For the Chicago Blackhawks, last night’s 5-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins carried many positives. For starters, the team was able to do most of its damage without Marian Hossa, who only played 4:18 before being injured on Craig Adams’ hit.
There was also the notion that the snowfall and its effect on the ice surface at Soldier Field would slow down the Blackhawks’ offense, and prevent the team from passing the puck successfully. That, however, proved to be untrue.
Both Michal Handzus and Bryan Bickell had excellent games for the first time in recent memory.
Handzus did his damage early, actually leading a rush which led to Kris Versteeg’s tap-in goal from an excellent Patrick Kane pass. Handzus proved to be of minimal use in February, and only registered one assist to go along with a minus-5 on-ice goal differential during the month of January.
In addition, Handzus played over 15 minutes last night; a number he has not reached since the early part of January. One game doesn’t make a season, but it did mark Handzus’s first game since the Olympic break, as well as the most aggressive game he has played in recent memory.
Bryan Bickell scored the team’s fourth goal, although he was also on the ice for Pittsburgh’s lone tally. Despite defense being a weakness in Bickell’s game, the looming issue remains his offensive output and confidence. Once again, one game doesn’t make a season. But in Bickell’s game, one game can assist in building confidence. Ideally for the Blackhawks, last night was such a game.
Earlier in the season, the Blackhawks were composed and finding productivity from all four lines. When the team began to struggle, the third line fell apart and ceased producing. Bickell and Handzus will not and should not get copious amounts of ice time during the playoffs, but nonetheless will be an integral part of the teams search for another Stanley Cup.
The remainder of the NHL season likely has plenty of ups and downs still stored, but the Blackhawks have clearly stated they are searching for chemistry to create momentum as the playoff picture becomes clearer.
Follow Mike Guzman on Twitter @Mike486