After besting the West’s top team on Wednesday, the Blackhawks returned to action Friday night and defeated the Eastern Conference’s hottest team, overcoming the New Jersey Devils 3-2 in overtime. Not only did the Hawks avenge their 3-2 loss to New Jersey from 10 days ago, but it seems now that the five-game losing streak that plagued them earlier this month is in the rear-view mirror.
“I don’t think we really looked at it as a slump because we were still playing well,” said Kris Versteeg. “When you run into hot goaltenders, that’s going to happen. We’re playing the same way that we did when we were losing; we were getting pucks to the net then, too, but now they’re deciding to go in.”
Though the effort hasn’t changed, the results – especially early in games – have been decidedly better for the Hawks lately. During their five-game winless streak, the team scored only four first-period goals and never held a lead for more than 2:29. The Hawks have scored first in each game of their current three-game winning streak.
“Our starts have been a little better lately,” said Brent Seabrook
. “We’re working harder and playing from the drop of the puck right through the end; it’s a big thing that we have to focus on for the rest of the year. We’re working hard and playing a real team game right now.”
“We kept hanging in there,” said head coach Joel Quenneville. “I think we’ve recaptured a lot of the confidence in ourselves and our team game. Towards the end of that stretch, we were still doing some good things and I think that first win certainly helped us. We have more patience now and more confidence around our net. [Nikolai Khabibulin] is also getting better, so we’re very pleased.”
The Hawks have regained their confidence at just the right time; the next stretch of games is as crucial as the past few, beginning with fifth-seed Vancouver’s visit to the United Center this Sunday.
“We need these points; every one is valuable from now until the end of the season,” said Seabrook, who was busy watching the score of the Canucks' game against Colorado even during his post-game interview. “We’ve got to keep bearing down and everything will fall into place.”