Blackhawks circus trip ends with impressive 5-2 win in Phoenix - KMSP-TV

Blackhawks circus trip ends with impressive 5-2 win in Phoenix

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

The Blackhawks won their sixth straight game with an impressive 5-2 victory over Phoenix. The circus road trip record of 6-1 was a franchise best. The infamous circus road trip has helped sink teams in the past but now the Hawks are playing their best hockey of the season.

Antti Raanta got the start in net and had some adventurous moments. Raanta seems to lose his net by overplaying shots but he is young and that fault can be corrected. A young Corey Crawford had the same issue. What was most important is Raanta outplayed his counterpart in only his second NHL start.

Mike Smith usually plays well versus Chicago but he gave a up a couple of soft goals in the opening frame. The Hawks were firing on all cylinders and jumped on Phoenix. Smith did settle down and the Coyotes made a game of it after falling behind by three goals.

Phoenix owned the second period and scored twice. The Coyotes were helped by some bad penalties from the Hawks who appeared tired but were still able to keep the lead through 40 minutes.

In the third period the Blackhawks got a second wind and played solid defensively. The Coyotes could not get their offense going as Joel Quenneville was getting contributions from all four lines. Every line scored for Chicago last night as their depth and balance was evident. In the final period Phoenix was outshot 14-9 as the Hawks regained control.

The Blackhawks successful road swing puts them in great shape entering the new month. Starting with a Tuesday night return match versus Dallas the Hawks will play 14 games in December. Nine of the matches will be played at the United Center where the Hawks have a 9-1-3 record.

Al's Shots

Defenseman Michael Kostka has been skating and reportedly is close to returning to action. Kostka suffered an undisclosed lower body injury suspected to be to his leg or foot and hasn't played since October 19th. Once Kostka returns a roster move will be needed.

Brandon Pirri saw his ice time dwindle again last night. He played only 7:07, and that is the low for Pirri this season. Trying to connect the dots, Pirri's stay in Chicago may be close to ending.

After the game Quenneville called the play of his fourth line spectacular.

 

That may be the first time I have heard an NHL coach refer to the play of a fourth line by calling it spectacular. So it appears safe to say Marcus Kruger, Brandon Bollig and Ben Smith will stay together for the foreseeable future. Not long ago Smith was on the bubble but he has been impressive and has caught the eye of Quenneville.

So barring any injuries Pirri will likely be sent down to Rockford. Pirri has played pretty well, but it is doubtful he can keep a lineup spot by only being able to play one position on one line.

 

The younger players who have found a home in Chicago under Quenneville have some common traits. All are versatile and can play on more than one line. They all are responsible defensively and are useful players in more than one way. That has been the case for Brandon Saad, Andrew Shaw and Marcus Kruger who have succeeded under Quenneville.

Pirri was slotted to fill in as a second line center and wasn't given many chances to prove he can be versatile. Pirri is still very young and may get a better opportunity later.

Antoine Vermette had a big night in the faceoff circle with a 67% win percentage. Vermette had his way with both Michal Handzus (27%) and Jonathan Toews (39%).

Once again Patrick Kane was on top of his game recording a goal and an assist. On Saturday I incorrectly wrote Kane had his 11 game point streak snapped in Dallas. It actually was a 12 game point streak, and now Kane has started another.

Kane has raised his game to a higher level and is in the conversation for the Hart Memorial Trophy. That award goes to the player deemed to be most valuable to his team.

Kane has scored 16 goals which ranks third in the league. He has recorded a total of 30 points which is fourth best in the NHL.

I will be back Wednesday morning and you can follow me on Twitter @AlCimaglia.

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