Well that game was like coming home to a nice, warm cup of hot cocoa after being out in the cold. Maybe the seventh straight win for the Blackhawks shouldn't taste so sweet but the team's 6-3 blowout over the Avalanche on Sunday was especially satisfying. Usually I don't spend this much time gleefully laughing at the TV while watching a game.
The Hawks had their opponent fighting from behind early, then managed to pull away when the game usually settles into a more competitive state. How many times have we seen Chicago jump out to an early lead only to end up needing to scramble for a late goal or overtime winner because of some defensive lapse? This time around, Corey Crawford made the big saves and the offense kept the pedal down.
By the end of the second period, the Hawks already had all six goals. Brandon Mashinter, of all players, opened the scoring with his second career goal. Patrick Kane added one later in the first period to make it 2-0, then Marian Hossa finally snapped his 14-game goal drought to get to 3-0.
The Avalanche found some energy there behind Matt Duchene, who scored a pair of goals to pull Colorado within one score midway through the second period. That's when the Hawks' usual big-lead lull gave way to another offensive explosion that turned the game into a rout.
The huge six-minute stretch opened with Kane sniping one past Semyon Varlamov to get the score to 4-2. The winger is now tied with Jamie Benn for second in the league in goals with 25. Varlamov was pulled in favor of backup Calvin Pickard after that score, but it didn't do much difference for Colorado. Jonathan Toews followed up the change between the pipes with his 16th of the season, then Hossa got another one to put the Hawks up 6-2.
It was a remarkable scoring run for a team that's increasingly finding its footing on that end. The second line remains a juggernaut, the power play is third in the NHL and players like Phillip Danault and Erik Gustafsson are making for a less top-heavy offense. For a team still working through some things, it's exciting to see the potential solutions slowly emerging from the pack.
Thirteen different players recorded points Sunday night, including Toews with a game-high three. While the captain hasn't been at his best throughout the season, he's shown signs of life with 14 points (seven goals, seven assists) over the past 12 games. That's more in line with the production we expect from the top-line center and it's a good sign that his improvement has helped key the recent winning streak. Hossa snapping his goal streak was also a welcomed development considering all the shots he's fired on goal lately. You felt one of these games coming because Hoss is still getting pucks on net as much as usual.
The Blackhawks have now won seven in a row and 14 of their past 18. Chicago trails Dallas by just four points for first place in the Central Division with each team through 44 games. The Stars still have the sizable advantage in goal differential but it's impressive that the Hawks have managed to close the gap over the past month. The Avalanche fall to 21-19-3 and remain tied with the Predators, who will play the Hawks on Tuesday.