Blackhawks

Blackhawks White House visit 'icing on the cake'

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Blackhawks White House visit 'icing on the cake'

Friday, March 11, 2011
Posted 6:47 p.m.

By Tracey Myers
CSNChicago.com

WASHINGTON, D.C. Patrick Kane was taking in the whole White House experience, from the tour to the kids street hockey game to President Barack Obamas speech.

WATCH: President Obama's speech

I was happy with his speech. I got mentioned three times in his speech, Kane said laughing, as he played hockey with kids on the south lawn. I dont know who was counting but somebody told me.

The Chicago Blackhawks enjoyed their final congratulatory moment of their Stanley Cup season when they visited the White House on a chilly Friday afternoon. The Blackhawks took a tour of the White House before being honored in front of a few hundred guests and media on the south lawn.

It was really cool, really elegant, Kane said of the White House. It goes back a long while obviously. I guess the first (president) to live there was (John) Adams. It was pretty cool to be part of that history, to walk through that house.

Introductions between Obama and players apparently yielded a few funny moments.

Everyone was introducing themselves, first and last name, and Hjalmarsson just said, Im Nick, Kane said. So it was funny to hear that.

While the Blackhawks who werent part of the Cup team were part of the lawn audience, the Cup members including visiting Brent Sopel and Cristobal Huet -- stood behind Obama during the festivities.

Blackhawks owner Rocky Wirtz called the visit the icing on the cake.

Obama gave about a six-minute speech congratulating his home-town Blackhawks championship and recognizing team ownership and specific players namely Jonathan Toews great work, Duncan Keiths postseason tooth loss and Kanes playoff mullet I thought it was pretty sharp.

Obama received a Blackhawks sweater and also got a chance to try on the Blackhawks championship ring that's what you call some bling, right there, Obama said.

We have a proud tradition in Chicago of believing that no matter how long it takes, how much we have to endure its only a matter of time before our team finally wins it all, Obama said to laughs. The waiting builds character. We have a lot of character.

During the playoffs, even the Michael Jordan statue had a Blackhawks uniform on. And when the Hawks visited Wrigley Field during the Crosstown Classic, they did something even tougher than winning the Cup -- they got 40,000 Sox fans and Cubs fans to stand up and cheer at the same team, Obama said. (Thats) never happened before.

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville enjoyed meeting Obama.

Hes real genuine, a regular guy with a great attitude, he said. He was pretty excited. I had the pleasure to speak with him after we won the championship and he was excited then. One of the most amazing things was how excited the city was, and that was across the board. He was excited about it then and today as well.

The Blackhawks have enjoyed a lot of celebrations for that Cup victory, the most prestigious coming on Friday. While they keep moving forward trying to make the playoffs again this season, they enjoyed one last look at the past, presidential style.

He was very eloquent, very kind about the Blackhawks, team president John McDonough said of Obama. He really did his homework. He really gave Patrick Kane a lot of love.

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?