Whole lot to love about Blackhawks' trip
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Niklas Hjalmarsson celebrates after scoring a first-period goal in the Blackhawks' 5-2 victory Saturday to close their 6-1 road trip.
It wasn't a perfect road trip, but it was oh so close to being one.
After losing the Nov. 18 opener of their circus trip at Colorado, the Blackhawks reeled off 6 straight victories, capped by a 5-2 win at Phoenix on Saturday to return home with an NHL-best record of 20-4-4.
"We loved the trip," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "We loved the consistency, the contribution we were getting across the board.
"The consistency is what we're appreciating, and the energy and the enthusiasm in the locker room and on the bench is as good as we've seen here, so it's been very positive."
What was not to love?
•Defensemen Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Niklas Hjalmarsson and Johnny Oduya were outstanding.
•All four lines contributed at both ends of the ice.
•A fourth line was born, with Marcus Kruger, Brandon Bollig and Ben Smith playing great starting in Winnipeg.
•Corey Crawford was terrific, and the Hawks even might have found a backup goalie in rookie Antti Raanta, who won twice on the trip.
"We like our team, and it's been a very positive start to our season and great road trip," Quenneville said. "We're very happy in all aspects of our team game, and we can touch on everything.
"There is probably only one sore spot, and I think that's getting better on our penalty kill."
Patrick Kane, who had points in every game but one, couldn't remember a better road trip.
"From what we heard it's the best trip in the history of the Hawks," he said. "It ranks as the No. 1 trip. It's a long time to be away from home, but for us to hang in there and focus on hockey and our jobs and what we had to do it was good to see.
"I think if you told us coming into the trip that we would be 6-1, I think we would be happy with that."
The Hawks jumped on the Coyotes for 3 goals in the first period then held off a Phoenix rally.
"I was surprised," Kane said. "You come into Phoenix back-to-back, six o'clock game. They didn't play last night. I think we were expecting a little bit different of a start. It was nice to get a couple power-play goals right off the bat and capitalize there.
"We caught a break on the second goal (by Andrew Shaw), then we kind of took off from there. We couldn't ask for a better start in a game like that, but I think everyone was kind of surprised to how we were skating and how good we were out there."
Coyotes coach Dave Tippett called his team's start unacceptable.
"That's the top team in the league and we come out and start like that?" Tippett said. "That's just unacceptable.
"It's so foreign from how you want to play, or how you have to play if you're going to be able to compete with a team like that. It's so foreign to what you have to do that it's almost inconceivable that we could do it, but we did."
Bollig credited Raanta with keeping the Hawks in control after it got to 3-2. It was a goal by Bollig in the third period that gave the Hawks the momentum back.
"They kind of came back and were putting the hurting on us pretty good and stayed in our zone quite a bit," Bollig said. "We weathered the storm and held the lead and luckily put a couple more in there.
"Raants played a good game. He made some good saves that he probably shouldn't have and kept us in the game there in the second."
•Follow Tim's hockey reports on Twitter @TimSassone and check out his Between the Circles blog at dailyherald.com.
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