GLENDALE, Ariz. – The obvious storyline for Thursday’s Blackhawks-Coyotes game at Jobing.com Arena was the Raffi Torres-Marian Hossa reunion. It was the first time the two had been on the same ice since Torres laid out Hossa with a shot to the head in last season’s playoffs, earning a 25-game suspension that was later reduced to 21 games.
Chicago gave Torres the obligatory payback when Jamal Mayers fought the Coyotes winger on his first shift. But the greater revenge on the Blackhawks’ minds was getting a win. In this case, revenge was best served goaled.
Chicago erupted for four goals in the first period – two on 5-on-3 power plays – and the Blackhawks didn’t stop pushing until they had posted an emphatic 6-2 win over the previously streaking Coyotes.
Five players scored for Chicago, which remains the lone NHL team not to have lost in regulation or overtime (9-0-2) despite playing nine of its first 11 games away from the United Center. The 2006-07 Anaheim Ducks (12 wins, four overtime losses) own the NHL record for the longest start to a season without being beaten in regulation. The 1984-85 Edmonton Oilers started the season 12-0-3. Both those teams won the Stanley Cup.
“You probably couldn’t have asked for a better first period,” said Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane, who had two goals and an assist to move into second place in the NHL in points with 18. “Jammer’s (Mayers’) great fight — that one gave me chills. I think he pumped up everyone on the bench, got everyone going.”
Phoenix came into the game on a five-game unbeaten streak (3-0-2), having allowed just seven goals over that stretch (two were team goals allowed in shootout losses). Chicago had six goals a little over 35 minutes into Thursday’s game, and in two meetings with th Coyotes this season, the Blackhawks have 12 goals.
“Obviously, we did get knocked out (of the playoffs) by these guys, and what happened happened, but at the same time, we just wanted to come in and play a good game,” Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith said. “Everybody’s contributing. We’re showing some good signs.”
The Coyotes clearly hurt their chances with seven first-period penalties Thursday, but those were mostly the product of Chicago outskating and outworking Phoenix from the opening gun — a point coach Dave Tippett drove home in the locker room afterward.
“This was a good slap in the face. We just went out there and got kicked,” said Tippett, who was particularly miffed by two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties from Shane Doan and Keith Yandle for yapping at the officials.
“They’re supposed to be our captains,” Tippett growled. “That speaks for itself.”
So has Chicago’s play as the team approaches the quarter-pole of the season Sunday in Nashville. When the Blackhawks complete that game, they will have played 10 of their 24 road games already, with a seven-game homestand beginning Tuesday against the Ducks.
This was the Hawks’ fifth road game in nine days, yet they had better jump than they did in wins over Calgary and San Jose, their previous two stops.
“We feel good right now,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “We’ve been consistent in our games and gotten a lot of contributions from a lot of guys. It seems like the chemistry and the mood of the room is as good as you can get, and it’s reflected in our play.”
Nowhere is that more apparent than in Kane’s game. There have been many theories floated for why he seems to have recaptured the magic that was gone last season in a 66-point effort. Some think it is the fact that he played in Switzerland during the 113-day NHL lockout. Some think it’s his linemates, Patrick Sharp and Dave Bolland. Some think it’s the fact that he is no longer playing second-line center and has shifted back into his comfort zone.
Not even Kane is certain which one holds the most merit.
“Sometimes you just get on as roll and it keeps going,” he said. “I thought I played OK last year. As time went on, it just didn’t factor into many points or goals. I try to tell myself that if I can capitalize on my opportunities or take advantage of the position switch back to my natural position at right wing, then things can go well for me.
“No matter who it is, you always want to put up numbers and put up points — especially in my role. That’s my job, to make plays, score goals and get assists. But I still think there’s things I can do better, and that’s the exciting part for me and the team.”