Blackhawks

Blackhawks erupt in second, edge out Blues

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Blackhawks erupt in second, edge out Blues

Monday, Feb. 21, 2011
3:29 p.m.

By Tracey Myers
CSNChicago.com

ST. LOUIS Jonathan Toews had seen enough.

The Chicago Blackhawks had played an awful first 20 minutes against the St. Louis Blues, turning the puck over, playing shoddy in other aspects and had a 2-0 deficit to show for it. So in that first intermission, the captain let off some steam.

We say what we have to do before the game and then to play that way the first 20 minutes was unacceptable, Toews said. The leaders in the locker room held the rest of the team accountable.

And over the next 20-plus, the Blackhawks were accountable.

Patrick Kane and Toews each scored their 20th goals of the season as the Blackhawks scored four second-period goals en route to their 5-3 victory over the St. Louis Blues on Monday afternoon. The Blackhawks are still listed in 11th place but are one of five Western Conference teams with 68 points.

Viktor Stalbergs early second-period goal was the spark for the Blackhawks, who got off to another woeful start to a Blues team that was hungry, determined and physical. For a Blackhawks team fighting for every possible point and a playoff spot, the first-period response or lack thereof -- was once again head-scratching.

I was venting a little frustration after first period because we say the same things over and over. We know St. Louis is going to come out hard. We know its going to be a tough game and we cant afford to go out there and blow the first period. After a while it sounds like a broken record, Toews said. Every guy understood going into that second period, and were happy with the response.

Dave Bolland scored a minute after Stalberg and Kanes goal came about three minutes after Bollands. Toews added his power-play goal to cap the four-goal period. The spread-out scoring was a welcome sight, considering the Blackhawks top line had done the bulk of it lately.

Youre not going to win with one line. It shows the depth we do have here. Thats what we need to do down the stretch here, acting head coach Mike Haviland said. It jump-starts you when other lines start to score. You can see the whole attitude change on the bench when we got that (Stalberg) goal. We just have to keep pushing that, push each other and challenge each other.

Corey Crawford won his second game in as many days, stopping 31-of-34 shots. Crawford wasnt surprised that Toews spoke up after the first.

Jonnys done that all year. He knows what to say at the right time, Crawford said. He told us to relax and play our game that we know we can. The first period was gone and there was nothing more we could do about it. We just had to go out there and play.
Marian Hossa added an empty-net goal with a second remaining. Jake Dowells hustle down ice on that last sequence saved an icing call and led to the Blackhawks final goal.

The Blackhawks dug in for this one. It was a good departure from other bad starts, which too often led to bad finishes. Their captain talked. They listened. Now they need this two-game winning streak to turn into something substantial.

This could be a big thing to jump-start us here, Haviland said. I think it was more for us to realize that dont get too high after wins and that we have to go back to work. Maybe it did take a goal in the second period or something said in the first intermission to get us going. Im proud of those guys.

Waived off

The St. Louis Blues had a goal waived off in the third period when forward BJ Crombeen was ruled in the crease. Crawford said the Blues were in and around him all day.

They were doing that all night, not giving me a chance to get out and challenge, Crawford said. I let the refs know it was their plan to do that.

Briefly

Fernando Pisani (head), Nick Boynton and John Scott (healthy) were Mondays scratches. Haviland said there was no change in Pisanis status.

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

Are Blackhawks starting to find their early season form again?

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USA TODAY

Are Blackhawks starting to find their early season form again?

The goals came in bunches for the Blackhawks in their Oct. 5 season opener against the Pittsburgh Penguins. For the Blackhawks, it was a nice memory, albeit one that seems far away given they went from scoring at will through their first two games to not being able to buy a goal for a sizeable stretch.

As for the Penguins, well, you figure their memoires of that game means they’ll be more than a little ticked off when the Blackhawks arrive on Saturday night.

“We’ve been on the wrong side of a few losses like that,” Patrick Sharp said. “You certainly remember them more than other losses.”

This is kind of/sort of about the Penguins, who in the first meeting were clearly tired not only from two Stanley Cup runs but also from their season opener/banner raising the prior night. But it’s more about the Blackhawks who, after a lengthy scoring drought, are starting to get their offense going again (15 goals in their last three games).

And while they’d like to shore up their defense – they blew a 4-1 lead vs. New Jersey and just about did it again vs. the New York Rangers – overall they’re trending in the right direction. And just as they face the team against whom they played their best game of the season.

“I’m sure [the Penguins] will be excited about playing us and making things better. They’re playing well, winning some games. For [us], we’re looking for more consistency in our game with the puck and we’re generating some offense,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “I still think it has some ways to improve. That was one night, whether it was the quality of the plays we made or [what], we seemed like we had the puck a lot and did some good things with it. We haven’t seen much of that lately so I think that maybe we can recapture a little bit of that with the puck as well.”

In the past three games the Blackhawks haven’t just reignited their offense, they’ve regained their confidence. Their lines are finding some chemistry. As frustrating as their scoring drought was, they’re hoping it’s behind them.

“At some point in the season I feel like every team goes through it, either in the beginning, the middle or toward the end. You just don’t want to have it right at the end of the season,” Ryan Hartman said. “You can look at it in in a positive way. Hopefully we got that part over with and now we’re just coming in confident and hopefully we put the puck in the net.”

The Blackhawks got off to a hot goal-scoring start against the Penguins by doing the right things: shooting, pouncing on rebounds, getting traffic in front of the net and capitalizing. As they head into their 20th game of the season, the Blackhawks are finally getting back to what worked so well in Game 1.

“Things dried up for a bit but I think we have a good rotation going here with the lines; the chemistry’s starting to fill in a little bit. Some guys are stepping up. [Artem] Anisimov had a big night and Brinsky’s [Alex DeBrincat] playing great. It’s good to see those guys step up. It makes you want to be that next guy who’s called up to step up in the next game,” Patrick Kane said. “It’s good to see some goals go into the net. More important, it’s good to see some wins. But we’re playing the right way and hopefully this will trend in the right direction for us.”

Reasons to be optimistic about a Blackhawks turnaround

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USA TODAY

Reasons to be optimistic about a Blackhawks turnaround

It's mid-November, and the Blackhawks are on the outside looking in at the playoff picture. It's unfamiliar territory for Chicago, which is accustomed to seeing its team as a perrenial Western Conference favorite and Stanley Cup contender.

Since starting the season 3-0-1, the Blackhawks are 6-8-1 in their last 15 games and haven't won more than two in a row yet. It's a little concerning.

But there are reasons to be optimistic about a potential turnaround.

Let's start with the obvious concern: The offense.

If you take away the first two games in which they combined for 15 goals, the Blackhawks would rank 27th in the league in goals per game (2.59). They also went through a stretch where they scored only two goals or fewer in nine of 12 games.

Since then, the Blackhawks have erupted for 15 goals in three games and they're continuing to generate shots at a high rate.

In their last nine contests, the Blackhawks are averaging 38.9 shots per game and rank fifth overall at 34.6. The problem on offense has never been the quantity of shots, it's the quality. They're slowly starting to get both.

And the weird part is? Patrick Kane has four goals in his past 17 games, Duncan Keith has zero goals in 19 games this season, Brandon Saad has one goal in his last 13 and Jonathan Toews has two goals in his last 14, one of which was an empty netter. Those are Chicago's top four horses who are struggling collectively to get on the scoresheet.

Their individual track records suggest they won't stay dry forever.

The Blackhawks' recent offensive hot streak is being spearheaded by role players such as Artem Anisimov (eight goals in his last nine games) and Alex DeBrincat (six goals in seven games this month), the latter of whom has emerged as a darkhorse candidate for the Calder Trophy as the league's top rookie. While it would be unfair to expect him to continue scoring at a goal-per-game pace, DeBrincat's emergence shows he's starting to get comfortable in the NHL and we're seeing exactly what he can bring to the table.

The biggest reason the Blackhawks are staying afloat while the offense figures itself out is the elite goaltending they're getting from Corey Crawford.

Chicago is giving up 33.8 shots per game, which is fourth-most, yet Crawford is making an early case for the Vezina Trophy, sitting at fifth with a 2.26 goals against average and tied for second with a .930 save percentage, including two shutouts.

If there are any doubts about Crawford coming back down to earth, he had a 92.99 save percentage at even-strength last year and 93.32 in 2015-16. Through 16 appearances this season, he's actually a bit below that at 92.47, according to naturalstattrick.com.

Now, in the previous two seasons, the Blackhawks averaged 31.4 and 30.8 shots against, respectively, but the point remains the same that you can consistently count on Crawford playing at a high level.

Did we mention the Blackhawks have the sixth-best penalty kill percentage (82.9) dating back to Oct. 29, 2016? That's a great combination, especially when you have one of the league's best goaltenders to bail you out at times.

Ultimately, the Blackhawks' success hinges on their star players playing like it. Once they get going, the rest will follow. The question is, when will that happen?