Stalberg putting it all together for Blackhawks
Stalberg putting it all together for Hawks
During much of Viktor Stalberg's two seasons with the Blackhawks, praising his game usually began and ended with his above-average speed.
Things appear to be changing for the 25-year-old winger, whose skill level might be catching up with his speed.
"That's probably a pretty good analogy of where he's at," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said after watching Stalberg score 2 more goals in Monday's 4-1 win over the Blue Jackets at the United Center. "His speed is at the very high end of the league, but I think his patience with the puck is definitely improving.
"There seems to be growth in his game, be it his stick positioning, quick to pucks, protecting the puck better. He scored some big goals tonight."
Stalberg has 4 goals in the last three games and 9 for the season, tying him with Patrick Kane for fourth on the team behind Jonathan Toews (20), Patrick Sharp (19) and Marian Hossa (16).
"Sometimes when you start scoring a little bit you get a little more confident and seem to be wanting the puck a little bit more, too," Stalberg said.
All 9 of Stalberg's goals have come at even strength.
"He's been playing well all season long," Sharp said. "We're all noticing him finally because the puck's going in, but he has great speed and a great shot. It adds another dimension to our lineup when he's putting the puck in the net like that."
The Hawks overcame a sluggish start to beat a bad Blue Jackets team.
Goalie Corey Crawford kept the Hawks in it in the first period with 13 saves while his teammates found their legs after four days off the ice for Christmas.
"The 26th is always a tough game, especially when we had a pretty significant break there," Sharp said. "With the big meals and the days off, the first 20 wasn't our best period, but we didn't really make any mistakes, which was a big key, and we played much better in the second."
Both Stalberg goals came in a 3-goal second period after the Hawks managed just 5 shots in the opening 20 minutes.
Sharp finally got the Hawks on the board at 4:48 of the second when he redirected a pass from Hossa past goalie Steve Mason.
Stalberg made it 2-0 at 8:13 on his own rebound, and he scored again at 15:48 on a feed from Dave Bolland.
Crawford finished with 37 saves to win his second straight start.
"I'm trying to be focused and a little better prepared for games," Crawford said. "You don't want to give up too many shots, but I thought we kept them to the outside, secured rebounds and kept guys to the side of the net."
The Hawks improved to 9-1-1 in their last 11 games and became the first team in the NHL to 50 points. They are 13-2-3 at the UC, where they have collected at least 1 point in every game but two.
"There's definitely no complacency in here," Sharp said. "We realize we have a good thing going right now, but that can change at any moment and we've got to work to keep it going."