Chicago Blackhawks: First Week Of Circus Trip A Mixed Bag

Nov 15, 2016; Winnipeg, Manitoba, CAN; at MTS Centre. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports

The Chicago Blackhawks are three games into the Circus Trip, and they have managed to win two of them. 

Most of it hasn’t been pretty, but the Chicago Blackhawks are officially in the win column for the first three games of the annual Circus Trip.  As a fan, it’s hard to stay up late for this stint of games on the West Coast, and we still have four more late nights to go.  But this year it’s a bit nostalgic, as this is the last time the circus will take over the United Center.  So let’s try to enjoy it, and we can tell our grandkids about how horrible it used to be to pull those long nights in loyalty for our team.

Let’s recap what happened with the Chicago Blackhawks on the road this past week.

Tuesday, 11/15, at Winnipeg Jets. Loss, 4-0

I’m not going to say this was the worst Chicago Blackhawks game I’ve ever watched, but it was by far the worst game of this season.  The Hawks were slow and flat-footed the entire game.  Vincent Hinostroza going down in the first period certainly didn’t help matters.  It jumbled up the lines, and nobody was able to get into any kind of a groove.

Even so, I kept on hanging in there, thinking the Hawks were going to turn things around in the third like they always do.  Nope.  Instead they let in three more goals, and never generated much of anything in the way of offense.

Corey Crawford certainly wasn’t able to bail them out for this one.  He let in a soft goal at the beginning of the game, and was never able to recover.  I told the hubby towards the end of the game that the defensive pairings needed to be changed.  Coach Q has been riding the same D-pairings for the majority of this past 11-game winning streak.  But as of late, they have all looked incredibly stagnant.  With perhaps the exception of Brent Seabrook and Michal Kempny, nobody has been complimenting each other in the least.

Nov 18, 2016; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Chicago Blackhawks right wing Marian Hossa (81) celebrates his game winning goal against the Calgary Flames with his teammates at Scotiabank Saddledome. Blackhawks won 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports

Friday, 11/18, at Calgary Flames.  Win 3-2

Obviously, the most important thing is that the Chicago Blackhawks won the game.  Ryan Hartman scored the third goal of his short NHL career off a beautiful pass from Artem Anisimov to get the scoring started.  And Hartman was promoted to the first line with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane about halfway through the game.

Then the Hawks became predictable and gave up two goals in the second period.  Ah, but Seabs finally got his due and one of his snipes finally made it through on the power play.  Man, that’s fun to watch!

Calgary saw the same defensive pairings for Chicago as the last game, and again they did not look right.  Duncan Keith and Brian Campbell just seem off, and Niklas Hjalmarsson was doing a lot of babysitting of Gustav Forsling in this game.  Seabrook and Kempny were the only pairing that looked good.

I will NEVER tire of writing about Marian Hossa, even when he’s still playing at 60 years old.  Yes, Big Hoss scored the game winning goal, and the Hawks rode off into the Canadian sunset.  Things are all even, with one loss and one win so far on the Circus Trip.  There’s a quick turnaround, and we’re on to the next one.

Nov 19, 2016; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Chicago Blackhawks forward Vinnie Hinostroza (48) celebrates after scoring a goal against Vancouver Canucks goaltender Jacob Markstrom (not pictured) during the third period at Rogers Arena. The Chicago Blackhawks won 4-3 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Saturday, 11/19, at Vancouver Canucks.  Win 4-3 in OT

Giddy up!  The defensive pairings were finally changed!  We’ve been calling for this, and it finally happened.  Hjalmarsson drew back in with Keith on the top pairing.  Can’t go wrong there.  Seabs and Kempny were the same; which is a good thing.  And we had Campbell and, wait for it, Michal Rozsival on the third pairing.  Forsling was a healthy scratch, which is no surprise.  He struggled mightily in the Calgary game on Friday night.

The Hawks appear to have a big problem getting up to play opponents that aren’t very good.  For the first two periods, it was a repeat of the Winnipeg game from earlier in the week.  The Hawks were being outplayed, and couldn’t come up with the puck.  Vancouver, on the other hand, took advantage of their opportunities, and had a 3-0 lead going into the third.

But a different Chicago Blackhawks team came out of the locker room for the final frame.  It was a team that had simply decided not to lose.  Their confidence seems to be rubbing off on the youngsters, because they were integral in this win.

First, we had birthday boy Patrick Kane connecting with Artemi Panarin for his signature goal.  Then Vinnie Hinostroza scored his first NHL goal, and boy was it a beauty!  He followed up his shot and scored on the rebound.  The kid was so excited; it was fun to watch.

Then Hinostroza got an assist on Hartman’s fourth goal of the year, and all of the sudden it’s a tie game.  Overtime absolutely made up for the horrible Winnipeg game and the first two periods of this one, combined.  There was all kinds of back and forth, and Scott Darling made some incredible saves.

Even when Jonathan Toews’ goal was called back due to off-sides, this crew wasn’t going down.  Hallelujah, it was none other than Marian Hossa to get the winner, his 81st career game-winning goal of his career.  It was also his 11th goal of the season.  He had 13 goals in the entirety of last season.

So, the Chicago Blackhawks have managed to win another game that they probably shouldn’t have won.  They lead the Central Division, and are second place in the league with a record of 13-4-2, and 28 points.  Let’s keep on rolling!  The Hawks have a busy week next week.  They visit Edmonton on Monday, San Jose Wednesday, and Anaheim and Los Angeles on Friday and Saturday.

In the past, this trip has been when the Hawks have really shone their stuff.  Can they do it again this year?  They’re off to a decent start.

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