Blackhawks

Blackhawks avoid the penalty box

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Blackhawks avoid the penalty box

The Chicago Blackhawks are behaving themselves.

Exhibit A: their penalty box on Saturday night. The official there had a lonely night because no Blackhawks went in there all evening. Its the first time since last March the Blackhawks went a whole game without taking a penalty.

OK, that may be an anomaly. But the Blackhawks have kept their penalty totals down during this early season. In seven games theyve taken just 20, an average of 7.7 penalty minutes a contest. Both numbers are the lowest among NHL teams.

Its helped the Blackhawks avoid the penalty kill and the fatigue that goes along with that job. Their goaltender doesnt mind avoiding power plays, either.

It makes a huge difference when youre not killing penalties, said Corey Crawford, who only had to face Colorados highly ranked power play twice in two games. And it saves guys legs, too; guys arent as tired. When youre killing six or seven penalties a game it wears on you. Were playing every two days; it may not get you tired for that game but itll drag on for maybe the next couple.

Patrick Kane said fewer penalties are becoming a league norm.

It seems like a lot of teams are becoming more disciplined, maybe more accustomed to the rules, he said. If you take bad penalties youll sit a few shifts. Weve been really good as far as not taking penalties.

There may be something to that. But one thing remains certain: stay out of the box, improve your chances of winning. Just look at the leagues top four in low penalty minutesgame:

Team PIMG Record

Chicago 7.7 4-1-2

Washington 8.1 7-0-0

Colorado 8.5 6-2-0

Detroit 9.0 5-1-0

And this is coming from a Blackhawks team that made a concerted effort and deals to get more physical this season. Theyve done that, but theyve nevertheless avoided major penalties.

We have more guys who are more physical this year, but that doesnt give anybody a green light to take penalties just because were being more physical or harder to play against, coach Joel Quenneville said. I think the last few years weve been aware of what the standard is and adapting to that is how we want to play.

Shootout work

The Blackhawks are 0 for 6 in two shootouts this early season, so it was one of the first drills they did on Monday morning. Patrick Kane said perhaps they need to just take a simpler approach.

Sometimes you have so many moves in your head you think can work, maybe you have to just try to stick with one, maybe see what the goalies give you, said Kane, who doesnt foresee this being a long-term issue. Its a matter of time before we get better at that. Theres too much talent in the room and too many players who should score who arent. Well be fine.

Quenneville said the coaches are discussing everything from shooting order to shooters to figure out a solution.

Its something you want to talk about but you dont want guys having more anxiety, he said. Their strength is being comfortable. Its a recent trend; were not as effective as we were. Were visiting all phases. When things dont work we look at options.

Briefly

Corey Crawford will start against Anaheim on Tuesday night.

Jamal Mayers celebrated his 37th birthday on Monday.

Brandon Saad, who started this season with the Blackhawks, was named the Ontario Hockey Leagues player of the week on Monday. In three games with the Saginaw Spirit last week, Saad tallied six goals and four assists, as well as a plus-2 rating.

Blackhawks edge out Senators in shootout: 'It was really nice to get a win'

Blackhawks edge out Senators in shootout: 'It was really nice to get a win'

It was a rare sight to see the Blackhawks in a shootout on Wednesday night.

It was just the second time this season — and first time at the United Center — that the Blackhawks made it past 3-on-3 overtime. 

The last came on Dec. 2, 2017, a 3-2 shootout loss to the Stars in Dallas. On Wednesday night, the Blackhawks were on the other end, beating the Ottawa Senators 3-2 in a seven-round shootout. Nick Schmaltz netted the game-winner.

"We'll take it," coach Joel Quenneville said. "I thought we had a decent game tonight. Overtime not so good, I liked the shootout victory, Fors made some big saves for us particularly as the game got deeper. Our third was OK, I thought our first two were way better, and overtime we gave up some high quality, some bells were rings for a bit there. But it was nice to see the shootout win."

Patrick Kane had a goal and an assist, recording another multi-point game, his 16th of the season.

"I mean we need every point we can get at this point," Kane said. "There's still belief in this locker room. Obviously we need to go on quite a run and have a big record here down the stretch. But take it a game at a time and nice to get two points."

Anton Forsberg was a big reason the Blackhawks even recorded those two points. The 25-year-old netminder stopped 34 of 36 shots and made a handful of big saves down the stretch.

"It was really nice to get a win for sure," Forsberg said. "I would love to have a lot more wins, but right now just gotta look forward and get as many wins as possible."

Added Quenneville: "I think it was good for him to win a game the way he did. Lot of shots were on the line, as we progressed, got deeper, hitting the point first was big for him and for us and then finding a way to get the extra one was a good win."

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

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NBC Sports Chicago

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Ottawa Senators tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. Trade chips.

The Blackhawks have reached the point in their season where they have no choice but to become sellers before the Feb. 26 deadline, and we saw that when they traded Michal Kempny to the Washington Capitals on Monday for a conditional third-round pick in 2018. Tommy Wingels could also be an attractive piece for a team looking to fill out their depth.

The Senators will definitely be sellers, and wow do they have some names potentially on the market that can fetch large returns: Derrick Brassard and Mike Hoffman are two players who log top-six minutes on a nightly basis and also have term left on their contract, which is great for teams looking to load up for this year and beyond.

The biggest name to watch, probably in the league altogether, is Erik Karlsson, who could be on the move if a team offers a big enough package for the Senators to pull the trigger now as opposed to in the offseason if they feel him re-signing is a long shot. He was the best defenseman last season, and if a team steps up to get him, they're getting two possible postseason runs out of him.

2. Artem Anisimov's experiment at left wing not working.

Joel Quenneville has tried rekindling the magic between Anisimov, Nick Schmaltz and Patrick Kane as of late, only this time Anisimov is playing the wing and it just hasn't been very effective. The trio was on the ice for each of the two 5-on-5 goals the Kings scored on Monday, and Anisimov completely lost his man on the first one.

It's important to establish a consistent left winger for Schmaltz and Kane, and maybe putting Alex DeBrincat up there is something you consider going forward as part of a long-term solution. Move Anisimov back down as the third-line center to play in more of a defensive role and continue using his big body on power plays for his offensive abilities might be the best bet.

3. Win the special teams battle.

In their last meeting against Ottawa on Jan. 9, the Blackhawks went 4-for-6 on the power play and 4-on-4 on the penalty kill in an 8-2 win. And those are two areas to look out for again.

The Senators own the 28th-ranked power play with a 16.1 percent success rate and 29th-ranked penalty kill with a 74.5 percent success rate. Get ready for another offensive outburst?