Chicago Blackhawks' hot start continues with win over Rangers
It's still early and a whole lot can happen in the next 72 games, but it appears many pundits were awfully premature to write off the Chicago Blackhawks this season.
Present company included.
The reborn Hawks, who thoroughly dominated the New York Rangers in a 4-1 victory Thursday night at the United Center, boast a stunning 6-2-2 record after 10 games.
Only Nashville has more points in the entire NHL. Patrick Kane has 9 goals and basically can't be stopped. Corey Crawford is an almost unbeatable human wall. Jonathan Toews looks like he's 23 again.
Alex DeBrincat continues to be a scoring machine. Dominik Kahun, Alexandre Fortin and Luke Johnson are maturing before our very eyes.
And the entire defense corps -- thought to be a huge weakness -- is jumping into plays, stopping dangerous rushes, blocking shots and giving up fewer and fewer prime scoring chances.
In short, the rest of the league better watch out because it looks like the Blackhawks are back.
"Last year there was not a lot of positives the way it exited," coach Joel Quenneville said. "Lot of good hockey players on our team. Proud guys.
"(They) wanted to get back to doing what we want to do and that's play in the playoffs."
Toews, Alexandre Fortin, Kane and DeBrincat scored against the Rangers, and Crawford made 18 saves.
Toews' goal was the 298th of his career and tied him for sixth all time in team history with Dennis Hull. Kane, meanwhile, is the first Hawks player to register 9 goals in the first 10 games since Jeremy Roenick in 1993-94.
This game was tied at 1-1 midway through the second period until Schmaltz drove deep into the offensive zone, where he spotted Fortin sliding behind a stickless Brendan Smith. Schmaltz's pass connected and Fortin flicked home his second goal in three games.
"I saw Fortin's stick with no opposing sticks on the ice," Schmaltz said. "So it was a pretty easy pass (and) a good shot by him."
Kane made it 3-1 when he backhanded the puck between his legs while he was standing in the goal crease behind a splayed-out Henrik Lundqvist.
"I kind of had an open net there and it hit the post (first)," Kane said. "Then my back was turned and I thought I put it in the net.
"I was celebrating and no one was reacting, so I was like, 'did I just miss that?' I didn't even know if it went in."
DeBrincat's empty-netter with 1:09 remaining put the game away.
The Rangers (3-6-1) managed just 3 shots on goal in the first 18 minutes and 1 during the entire third period.
"Now we're 10 games into the season, we're starting to kind of figure out the defensive end and what to do on the backcheck," Kane said. "Hopefully it's all coming together, but it's still early so (let's) keep building here."