CHICAGO – The look of relief on Michael Frolik's face was unmistakable.
He'd just potted his first goal and point in 10 games with the Chicago Blackhawks and first marker in 33 games dating back to the last time he'd scored on Dec. 17 for the Florida Panthers. It happened with just 1:35 left in the first period of Wednesday night's 6-4 win against the Calgary Flames, giving the Hawks a 2-1 lead and momentum heading into the first intermission.
It also gave Frolik a reason to smile – knowing his frustrating scoring slump was over.
"I feel so much lighter," said Frolik, who was acquired by Chicago in a Feb. 9 trade that sent forward Jack Skille to Florida. "At first I was like, 'Whew! Finally it went in.' It was a good feeling. I haven’t had that feeling for a long time, so it was good."
It also paved the way for a three-point night, as the 23-year old Frolik also assisted on a goal by Chicago captain Jonathan Toews in the second and on Marian Hossa’s empty netter to seal it.
Along with high fives and pats on the back, Frolik was also awarded the Hawks' heavyweight belt that gets passed around the locker room among players. It's "awarded" by the most recent recipient and usually is earned through key contributions to wins.
Frolik's big night certainly fit that definition, which was also a relief to his teammates.
"It's nice to see him get a goal, because I know he was hoping to get one" said Hawks forward Patrick Sharp, who finished with an assist. "You can just see the offensive ability. As soon as he puts one in, things just kind of open up for him. He finishes with three points. He's a great player. We knew that when we acquired him and hopefully he'll continue that through the rest of the games."
If he does, then it will make Chicago's offensive attack even more potent than it's already been during a six-game winning streak. The Hawks top line of Patrick Kane, Toews and Sharp is sizzling hot – not to mention Hossa's five-game goal streak – but Frolik heating up would be another big boost as Chicago jockeys for playoff position in the Western Conference.
Wednesday night's performance was a nice start.
"I got the monkey off my back a little bit," Frolik said. "It's been awhile. It's kind of never happened to me before. It wasn't easy. You always try to stay positive, but it's always somewhere in the back of your mind. It's always there. You just try not to think about it, play hard and hopefully it's going to come. Now I just have to build on that."
If he does, it would be one less thing for Chicago coach Joel Quenneville to worry about.
Yet, it was Quenneville who spoke confidently about Frolik’s ability after Wednesday's morning skate. In fact, Quenneville said it was just a matter of time before the talented young Frolik broke out of his goal funk – which would probably lead to a big night.
Turns out, that's exactly what happened.
"You score first and all of the sudden you are more comfortable," Quenneville said. "I liked his purpose in this game. He had a good thought process of where to be defensively. I really liked the way he was trending, and it was just a matter of time before he scored. Now that he has scored, he'll be a lot more comfortable with the puck."
Or with a championship belt slung over his shoulder.