I'm going to leave it to Joel Quenneville and his players to remind you "it's still early" in this NHL season.

It's true the Blackhawks aren't going to win the Stanley Cup this month. And they didn't get any closer to a title with their 3-2 overtime victory Thursday night over the Stars in Dallas.

But as the Hawks took their fourth game in as many tries, the most telling factor is the return — with a vengeance — of Marian Hossa.

The game-winning laser he blasted just inside the post to the left side of Stars' goaltender Kari Lehtonen, who kept his team from getting run out of the building, was the perfect punctuation to an often-times frustrating evening for the Hawks.

To hell with pacing yourself. If you're a hockey fan, you spent more than three months dreading the prospect of a puckless season. I say get silly now and let your imagination run wild — before it becomes fashionable.

The Blackhawks have come out of the gate much more impressively than expected.

Nothing is more encouraging than the manner in which Hossa has opened the season. Thursday's game winner, set up by a sweet, back-handed touch pass from Patrick Kane, was Hossa's fifth goal of the season.

It appears the concussion symptoms that vexed Hossa for a couple of months after being drilled in last spring's playoff loss to the Coyotes, are totally gone.

Hossa has had the most impact of the Hawks — by a long shot. And it isn't just the goals the veteran winger has scored.

His relentless effort with the stick, keeping the puck alive in the attack zone or taking it away from an opponent when short-handed, has set the tone for a team that struggled to find an identity last season.

The Hawks look sharper and more confident taking the play across the opponent's blue line. They have demonstrated patience. They have forechecked well. They have killed penalties.