He has a long way to go to be considered his hockey equivalentchances are he won't come close to getting there because only Wayne Gretzky occupies that spotbut there are some parallels between Martin Havlat's first season in Chicago and Michael Jordan's early years with the Bulls.
Like Jordan on a bad Bulls team trying to gain respectability, Havlat has been the only reason this season to venture to the United Center or pay attention to a Blackhawks team that will finish out of the playoffs and in the bottom third of the NHL standings.
Havlat continued his brilliance Sunday with a goal and two assists as the Hawks snapped a five-game losing streak with a 5-1 victory over St. Louis.
"He was spectacular again," Hawks coach Denis Savard said. "He's fun to watch, and I'm sure people enjoyed it. He was all over the ice."
Sunday was the 14th multipoint game of the 40 that Havlat has played this season, and with 24 goals and 49 points, he is averaging a robust 1.22 points per game. Not since Jeremy Roenick had 107 points in 1993-94, when he averaged 1.27 points a game, has a Hawk been that productive on a per-game basis.
It has been that long since the Hawks had a bona fide offensive star in their lineup, although Havlat's game is more reminiscent of his current coach's, the star from whom Roenick took the torch.
Havlat snapped a mild slump. He was held scoreless and was a combined minus-5 in his previous two games. For the season, though, Havlat has been held off the scoresheet just 12 times in his 40 games.
"He's had some games where he's been off a bit, but he's played a lot of minutes," Savard said. "Fatigue is a factor. When he's sharp and when he feels good, he's fun to watch."
Savard put Havlat back on the point during the power play Sunday, a move that worked during the recent West Coast trip. It worked again Sunday as Havlat picked up an assist on Adrian Aucoin's power-play goal in the first period.
"I feel pretty good [on the point], I can see everything," Havlat said. "I couldn't get pucks through, but I think other than that the whole power play was much better."
Of the 24 goals that Havlat has scored this season, Sunday's was maybe the most unspectacular. A centering pass from defenseman Brent Seabrook seemed to hit Havlat somewhere on his body as he was being taken to the ice in the crease. The puck then slid between the pads of Blues goaltender Curtis Sanford.
The Hawks began the day 20 points out of the playoffs and have 20 games to play. That's an unusual position for Havlat, who has made long playoff runs with the Ottawa Senators. But Havlat doesn't seem inclined to just play out the string.
"I just want to take it game by game," he said. "There is a lot of hockey left to play."
And still a lot of goals and points to accumulateand at least one reason to continue to pay attention to yet another disappointing Hawks season.
Center Bryan Smolinski continued to make himself more attractive to a potential trade suitor with his 14th goal of the season. Duncan Keith and Patrick Sharp also scored as the Hawks took a 3-0 lead after the first period on just eight shots on goal.
Once again the Hawks couldn't get Nikolai Khabibulin a shutout, with the lone St. Louis goal coming from Lee Stempniak in the second period. Sunday was the 10th time this season Khabibulin has yielded one goal and the 15th time in his 95 games as a Hawk. Khabibulin's last shutout came March 1, 2004, against Colorado when he was with Tampa Bay, a span of 107 games.
St. Louis traded center Keith Tkachuk to Atlanta on Sunday for right wing Glen Metropolit, a first-round pick in 2007 and two other draft choices. The Blues also signed defenseman Eric Brewer to a four-year, $17 million contract Saturday night. Brewer was a minus-4 Sunday.
Blackhawks 5, Blues 1