LAS VEGAS — If the Blackhawks were playing hockey like a marathon earlier this season, they’re now playing it like a 100-yard dash.
The Hawks and Golden Knights traded chances as if a 3-on-3 overtime extended into a full 60-minute game Wednesday, and yet again, the chaos paid off in a 5-3 win.
“I don’t think we were giving up a ton, we were able to get going the other way and I think the quality of our chances was good,” Blackhawks coach Jeremy Colliton said.
Colliton’s decision to unleash the transition offense — which supposedly entailed only pushing their weak-side winger higher in the defensive zone, but seems to have changed the dynamic of the team far more than that — continues to revive the season.
In the latest edition Wednesday, Patrick Kane and Dylan Strome each recorded three points and the Hawks overcame an early 2-0 deficit by scoring five consecutive goals.
The team has now earned seven of eight possible points since the scheme change and are within three points of a wild-card spot with a game in hand. It’s obviously still November, so the intricacies of the standings are hardly relevant, but even getting back into the race seemed far-fetched a few weeks ago.
“This offense is so good that we get a little sniff and we’re still in the game,” Corey Crawford said.
The pond-style hockey that the Hawks gleefully played worked because their defensemen jumped into rushes, and because Crawford bailed them out on the other end.
Calvin de Haan and Erik Gustafsson both scored their first goals of the season seconds apart, upping the Hawks’ total goals from defensemen this year from three to five in a near instant. And Crawford made 39 saves on 42 shots, negating the Knights’ 36-23 scoring-chance advantage (per Natural Stat Trick), as the Hawks enjoyed yet another strong netminding performance.
“It seems like the floodgates have opened a little bit and we’re scoring a ton of goals now,’’ de Haan said. ‘‘But the biggest part for us is our goaltending’s giving us a chance to win every night. That instills confidence in everybody on the ice and on the bench.”
The game itself could hardly have been more upside-down. Zack Smith and Jonathan Marchessault traded missed penalty shots; Smith later tallied two assists, his first two points of the season. De Haan’s goal was just his 14th in 394 career appearances. Even Alex DeBrincat got in a semi-fight.
That weirdness may simply become a regular byproduct of the Hawks’ newfound aggressiveness, though, which has been technically in effect for four games but has really dialed up to 100 degrees the last two.
“We’re coming across the ice really well in the ‘D’ zone, chipping pucks in, getting pucks out of our zone — I think that’s kind of what’s leading to our offense right now,” said Kirby Dach, who tallied a goal and an assist. “Look a lot of our goals: 3-on-2s, 2-on-1s, odd-man rushes.”
The win was the Blackhawks’ first in eight all-time meetings against Vegas and also their first regulation road win of the season, two more milestones in this latest surge.
It’s a long season, but the Hawks have suddenly found a formula for success and proven its effectiveness several times over. That’s an exciting development.
“It’s good for the guys, good confidence boost,” Colliton said. “A reminder that we’re trending the right way.”