Blackhawks

Alumni game rekindles Blackhawks-North Stars memories

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Alumni game rekindles Blackhawks-North Stars memories

MINNEAPOLIS – Troy Murray was taking face-offs against Dennis Maruk on Saturday evening in a much less contentious manner than when the two squared off during their NHL playing days.

“That’s a guy I went head to head against for years with the Minnesota North Stars, and we just kind of laughed out there on the ice,” Murray said. "We had a great time.”

For the Blackhawks and North Stars alumni, Saturday night’s game, as well as Friday night’s gathering at former Blackhawks/North Stars defenseman Tom Reid’s restaurant, were great times to reminisce about those heated rivalry days.

“In the old Norris division, we’d play these guys eight times then you play them in the playoffs again and the preseason. It was no wonder we hated each other because we played each other so much,” said Steve Konroyd. “Today, everyone wanted to make sure nobody got hurt and everyone had a good time, and that’s what happened.”

Indeed it looked like everyone had a great time in the alumni game, which the North Stars won 6-4. From those who played in those venom-filled Norris Division games to those who were part of a newer generation for each team, it was an enjoyable day.

“It was a real treat,” said former Blackhawks forward Jamal Mayers. “From the amount of fans that there were to the atmosphere, to meeting guys I watched play growing up and to get a chance to play against them – like Brian Bellows and Bobby Smith – it’s a real neat experience and a real brotherhood. It’ll be an unbelievable atmosphere for the [Blackhawks and Wild] tomorrow.”

There were some pretty nice plays out there, too. Blackhawks goaltending coach Jimmy Waite made two great stops in the third period, one a stacked-pad stop and another a sprawling stick stop on Mike Modano.

“Some of those guys can still play, like Modano. He’s still flying out there,” Waite said. “I was pretty happy to make that save on him.”

Modano thought he had Waite beat.

“Flopping around, I thought I had him down and out. I’m just gonna lay it on the ice and that stick came back. I’m like, ‘oh,’” Modano said with a smile. “How do you not get it off the ice a little bit?”

[RELATED: Outdoor games enjoyable for both new, veteran players]

Murray’s big moment came when he scored on a penalty shot, beating goaltender Gilles Meloche.

It was funny because Gilles said, ‘I was giving you the five-hole,’” Murrsay said. “I just figured I could hold onto it, out wait him and it worked.”

The alumni game meant something to everyone who participated. All were happy to reminisce and see each other. They were thrilled to represent their former teams. And for some, reliving those glorious yet vehement Norris Division days in a kinder, gentler manner made the weekend.

“The stories that were going around [Friday] night… were just incredible. To hear their side of the stories of the rivalries that we knewinside our room, they felt the same way. They had to make sure they were prepared and they didn’t sleep the night before the games; we didn’t either,” Murray said. “We just went back and talked about the good-old days, the way the game was played. You realize for the guys, that’s the way it works most of the time: the guys you hate paying against are some of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet.”

Cue Chelsea Dagger: Blackhawks blow out Capitals to snap eight-game losing streak

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USA TODAY

Cue Chelsea Dagger: Blackhawks blow out Capitals to snap eight-game losing streak

Win one game.

That was Joel Quenneville’s message during the Blackhawks’ eight-game losing streak, which finally came to an end on Saturday night.

How about a 7-1 victory over the Washington Capitals on home ice for a streak-breaker? Now that’s more like it.

Prior to Saturday, the Blackhawks hadn’t recorded a win in February — or a win at the United Center since Jan. 12. 

Though the Blackhawks will likely miss the playoffs for the first time since Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane were rookies, a blowout win over the leaders of the Metropolitan Division Capitals had to have felt great.

"It’s a nice way to get over the hump," Toews said. "Sometimes you might just win a 2-1 game or just kind of grind it out, but it was nice for us to fill the net the way we did tonight."

Added Joel Quenneville, "Certainly feels 100 times better than coming in and trying to explain how we had a lead and were unable to sustain it. The complete 60 minutes, three periods the right way, more consistency in our game, way more pace than we’ve seen recently, composure with the puck, shooting around the net. It was fun but that’s one. Let’s see how we respond to this because there’s a lot of hockey left."

The Blackhawks are 25-26-8 with 58 points, and are 11 points out the final wild card spot, currently held by the Minnesota Wild.

Among the highlights:

— Seven different Blackhawks scored: Toews, Kane, Alex DeBrincat, Brandon Saad, Artem Anisimov, Nick Schmaltz, Ryan Hartman

— The Blackhawks are 74-6-4 in the regular season in which Kane and Toews both record a goal — and 41-0-0 in their last 41 games, according to NBC Sports Chicago stats guru Chris Kamka.

— Kane registered career assist No. 500, becoming the sixth Blackhawk with 500 or more. Kane is also the seventh U.S.-born player with 300-plus goals and 500-plus assists, joining Mike Modano, Keith Tkachuk, Jeremy Roenick, Pat LaFontaine, Joe Mullen and Phil Housley, according to Kamka.

"You think about the amount of great Americans that have played the game, how many players actually play hockey in the United States... Growing up all I wanted to do was play hockey," Kane said. "That means a lot, especially when you talk about American-born players."

— DeBrincat's 22nd goal of the season has him tied for the rookie-lead with Tampa Bay Lightning's Yanni Gourde. DeBrincat and Kane also lead the Blackhawks with 22 goals.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should Blackhawks' One Goal be to tank?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should Blackhawks' One Goal be to tank?

On the latest SportsTalk Live Podcast, Danny Parkins (670 The Score), Seth Gruen (Big Ten Unfiltered) and Jason Goch (SB Nation Radio) join Kap on the panel. 

The Blackhawks drop their 8th straight. So should their “One Goal” be to tank?

Plus, Jon Lester isn’t a fan of the new pace of play proposals. Is he right?

Listen to the full SportsTalk Live Podcast right here: