By Adam Hoge-
SOLDIER FIELD (CBS) — The snow may have been a nuisance for the players trying to play hockey Saturday night at Soldier Field, but it also created a rare spectacle that kept all eyes glued to whatever could be seen on the ice.
And, just four days before the NHL trade deadline, Stan Bowman was able to enjoy every second of it without worrying about being on the phone.
Typically, when a trade deadline is approaching, general managers look stressed, tired, and completely annoyed that they have to spend 10 minutes talking to reporters when they could be working on making their team better. But two hours before Saturday night’s outdoor game against the Penguins, the Blackhawks’ general manager seemed like he hardly knew the deadline is Wednesday at 2 p.m. CT.
“We’re not focused on the deadline,” Bowman said.
Later, when asked how much chatter there was among GMs around the league, Bowman looked like he genuinely didn’t know.
“Since we’re not looking to add players, I haven’t had to make a lot of calls inquiring on players’ availability,” he said. “I know there is talk out there. I’m just not that focused on it because I’m really confident in our group here.”
And why shouldn’t he be? He already made his typical in-season addition of complimentary players — this year adding Kris Versteeg and Peter Regin — and this Blackhawks group looks as good as any when it comes to winning the Stanley Cup.
So what if the Central division leading St. Louis Blues added Ryan Miller and Mike Ott Friday?
“You can’t be reactionary that way,” Bowman said when asked if the Blues’ additions made him think about making another move. “Those guys haven’t even played a game yet in St. Louis. You kind of have to see how it all shakes out, but we’re more focused on what we can do. We have to play good hockey.”
And that’s exactly what the Blackhawks continued to do Saturday night at Soldier Field with an emphatic 5-1 win over the Eastern Conference leading Pittsburgh Penguins on what Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville called “a very memorable night.”
“I thought our guys did all the things necessary tonight,” Quenneville said. “We played a real strong game. Good pace. Did everything you’re hoping for.”
Not even 3-5 inches of snow could slow down the Hawks, who managed to play their speed game despite the unique ice conditions.
And maybe lost in the hype of a Soldier Field hockey game played in a snowstorm is that the two teams involved could very well meet in a few months in the Stanley Cup Finals.
But that wasn’t lost on the head coaches. Before the game, Quenneville admitted the game gave the Blackhawks a chance to see “how you measure up against one of the better teams in the league.”
And by the end of it, it was obvious who the better team was, even to the opposing head coach.
“It was a serious game,” Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma said. “It’s a two-point game in the National Hockey League. We were playing the Blackhawks, the best team in the league.”
Looks like the Blackhawks measure up pretty well against the Eastern Conference’s best.
It would be hard to find a slower ice surface in the NHL than the one the Hawks played on Saturday night, but it didn’t seem to change their game much. They kept possession of the puck, skated faster with it and created way more scoring chances than their opponent. Patrick Sharp continued his hot season with the first goal of the game, while Jonathan Toews split multiple Penguins in the slot and beat Marc-Andre Fleury for one the prettiest goals of his career. Then Patrick Kane set up the third goal of the game by waiting until just the right moment to slip a perfect pass to Kris Versteeg who finished near the net. Later, Bryan Bickell and Toews capped the win with the final two goals on the night.
Before Saturday’s win, Bowman was asked by a Pittsburgh reporter how the Blackhawks have been able to sustain their success over the last six years.
“The main players are there year-to-year,” he said. “I think when you have that, number one, when you have success, you want to try to keep the guys that were most pivotal in getting that success.”
And then you add in the role players year-to-year.
“Our coaching staff deserves a lot of credit for being able to take a few new players into the mix every year and finding a role for them and then allowing them to complement the main guys who have been here the whole time,” Bowman said.
That same formula was once again on display Saturday night. Different venue, different elements, same results.
So forgive Stan Bowman for not spending the night on the phone trying to improve his roster. He’s already got the team he wants.
Adam Hoge is a senior writer for CBSChicago.com and a frequent contributor to 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter at @AdamHoge.