Blackhawks continue prepping for 3-on-3 OT


Blackhawks continue prepping for 3-on-3 OT

Coach Joel Quenneville was giving his assessment of 3-on-3 so far this preseason, although some outings haven’t allotted him a good look.

“The other night the game ended so quickly I couldn’t get a good read on it,” he said about 3-on-3 vs. St. Louis on Saturday, which ended a minute into overtime.

The Blackhawks are like every other team in the NHL this preseason, acclimating themselves to 3-on-3 before it starts to count for a point during the regular season. The league implemented it in the hopes of reducing the number of shootouts.

Judging by preseason results, it’s having the desired effect. According to the league, of 17 necessary 3-on-3 overtimes thus far, 13 have been decided in that overtime.

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In the Blackhawks’ first 3-on-3 vs. Detroit, Trevor Daley scored off a 3-on-1 just one minute, 40 seconds into it. The second one was planned regardless of the score at the end of regulation – the Blackhawks had already won 3-1 – and lasted just 60 seconds.

A quick poll of fellow hockey writers shows most 3-on-3 sessions – be it those the league stipulated to have 3-on-3 regardless or ones necessitated by a tie – are ending quickly. And by quickly, we mean finishing in two minutes or less.

Quenneville said there are so many factors that will go into capitalizing on a 3-on-3.

“Changes are a big part of it and puck possession’s key. How do you play without the puck and you’re incorporating goaltending with it. There are a lot of intangibles,” said Quenneville. “Groups of three: two forwards and a [defenseman], two Ds and a forward or three forwards? There are a lot of options you can sort out. The personnel going into games will dictate that but technically we need some rules of thumb of how you play certain situations, particularly in your own end without [the puck.]”

Marian Hossa said he sees the opportunistic angle as well as the concerns of it.

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“There’s so much ice there and it could be a lot of fun. But also defensively it’s not easy to contain,” he said. “Because when you have big, skilled players coming against you and you lose half a step, there’s a scoring chance every time.”

It’s easy to believe the open ice means fire away from the offensive standpoint. But there’s danger in that, too. If a rebound gets away from the team on the attack, things could quickly go the other way. 

“Yeah, that’s something you have to watch out for,” Daley said. “The shooter has to protect everyone else. It’ll be interesting to see how it turns out.”

While goalies have that much more pressure on them, Quenneville said they could also be the catalyst for starting their team’s offensive push.

“I think that’ll be exactly what will happen: you’ll be in the offensive zone and you might want to keep the puck, send it down and change, come back and here we go again,” Quenneville said. “Changes are important. Getting fresh guys out there will be critical as well – how do you get the change when you’re tired and in your own end? But I think the goaltender and how he handles it, he could be one more guy who is part of the attack.”

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Corey Crawford’s OK with possibly starting things off with a pass?

“I don’t know. I don’t want to be trying too much. If there’s an opportunity I’ll take it,” Crawford said with a smile. “I have to stop the puck first.”

There is going to be a lot of trial and error with the 3-on-3, especially in the early going. And don’t be surprised if games end shortly after that overtime begins, at least until teams become more comfortable with the new format.

Is 3-on-3 a good thing? Will it be the scorer’s dream? Will it be every goaltender’s worst nightmare? Those questions will be answered as the season progresses. It will definitely be entertaining. And right now, it looks to be serving its original purpose.

“For the people, it’ll be real interesting and a lot of goals,” Hossa said. “And you probably won’t see as many shootouts.”

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

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?