If there is a hockey deity, Tommy Wingels must have attended services Saturday before the Blackhawks’ 4-2 victory over the Coyotes.
Wingels had an apparent penalty-shot goal taken away in the second period when replay officials ruled goaltender Louis Domingue had hit the puck — officially ending the play per NHL rules — as Wingels attempted a backhand-forehand move in front of the net.
But Wingels scored his first Hawks goal later when he sealed the game with an empty-netter. The “hockey gods,” as Wingels and lineman Lance Bouma said, must have been smiling down on Wingels.
“Definitely that was the hockey gods giving him one back,” Bouma said. “Because that was a heck of a move he put on the goalie in the shootout; I think it was a goal for sure.”
But what’s important about both Wingels’ non-goal and his empty-net goal is the circumstances that led to them. On the penalty shot, Wingels and his line had worked the puck in the Coyotes’ zone and he made a strong move to draw a hooking penalty on Max Domi.
As for Wingels’ empty-netter, the fourth line had played so well that it earned Quenneville’s trust to be on the ice late in the game with the Hawks protecting a 3-2 lead — a lead that, by the way, the Hawks had because Bouma had given it to them with his first goal of the season 15 minutes, 36 seconds into the third.
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville has referred to his fourth line of Bouma, Wingels and John Hayden as his “energy line.” On Saturday, they gave Quenneville something a little more tangible than energy. They gave him a pair of important goals.
“There are different ways to impact a game, and as a line we talked about finding a way to impact them on a nightly basis,” Wingels said. “Are we going to score every night? No, I don’t think so. Are we going to get two in a night? Probably very rarely. But we can find a way to win battles, finish checks and be a force out there, create some energy. It did feel good to get a couple goals and get rewarded.”
The Hawks signed Wingels and Bouma to add veteran depth and a physical presence on the bottom lines, something they felt was missing in last season’s playoffs.
At times, Tanner Kero has been at center for Wingels on that line, but the group has looked its best with Wingels at center. That has been a surprising development, considering the Hawks had Wingels penciled in as a winger before the season.
Bouma, meanwhile, has helped the Hawks gain possession in the offensive zone during five-on-five play despite having only 48 percent of his faceoffs begin in the offensive zone. That means he has helped flip the ice and get the puck into the Hawks zone. The Hawks have had more five-on-five shot attempts than opponents (69 to 68) when Bouma is on the ice, according to NaturalStatTrick.com.
“They give us a different look,” Quenneville said. “It’s not just skill, it’s some hard work, some physicality, some puck possession, and those are the kind of goals you score in our league — those second opportunities, traffic at the net. I think that’s something moving forward, we can take a page out of what they’re doing.”
As Wingels said, they probably won’t score every night, but they don’t have to score to be effective.