Blackhawks' offense so far? Scary
HELSINKI -- Apparently "oohh" and "ahhh" is universal in any language.
Because there was lots of oohhing and ahhhing from the Finnish crowd at Hartwell Arena this weekend as local hockey fans got a firsthand look at a Chicago Blackhawks offensive attack that's maturing before our eyes.
Talk about a way to start the season: 88 shots on net and seven goals in 125 minutes hockey. And Marian Hossa hasn't played a game yet.
"It's scary, it really is," Florida Panthers coach Peter DeBoer marveled after his team's 4-0 loss Saturday, pondering the addition of the star Slovak winger to a lineup that clearly doesn't need an offensive injection.
Brace yourselves, Western Conference. These Hawks are going to score a bucket-load of goals this season.
"You look at both games, we had the puck a lot, we had good puck possession, we made some plays that were dangerous," said Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville. "And tonight, it was more consistent."
The Hawks rebounded from a 4-3 shootout loss in their season opener here Friday, but the reality is they outplayed the Panthers for the majority of both affairs. That's because they had the puck most of the time.
We all know the top two lines are dangerous. Patrick Kane, easily the best player on the ice all weekend long for both teams, already has four points playing on a line with the always improving Dustin Byfuglien and the underrated David Bolland. Once that line was done terrorizing the Panthers, captain Jonathan Toews came out with Patrick Sharp and Kris Versteeg.
"It wasn't necessarily just our first two lines creating scoring chances," said Toews. "It was all four lines."
Indeed. Here's where it gets nasty. You've got a third line of John Madden centering Andrew Ladd and Troy Brouwer that spends a lot of time in the offensive zone; and the coup de grace is a gritty fourth line that dominated at times Saturday in Colin Fraser with Ben Eager and Tomas Kopecky.
"It doesn't matter what line is out there. We have three guys up front creating chances and we were getting shots from the point," said Toews. "We have a lot of depth offensively, so as long as we keep it smart, keep it simple in our zone, cut pucks off and take away scoring chances against, we're going to get a lot of rushes.
"You saw that tonight and it was the same last night. We had a lot of 2-on-1 and 3-on-2 rushes where we were getting shots and going to the net hard. Things are going to happen for you when that happens."
Wave after wave after wave, this team just takes your breath away as they attack like hungry dogs foaming at the mouth.
"And their defensemen control the game," said DeBoer. "They're so mobile. They're so smart with the puck."
Is there an echo in the room? See what Quenneville had to say three minutes later at his news conference.
"Our defensemen are very active and very mobile," said the Hawks coach. "Our transition game was effective. We have a lot of guys that can make plays. All four lines are capable of scoring, they're all capable of making plays. We had a lot of pressure coming from each and every group, and I think it was triggered from the back end being so agile and mobile."
The puck-moving defenseman has become a much sought-after asset in the modern NHL. And the Hawks are loaded with them, which puts a lot of pressure on the opposing team.
"It's tough to forecheck against them," said DeBoer. "If you're off just a little bit on your forecheck and don't take the proper angle, [Brian] Campbell, [Brent] Seabrook, [Cam] Barker and [Duncan] Keith can really make you look bad."
He forgot to mention Niklas Hjalmarsson, perhaps the smartest defenseman on the team, whose first pass never seems to find an opponent's stick.
Imagine being Madden, the 36-year-old former Selke Trophy winner who spent his entire career playing a mostly defensive, and extremely successful, system in New Jersey. Now, he's gunning along like never before with the go-go-go Hawks.
"We work on that, we work on a puck-possession game, a lot of passing in practice, moving the puck quick and moving your feet," Madden said. "There's not too much standing around; it puts everyone in a good flow for the game. We still tend to give up our share of opportunities. Because we're moving so much, when we turn it over, we seem to be caught out of position and they catch us on a break.
"But we're going to get better and work at the puck-possession game, and as we get good at it, who knows how far it's going to take us?"
So Coach, do you really have any room for Mr. Hossa when he's ready to return in November?
"There's lots of room for him," Quenneville said with a hearty laugh. "He's a special player and we'll definitely welcome him into our lineup."
Just another offensive weapon for the arsenal.
Pierre LeBrun covers the NHL for ESPN.com.
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