Blackhawks tapping into youth for physical play


Blackhawks tapping into youth for physical play

The Blackhawks shipped out a big, physical presence on Monday when they sent John Scott to the New York Rangers. Now theyll try and get some of that sandpaper from within.

Brandon Bollig was recalled from Rockford today, and Andrew Shaw got his second call on Monday as the Blackhawks prepare for the Toronto Maple Leafs tomorrow night.

No, Scott never played a ton of minutes for the Blackhawks. He played in just 29 games this season, the final one of his two-year deal with the team. But he was still a physical option. Now Blackhawks young guys get their chance to bring that presence.

If Bolig plays tomorrow, it will be his NHL debut. Bollig skated with Jamal Mayers whos provided the most consistent physical presence this season -- and Jimmy Hayes today. He said hell try to bring whats worked for him in Rockford.

Being sound defensively, finishing every check. Its not just fighting but that physical aspect and bringing that energy that gets the scoring lines going, he said today.

Coach Joel Quenneville said I havent seen (Bollig) play but hes doing well down there. He gives us energy on that line, toughness, with speed and quickness. Hes responsible in the tough areas.

While Bollig is truly a new face, the Blackhawks know exactly what they can get with Andrew Shaw. The rookie stormed out to a hot start when he was first recalled in January, bringing an aggressive style along with a scoring touch. General manager Stan Bowman said Monday that Shaws been playing well in Rockford and deserved another shot.

No, a group of young and rookie players are not going to provide all the solutions right now. But guys like Shaw and Jimmy Hayes brought the Blackhawks a jolt when they needed it back in January, when Patrick Sharp was sidelined with a broken wrist and the team was going through that trying middle part of the season. With the teams recent struggles they could use that youthful energy again.

But the rest of the Blackhawks have to tap into it, too.

We need everybody here, Quenneville said. We have a tough road ahead of us here, a lot of challenges. We have a lot of rookies, young players, who have proven this year they can help us a lot of ways. We need everyone to accept some ownership, be it the leaders or the new guys. We have to move forward together.

The pros and cons of reuniting Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews on Blackhawks top line


The pros and cons of reuniting Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews on Blackhawks top line

Jonathan Toews' offense usually comes in spurts. We're seeing it again right now.

But it's no coincidence his numbers have spiked since Patrick Kane joined him on the top line.

After recording another two points in Saturday's 5-3 loss to the Buffalo Sabres, the Blackhawks captain has 11 points (four goals, seven assists) in his past eight games; he had 11 points in his previous 23 games total.

Toews also reached the 20-goal mark for the 11th straight season, joining Kane and Alex Ovechkin as the only three active players to accomplish that feat to open their NHL careers.

Kane has seen his offensive production pick up, too. He has 16 points (four goals, 12 assists) in his past 13 games after going five straight without one, which was his longest point drought of the season.

When the two of them are on the ice together at even strength, they control 57.9 percent of the shot attempts. It hasn't quite translated on the scoresheet (14 goals for and 17 goals against) maybe the way it should, but they are certainly spending far more time in the offensive zone than the defensive end and are generating a high volume of shots.

So yes, reuniting the dynamic duo has worked stats-wise.

But it comes at a cost:

— Vinnie Hinostroza and Nick Schmaltz haven't scored in six straight contests.

— Alex DeBrincat's season-long goal drought is up to 13 games.

— Artem Anisimov's last even-strength goal came nine games ago.

When you put Kane and Toews together, you risk losing some balance across the lineup and that's why Joel Quenneville has always been reluctant to go to that nuclear option. He prefers when opposing teams are forced to play 'Pick Your Poison.'

Ideally, you'd like to spread out the scoring, but one thing is for certain: The Blackhawks are better when Kane and Toews are each producing offensively, whether they're apart or together. 

When the wins start to dry up though — and they have — that's normally when it's time to try something different.

Perhaps more importantly, the last thing you want are those scoring droughts mentioned above to stretch even further and get inside the younger skaters' heads, then carrying it with them into the offseason.

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Has the championship window closed?


Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Has the championship window closed?

On the latest Hawks Talk Podcast, Jonathan Toews sits down with Pat Boyle for a 1-on-1 interview. Toews weighs in on his season with Brandon Saad, whether he expects major changes this offseason and has the championship window closed?

Also, Adam Burish joins the podcast and plays the game: “Building block, not sure, or no thanks.” Burish runs down the Blackhawks forwards and predicts whether or not they have a future with the team.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below: