Every victory is an important one and every point matters as NHL teams continue their push towards the statistical halfway point of the long season. Despite not being a game of significant rivalry or difficulty, tonight’s Chicago Blackhawks 5-2 victory over the New Jersey Devils gives the team a significant momentum boost before the NHL’s mandated, three-day holiday break.
The Blackhawks were once again lead by a strong performance from their top line forwards of Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp. While Hossa ended the night with two assists and Sharp with two goals, Toews had another under-appreciated performance.
Despite tallying only a secondary assist and one shot on goal, Toews’ ability to create space against a defense which, until tonight’s game gave up 2.47 goals per game, was invaluable. The Blackhawks peppered Cory Schneider with 37 shots, but saw 12 shots blocked.
A majority of those came early, and it was clear that the team made adjustments all night to find space and simplify their style of play. Such moves likely came from the top down, and Joel Quenneville’s strong coaching coincided with a veteran presence continues to be evident in how quickly this group of players can make successful adjustments.
Another aspect of the game in which Toews dominated was at the faceoff dot. The Devils came into this game ranked 29th in the league in faceoff percentage at 45.5 percent. Toews made them pay, going 17-5 at the dot, leading the team to a 38-18 faceoff advantage.
It cannot be stated enough how important faceoffs are to a team’s success, especially during playoff-style hockey, which the Blackhawks’ puck-possession offense will soon be facing. Simply put, every offensive opportunity can lead to a puck in the back of the net, especially with the Blackhawks’ talent.
With three excellent games looming after the short winter break, the Blackhawks now have the momentum and two points they wanted, thanks to a systematic thrashing of the Devils.
Follow Mike Guzman on Twitter @Mike486