It’s never good to crawl into a break. And that’s why Blackhawks coach Jeremy Colliton had a different approach to Tuesday’s game against the Islanders.
Colliton emphasized the importance of entering the Hawks’ nine-day break on a high note. Alex DeBrincat said the team’s mentality was to put all their effort into this last game.
“We’ve got to leave it all out there,” DeBrincat said. “It’s a big break, so there’s nothing to save it for. I think we can get our rest and relaxation out of this break and you know, just leave it all out on the ice.”
That’s just what the Hawks in their 3-2 shootout win against the Islanders at the United Center.
Goalie Cam Ward came in clutch for the Hawks late in the game, stopping 16 shots in the third and overtime periods and denying two of Islanders players in the shootout.
“It was nice for him to not go into the break with that New Jersey game with the taste of that in his mouth,” Colliton said.
Ward gave credit to captain Jonathan Toews, who scored the Hawks’ first goal of the shootout.
“It definitely helps when your first shooter scores,” Ward said. “It takes the pressure off yourself and today, the way our guys were shooting, it might’ve just taken one save.”
Toews and Patrick Kane have been on fire ever since Colliton put them on the top line. In the last two games, they’ve combined for six goals and six assists.
It also seems that Colliton has finally found the key to the Hawks’ power play.
The Hawks’ first two goals against the Islanders were scored on the power play by Dylan Strome and Toews, respectively. It was the ninth-straight game the Hawks have scored with a man advantage and 12th time of their last 13 games.
The Hawks went from having one of the league-worst power play with a success rate of 11 percent to one of the league’s best. Since Dec. 23, the Hawks are converting 40 percent of the time.
Toews said the recent surge of success was just a matter of the Hawks regaining their confidence.
“We’re not forcing anything,” Toews said. “We’re doing a good job of wearing teams down and then eventually the plays work out. It’s nice for us to be able to make a big difference for our team right now. For a long time it was almost not a great feeling. When we went on the power play it was almost taking the wind out of our sails but at the end of the day it should be giving us momentum if we’re not scoring. It’s huge for us to turn that around.”
In a rough season, the Hawks have been looking to catch a break. Fifty-one games into the season, that break is finally here thanks to their bye week lining up with the NHL All-Star game.
“Everyone is going to enjoy the time away,” Colliton said, “get re-charged mentally and physically and hopefully comeback ready to work.”