Former Ottawa star winger Martin Havlat is the NHL’s scoring leader. “It’s only six games into the season, but that sounds nice,” Havlat said Thursday between laughs. “But honestly, I’m not thinking about that at all.” Havlat, dealt to Chicago in a salary-cap move during the off-season, is off to a roaring start in the Windy City with 13 points (7-6) in six games, two points clear of Jaromir Jagr from the New York Rangers in the overall scoring race.
It’s a major reason why the Blackhawks are off to a surprising 4-2-0 start, their best since 1990-91.
“The individual stuff is just a plus, but the only thing that matters is that we’re winning games,” Havlat said before boarding a flight for Dallas, where the Hawks play Friday night. “We’ve played much better as a team. It’s a good feeling right now.”
Surely the 25-year-old Havlat has noticed what’s been going on with his former team. A slow start by the Senators early this season set off mild panic among Ottawa fans.
“Everybody’s trying to pick on Ottawa because of the start they had but it’s early in the season,” said Havlat, who spent his first five NHL seasons in the national capital. “I’m sure those guys will be fine. They’ll turn it around quickly.
“But I’m with another team now, my time in Ottawa is done. I’m a Blackhawk and I’ve got things to worry about here.”
Havlat, who signed an US$18-million, three-year deal with the Hawks, has been impressive in more ways than one in Chicago. While the focus early on has been his scoring prowess, Havlat also sports a plus-8 rating, which also led the NHL before Thursday’s games.
There’s a reason for that. Only four of his 13 points have come on the power play. All seven goals he’s scored have come at even strength, a coach’s dream.
Havlat has found quick chemistry on a line with Slovak veteran centre Michal Handzus and fellow Mlada Boleslav, Czech Republic, native Radim Vrbata.
“Both of them are really good players and also very different players in their own right,” said Havlat. “We’re having fun both on and off the ice, things have been good between us.”
Now if only the fans in Chicago would pay attention. The Hawks drew the lowest attendance in the 12-year history of the 20,500-seat United Center last Thursday night at 8,008 for a 3-1 win over Nashville. It improved slightly to 11,095 Wednesday night for a 2-1 win over the Canadiens, Montreal’s first visit to Chicago in five years (four seasons).
If they can’t draw for the Habs, there’s an issue there. But it points to a dwindling fan base that has seen their team miss the playoffs seven of the last eight seasons.
“We had more fans last night than we had last week,” Havlat said, trying to point out the positive. “If we keep winning we’ll get more and more fans every night. It’s up to us to produce the kind of hockey that will help the fans come back. They make a lot of noise even for 11,000 so I can’t wait for more people to be there.”