Blackhawks defensemen not sweating marathon-game minutes


Blackhawks defensemen not sweating marathon-game minutes

The Blackhawks’ top four defensemen’s minutes kept creeping up as the game wore on: 20 minutes, 30 minutes, 40 minutes and, for one, nearly 50 minutes.

The main reason for the insane minutes, obviously, was the triple-overtime game; when the Blackhawks beat the Anaheim Ducks 3-2 on Tuesday night, they played their longest game in franchise history.

[RELATED - Blackhawks outlast Ducks in longest game in franchise history]

Still, Duncan Keith, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Johnny Oduya and Brent Seabrook were expected to play more with the altered, Michal Rozsival-absent defense. Kimmo Timonen is still struggling to play a lot and Kyle Cumiskey played in his first NHL postseason game in five years on Tuesday.

So is coach Joel Quenneville concerned that, as this Western Conference Finals series drags on, those minutes will lead to wear and tear for the top four?

“They just had 10 days off,” Quenneville said, referring to the lengthy break between the second round and conference finals. “So I feel pretty good about it.”

OK, but with the Blackhawks hosting the Ducks in Game 3 on Tuesday night, those defensemen will barely be coming off two days’ rest. Keith played just under 50 minutes (49:41) while Hjalmarsson and Seabrook played around 47 1/2 minutes. Oduya came in at 46 minutes.

Hjalmarsson said he was fine on Tuesday afternoon, when the Blackhawks arrived back in Chicago.

“I have no complaints,” he said. “Yeah, it was a lot of minutes last game. But we won the game, and we move on from there, start focusing on next game.”

[ANDREW SHAW: If anyone can pull that off, it should still be a goal]

Quenneville said the quick turnaround shouldn’t be a problem.

“I mean, their defense played just about as many minutes as Dunks, Hammer, Seabs,” he said. “They're playing hockey; there's enough recovery time.”

The Ducks’ defensemen did log some massive minutes in that marathon game. Francois Beauchemin played 46 1/2 minutes, Hampus Lindholm played 44 minutes and Cam Fowler registered 40 minutes. The difference, of course, is how much the Blackhawks can play their fifth and sixth defensemen compared to the Ducks. Timonen played just under 17 minutes and Cumiskey finished with 18:34. The Ducks’ Sami Vatanen and Clayton Stoner played 37:57 and 28:54, respectively.

It sounds like Quenneville will stick with Cumiskey, who logged about nine of his 18 1/2 minutes in the second and third overtimes.

“He’s one of those kids [who], the more he plays, the more he sees what's out there. I think he'll take advantage of that,” Quenneville said. “His quickness was noticeable. He made a lot of direct plays. I thought he was quick in the puck area. He's defended well. He didn't play a ton, but certainly his minutes were meaningful. I think that was a good start for him.”

If Cumiskey is able to add more minutes as these games go on, that will certainly help. The Blackhawks aren’t strangers to spreading ice time among five defensemen in the playoffs; they did it the past two postseasons, as Rozsival played steady minutes and Nick Leddy played a lot fewer.

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans]

The top four defensemen have a fast turnaround after playing a ton on Tuesday night. Quenneville wasn’t worried about the time, given the circumstances. Those defensemen don’t sound too concerned, either.

“I’m just trying to do whatever you can to help the team win. If that means [playing] a lot of minutes and trying not to mess up at the same time, I'll try that,” Hjalmarsson said to laughs. “Personal stats don't matter at all when it comes to playoff times. It's all about getting the win or not.”

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?