Blackhawks

Blackhawks begin with a dud in Dallas

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Blackhawks begin with a dud in Dallas

Box score Highlights
Coach Q: Only a few guys impressed
VIDEO: Toews, Hossa Crawford comment

DALLAS -- Season openers can be a mixed bag. The Chicago Blackhawks had as much of that as anyone on Friday night.

Some great scoring chances bested by better goaltending. A few mistakes that proved costly. And a couple line changes.

Hey, it's Game 1. It's not a bad time to tinker.

Coach Joel Quenneville switched up some lines to start the second period and the Blackhawks generated everything but goals in a 2-1 loss to the Dallas Stars. No matter which of the Blackhawks were firing, no one could really solve Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen, who was stellar in stopping 37 of 38 shots.

Defenseman Nick Leddy broke through with 13.6 seconds remaining in regulation to deny Lehtonen the shutout. Alex Goligoski and Jamie Benn scored for the Stars.

Corey Crawford stopped 31 of 33 in the loss. He was particularly sharp early, which couldn't be said for the rest of the Blackhawks. The Stars got prime chances, some breakaways, but Crawford turned away 13 in the first period.

"Crow kept us in the game in the first. You could say they could've had a bigger lead on us the first 20 minutes," said Jonathan Toews. "That's not the way we wanted to start the season score-wise, but the way we played there were a lot of mistakes and we gave up too many quality chances."

So the Blackhawks changed up some lines. It wasn't a total surprise; with injuries (Dave Bolland, Viktor Stalberg and Ben Smith) and a suspension (Daniel Carcillo), the Blackhawks were down a forward and not running four full lines anyway. Michael Frolik was with Toews and Patrick Sharp for a while, and Patrick Kane joined Toews and Sharp toward the end.

The changes generated opportunities, as the Blackhawks outshot the Stars 22-12 in the second period.

"We shook up the lines a little bit and it seemed like we finally found some jump and some things were going," said Marian Hossa, who was double-shifting and finished with a team-high eight shots on goal. "We were creating more chances and spent more time in the offensive zone."

Quenneville said, "we're still trying our lines to begin with so we were just looking for something that sparked us. I think that was a tough first goal (by Goligoski) because Crow had a great first start. It was one of those nights; we got behind 2-0 and couldn't get that first one until it was too late."

The goals, however, didn't come. They didn't even materialize on the power play, on which the Blackhawks went 0 for 4. The Stars did find a way. Goligoski's came off a Blackhawks turnover and Benn got the rebound goal when Crawford couldn't hold on to Sheldon Souray's initial blast.

"I didn't see the first one right off the stick. The second one was a bullet there and I just couldn't hang onto it," Crawford said.

A mixed bag, some good and bad. The Blackhawks tinkered but came up short. They won't have long to wait to try and right the wrongs.

"Some mistakes we need to get better at and we left too many guys wide open and gave them too many quality chances," Toews said. "We'll tighten it up tomorrow, relax and let everyone do their own job. We'll have more energy and speed going into their zone tomorrow night."

Briefly

Quenneville is "optimistic" that Bolland (upper body) will play tomorrow vs. the Stars.

Kane, who Quenneville thought was just fine at center, won six of nine faceoffs.

John Scott was the lone healthy scratch for the Blackhawks.

Tracey Myers is CSNChicago.com's Blackhawks Insider. Follow Tracey on Twitter @TramyersCSN for up-to-the-minute Hawks information

Eight-defensemen rotation tricky, but Blackhawks understand juggling act

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USA TODAY

Eight-defensemen rotation tricky, but Blackhawks understand juggling act

For Jordan Oesterle, the wait really wasn’t a terrible thing.

Sure, he was used to playing more consistently in the past. But he knew with the Blackhawks carrying eight defensemen that several players, including him, would need to practice patience and understanding.

“It hasn’t been too long. It’s only been a week and a half so it’s not terrible,” said Oesterle on Thursday morning, a few hours before he made his Blackhawks debut against his former team, the Edmonton Oilers.

For the second consecutive season the Blackhawks are going with eight defensemen to start the season. In one way, it’s good: if anything goes awry, be it someone’s game or someone’s health, the depth is readily there.

But so are the challenges. It’s a juggling act, a delicate balance between making the right decisions and making sure a player understands that a scratch may be more about the rotation and not his individual game.

Communication, above all, is key.

“It’s not easy being the guys who are in or out, right on that bubble situation where you come in not knowing if you’re going to play. But as a staff we want to keep everyone involved,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “We know the depth of your defense is going to get challenged at some point during the year. We feel the eight guys who are here can play but that’s how we’ve always done it: We’ve always let guys know whether you’re in or out. Sometimes you have to be more patient than you’d like but handling it the right way, whether you’re a good pro or teammate, that can be healthy around the environment of your team.”

Based on all outward appearances, everyone has handled it well. Connor Murphy has been a healthy scratch twice – “I mean I just want to see the team win really...if we're winning and guys are playing well that's all that matter,” Murphy said after his first scratch.

Oesterle was a healthy scratch the first seven games. Michal Kempny, who Oesterle replaced, has been scratched the last two games. Cody Franson has also sat seven games. Franson, whose patience has been in place while awaiting contracts in his career, is practicing it again. But he’s appreciated the Blackhawks’ communication on it.

“This situation gets tough when they don’t say anything to you; you don’t know if it’s because of the way you’re playing, you don’t know if it’s something you did or what the situation is. The coaching staff has done a great job of being in our ear, letting us leave our work at the rink and not take it home with us,” Franson said. “That goes a long way in being able to stay positive and in the right mindset through it.”

After starting with eight defensemen last season the Blackhawks eventually went back to seven. Will they do that again this season? Maybe, but whoever gets sent down would most likely have to go through waivers. The Blackhawks reassigned Gustav Forsling last season to get back to seven defensemen and get Forsling more playing time. But this season Forsling and Jan Rutta have been dependable and have pretty much become the Blackhawks’ second pairing.

So for now, eight defensemen it shall be. Being part of the rotation isn’t always easy but so far players seem to get that it’s for the greater good.

“It’s one of those things where we’ve got eight quality guys. I think no matter who’s sitting on any given night, it might not necessary be due to how they’re playing or how they’re doing individually,” Franson said. “I think Q’s done a great job of managing that situation. That’s one of those things where it’s a great problem to have but it’s not an easy one to handle. So we’re all aware of what’s taking place right now and you just try to be as professional about it as you can.”

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 4-2 win over Coyotes: Puck don't lie

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 4-2 win over Coyotes: Puck don't lie

Here are five takeaways from the Blackhawks' 4-2 win over the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday night:
 
1. Surviving a crazy first period.

The Blackhawks committed four penalties in the opening frame within a 2:18 span, and escaped unscathed from it despite a pair of 5-on-3 opportunities for the Coyotes.

Of course, the only goal allowed in the period came from a fluke deflection off Jordan Oesterle's stick and slipped underneath Corey Crawford's five-hole.

Joel Quenneville likes to say the team that takes advantage of their 5-on-3 opportunities has a pretty good chance to win the game. It applied in this case, with the Blackhawks coming out victorious after surviving that stretch.

2. Power play comes alive early.

The Blackhawks got off on the right foot in an area that has been an issue for them this season, capitalizing on their first power play of the game 24 seconds into it when Richard Panik redirected a Jonathan Toews shot that tricked past Louis Domingue.

Good thing too, because it was the only man advantage they'd get. Well, excluding the power play they received with 17 seconds left in regulation when the game was already decided. 
 
3. Another controversial review in Arizona.

What's with it with controversial reviews in Arizona and the Blackhawks being on the wrong end of the call?

The Blackhawks appeared to have taken a 3-1 lead when Tommy Wingels converted on a penalty shot, but it was overturned after officials reviewed it and determined the Coyotes netminder got a stick on Wingels' initial shot. Replays didn't exactly show conclusive evidence, but the NHL released a statement proving otherwise:

Video review determined that Wingels shot the puck into the net after Arizona goaltender Louis Domingue made contact with the puck. According to Rule 24.2, "No goal can be scored on a rebound of any kind."

Shortly after, the Coyotes scored in the final minutes of the period to even up the score at 2-2 in a big turn of events at the time.
 
4. ... But puck don't lie.

The overturned penalty shot didn't matter in the end though, because the Blackhawks came away with the victory and Wingels ended up getting his first goal after all on an empty netter that iced the game.

It was Wingels' first goal as a member of his hometown team, and it was well deserved for a guy who was part of the fourth line that turned in arguably their best performance of the season.
 
5. Lance Bouma rewarded with game-winning goal.

Speaking of which, it was fitting that Bouma scored the game winner with 4:24 left in the third period because that trio of Bouma, Wingels and John Hayden was around the net for the majority of the night.

They combined for two goals and two assists, had eight attempts shot attempts (five on goal), eight of the team's 16 hits and four blocked shots.