The Chicago Blackhawks blowing out the division-leading Washington Capitals?
Blackhawks ending their eight-game losing streak? Check. Patrick Kane scoring his 500th assist? Check. Ryan Hartman breaking his fifteen game scoring drought? Check. Are the Hawks back? Maybe. Are they winning their next 20 games and making the playoffs? Probably not. But we can still sit back and hope.
The Hawks won their first game in 18 days after their 7-1 win against the Capitals. During the losing streak, they have lost to mediocre teams like Vancouver, Arizona, and Calgary. Breaking the streak against one of the top teams in the NHL really highlights how the Blackhawks season has been this year: unpredictable.
And it is only fitting that during this win, Patrick Kane tallied his 500th career assist. And now, still in his prime at the ripe age of 28, he ranks sixth in franchise history in assists with a long career in front of him (hopefully) in Chicago.
Now, with 23 games left in the season, winning 19 games would put them at 96 points, a likely playoff spot. But I’m getting way too ahead of myself. Let’s get into the game.
With a little over six minutes gone in the opening frame, the Blackhawks struck first once again, after Jonathan Toews netted a sharp angle shot from the left end-boards for his 16th goal of the season.
The Capitals didn’t waste much time answering back after Tom Wilson miraculously deflected a Matt Niskanen slapshot that was headed well right of the net. And for a second, it looked like something the Hawks had done especially well during the past eight games: giving up early leads.
Even Coach Quenneville addressed the team’s recent struggles in maintaining the lead after holding the lead tonight,“Certainly feels 100 times better than coming in and trying to explain why we had a lead and were unable to sustain it.”
Just two minutes later, the Blackhawks regained their lead after Brandon Saad hammered home a puck past Braden Holtby to make it a 2-1 game. On Saad’s goal, Toews recorded a secondary assist, his second point of the day, making it the first time since January ninth that Toews has record multi-point game. Nick Schmaltz added a goal with two seconds left in the first period to extend the Blackhawks lead to two.
All the luck that the Blackhawks had been missing during their losing streak started to pile up in this period. Early in the second period, the Capitals turned the puck over to Jonathan Toews in their own defensive zone resulting in a 2-0 breakaway for Toews and Kane.
Though Toews’s original shot was saved by Washington goaltender Braden Holtby, the rebound fell straight to the stick of Patrick Kane who easily finished the puck. Then just 50 seconds later, Ryan Hartman broke his scoring drought after masterfully dribbling through three Capitals and shooting the puck past Holtby.
However, I would argue that it was the goal at 6-1 in the game that was the most significant. On the power play, Vinnie Hinostroza shook off his defender and passed the puck to Artem Anisimov who wristed the puck past Holtby to make it 6-1. However, Patrick Kane notched a secondary assist on the goal, the 500th career assist for this future Hall of Famer and one of the best Americans of all time.
About his goal, Kane said,“Growing up all I wanted to do was play hockey. So it means a lot, especially when you’re talking about American-born players.”
Midway through the final frame, Alex DeBrincat took part in the goal-scoring festivities and scored one of his own, making it 7-1 in favor of the Blackhawks, snapping their eight-game losing streak.
NOTE: On an unrelated note, some fans chanted,”Basketball, basketball, basketball” to Devante Smith-Pelly when he was in the penalty box. These fans were promptly ejected from the security and will hopefully be banned from future games at the United Center. There is no space for such intolerance in sports, so shoutout to the United Center security staff for escorting these fans out.
Statement on the incident at tonight's game pic.twitter.com/7o02AaLQwz
— Chicago Blackhawks (@NHLBlackhawks) February 18, 2018