Blackhawks

Blackhawks' Shaw exceeding expectations

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Blackhawks' Shaw exceeding expectations

Dale DeGray isnt shocked that the Chicago Blackhawks like what Andrew Shaw brings. But even he is pleasantly surprised at how quickly Shaw has achieved success with them.

DeGray is the Owen Sound general manager, the man who tried trading for Shaw two years ago before getting him prior to last season. DeGray saw what Shaw could bring, and couldnt be happier to see what the forward is doing now with Chicago.

Ill be honest I thought he had good skills, DeGray said not long after Shaw was brought up to Chicago. But last year in Owen Sound, he exceeded in every facet. He had even better skills than I anticipated. Its the same thing youre seeing that I see on the highlights: hes a very good skater and hes tenacious after the puck.

Shaw gained early attention for that tenacity and for his points, as he scored four goals in as many games. But hes also been a smart player on the ice, and its earning him more responsibility special teams -- and ice time. Shaw has had the top time on ice among Blackhawks forwards against Nashville and Vancouver; and outside of an all-around bad team effort in Edmonton, Shaw has been solid on the teams checking line.

Playing a lot of minutes isnt that unusual for Shaw. He said he did the same in Rockford; he had extra responsibilities there, such as special teams, too. But this is the NHL, the big stage. It can be a little more daunting.

Obviously its more nerve-wracking, but Ive kind of adapted to it, Shaw said. Ive been here for a month now and I feel like Im more comfortable on the ice.

Shaws earned the chance to stick around for a while. His fellow Rockford teammates were sent down before and during the All-Star break. Shaw remained. Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp were activated off injured reserve on Tuesday.

DeGray isnt surprised.

I know how much the kid wants it, DeGray said. Hell pay the price to get it done. Hes at the NHL level now and its right there for him. He doesnt want anyone to take it away from him, Im sure of that.

Shaw was first called up here because he had that same scrappy nature as the injured Daniel Carcillo. He remains here because hes played well in every respect and has earned it.

It feels great to show the hard work is finally playing off, Shaw said. For every kid out there who doesnt think theyre going to get anywhere, keep working at it. Good things come from it. I mean, look at me: I was drafted my third year eligible, fifth round. I never thought Id be playing in the NHL. But here I am, right?

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: After 20 games, do we know the identity of this Blackhawks team?

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: After 20 games, do we know the identity of this Blackhawks team?

On the latest Hawks Talk Podcast Tracey Myers and Jamal Mayers join Pat Boyle to discuss the teams wins over the Rangers and Penguins.  Have they figured some things out and what is the identity of this team after 20 games?

Jammer weighs in on Artem Anisimov’s big week and are there enough Hawks committed to net front presence?  They also discuss the surging play of the blue liners and did the Hawks fail to send a message to Evgeni Malkin, after he kneed Corey Crawford in the head?

Blackhawks’ much-maligned power play is now clicking

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks’ much-maligned power play is now clicking

It’s an annual rite of passage if you cover or are a fan of the Blackhawks: you question the power play, because there always seems to be an issue with the power play. You wonder why every season, given the talent on this team. And again this fall the power play has sputtered.

But a funny thing happened at the end of the weekend. The Blackhawks’ power play started to look good, started to generate chances and started to score. In 10 games prior to the Blackhawks’ Nov. 12 game against New Jersey they had just three power-play goals in 40 opportunities. In their last three games (vs. the Devils, New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins), they’ve tallied five goals on 13 opportunities.

So what’s been working?

“I’ll probably give you the same answer as when it wasn’t working: pucks to the net, guys in front,” Patrick Sharp said. “We have the shot mentality more so than just moving it around and getting it set up. You look at the goals we’ve scored, it’s nothing overly complicated. It’s just getting the puck to the net. Just stay with it.”

Sounds simple enough, but the stay-with-it part has probably been the toughest segment of the equation. When the Blackhawks slumped they really slumped, and their lack of confidence on the power play was as evident as their lack of scoring on it. Yes, stressing over it can have its affect; and when the Blackhawks got those two power-play goals against the Devils it seemed to be a release.

“You get one, that weight gets lifted off your chest a little bit, you can play a little loser and maybe not grip your stick as tight as when things weren’t going well,” Cody Franson said. “When you’re confident out there you’re moving the puck cleanly, things happen a little quicker for you and give you those better looks at good chances. When you’re not that confident sometimes you’re not executing as well and things were moving slower and you’re not generating too much. Confidence definitely plays a big part in it.”

So back to what’s working. The Blackhawks started becoming more active on the power play, cutting down on the passes and increasing the shots. They’ve been there for rebounds. They started feeding off the success, be it with the power play as a unit or with individual performances. Artem Anisimov has returned to being a force at the net again; of his five goals in his last three games, two are power-play goals.

“A couple of broken plays and sometimes you get some breaks. You win a faceoff and make a quick little play after a couple of great opportunities on the prior whistle there that didn’t go in. I just think shots at the net and traffic and off that, sometimes they go in,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “Our entries have always been alright this year, so we’re getting zone time and let’s get some simpler looks and sometimes they go in. I think gaining confidence there, it seems like we’re having the puck more and longer and sustaining some offense off it.”

The Blackhawks have struggled more than they’ve succeeded on the power play the last few seasons. But as their overall scoring has increased again, so has their power-play production. Good timing.

“People tend to say the power play can keep you in games and the penalty kill can win you games. Our penalty kill’s been great and has given us chances in a lot of games. [Corey Crawford’s] been playing pretty well,” Franson said. “And when our power play can give us success we find ourselves in better situations to try and win games.”