passing by the Blackhawks has been good, especially the outlet passes from defensemen. It seems like the Hawks aren't concentrating so much on long stretch passes. Rather they are more focused on crisply getting the puck out their own zone.

This was a very good game at the dot for the Hawks as they won 57 percent of all faceoffs. Jonathan Toews was hot again, winning 67 percent of his draws.

The Hawks play fell off in the third period, after scoring early they let up a bit. Crawford made the difference as his mates were outshot 16-9 in the final frame.

Tuesday night was the 191st consecutive sellout (21,455), but the attendance was slightly below last season's average of 21,533. In 2011-2012 the Hawks ranked first in NHL attendance for the fourth consecutive season.

Blues rookie sensation Vladimir Tarasenko was kept off the score sheet but did record four shots on goal. Crawford made one of his best saves of the game stopping Tarasenko from point blank range in the opening period.

The Hawks skate into Dallas on Thursday night and there will be another article posted here on Friday morning.

Follow me on Twitter @AlCimaglia

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