Blackhawks

Hawk Talk: Blackhawks win despite jitters

181360.jpg

Hawk Talk: Blackhawks win despite jitters

Sunday, May 30, 2010
4:45 PM

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

CHICAGO With six days to anticipate their first taste of Stanley Cup action, and five of them spent answering endless questions about their first taste of Stanley Cup action, you can forgive the Chicago Blackhawks if they spent much of Saturdays opener as if playing hopscotch on a minefield.

The excitement, and in most cases, jitters, hit immediately, well before first puck drop.

That was nuts! Blackhawks forward Kris Versteeg said after the game. I couldn't hear national anthem singer Jim Cornelison. I had chills. That was amazing. It beat even the Winter Classic."

We stepped out on the ice and it was the best feeling Ive ever had in my whole life, said Chicago defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson, a week shy of his 23rd birthday and the Blackhawks third-youngest player. My whole body felt shellshocked.

Even the First Star of the game and author of a pair of goals, Troy Brouwer, couldnt escape the jitters.

It was a little nerve-wracking, thats for sure, he said. Some of the guys, its their first time in the Finals. Nerves might have had a little to do with it, Im not going to lie to you.

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville last night called the first period jittery and mentioned that even in the second, we were a little bit more emotional than we normally are. On Sunday, his new term for last nights playing style was scrambly, clearly expecting improvement the next time out: I know we have to be better than we were off of those levels last night.

While no one is making the argument that Chicagos minty fresh experience in the Stanley Cup Finals is an excuse for the mostly sloppy play of Game 1after all, the Blackhawks boast three players whove previously skated over an iced Stanley Cup logo, the Philadelphia Flyers just onebut the inherently-overwhelming nature of the game did throw a number of Hawks off.

Dont count center Dave Bolland, defenseman Brent Seabrook, or forward Marian Hossa among them, however.

Bolland claimed before Game 1 that he would look at the Stanley Cup Finals as just another series of games, and the youngster has just enough of a genial poker face to believe him. And one day later, his tune hadnt changed.

Once that first faceoff was done, that was about it in terms of nerves, Bolland said matter-of-factly. Pretty much when the game started, just getting going was the main thing.

Last night, Hossa was cited for a phenomenal game by most any observer, including teammate Patrick Sharp, who tabbed the veteran as Chicagos best forward of the night. As a veteran of the last two Stanley Cup Finals, with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings, and as one of the most confident skaters on the ice to begin with, it should have come as no surprise.

Ive been in these kinds of games before, so you try to keep your composure, Hossa said. I try to keep on my game, not trying to run around and be somebody else. I tried to play the same way I always do.

Hossas remarks were in direct contrast of the range of emotions a younger and less experienced player, like Hjalmarsson, went through. The Babyfaced Gangster admitted yesterday that for he and his teammates, we have to control our emotions and not just run around, and thats what we were doing tonight.

In a game as crazy as Saturdays, Seabrook might have had the strangest range of experiences. He took nine stitches after falling to the ice in a pileup early on, had his chops busted with a blow to the teeth on a follow-through stick, but somehow survived to make play of the game midway through the third, keeping a puck in the offensive zone by skating backward and falling over, leading eventually to Tomas Kopeckys game-winning goal.

No, it wasnt what I expected, Seabrook said of the game as a whole, and the beginning in particular. I thought Id be a lot more nervous than I was.

I did have some jitters. Getting piled on top of, guys falling on me, and having my head bouncing off of the ice shook away all of my nerves right away, though.

Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.com's Blackhawks Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Hawks information.

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 2-1 overtime loss to Oilers: Connor McDavid adds to highlight reel

10-19_mcdavid_blackhawks_usat.jpg
USA TODAY

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 2-1 overtime loss to Oilers: Connor McDavid adds to highlight reel

Here are five takeaways from the Blackhawks' 2-1 overtime loss to the Edmonton Oilers on Thursday night:
 
1. Shake-up on power play doesn't work.

Joel Quenneville spruced up his power play units before Wednesday's game in an effort to snap a dry spell, but the Blackhawks had no luck in that department in the second of a back-to-back.

The Blackhawks went 0-for-5 on the man advantage against an Oilers team that was ranked dead last in penalty kill percentage going into the contest, and failed to capitalize on a 5-on-3 opportunity for 56 seconds in the opening minutes of the season period.

They're getting off a fair amount of shots, but the quality of them isn't there.

2. Ryan Hartman fine after brief exit due to illegal hit.

It was a physical game between the Blackhawks-Oilers, but a line was crossed at the 4:59 mark into the second period when Zack Kassian delivered a huge hit on Hartman, who went face-first into the boards.

Kassian was given a two-minute minor penalty for boarding, a call that didn't sit well with the sold-out United Center crowd of 21,444. Hartman went to the locker room to be checked out after the hit despite getting up quickly and showing no visible signs of distress, but he fortunately returned a few shifts later.

It was a dangerous hit by Kassian, and an avoidable one too. 

Quenneville admitted Hartman getting up quickly perhaps may have "helped" keep it a minor penalty and not a five-minute major, but the Blackhawks coach wasn't focused on that after seeing the result unfold.

"I saw how hard it looked," Quenneville said. "But Hartzy getting up right away, that helped. You don't even measure it anymore after that. That's the one thing you're hopeful for right off the bat."
 
3. Connor McDavid adds another play to highlight reel.

We're only two weeks into the season, but the 20-year-old reigning Hart Trophy winner submitted an early entry for Assist of the Year.

Late in the first period, McDavid flew from his own end into the offensive zone, made a spin-o-rama move on two-time Norris Trophy winner Duncan Keith and backhanded a perfect pass to Patrick Maroon, who tapped in a goal at the doorstep.

It looks impossible to defend from anyone watching, and Keith pretty much felt the same way.

"When he gets the speed in the other end there and he's able to skate all the way down, it's tough to stop a guy especially when he's that fast," Keith said. "He's just flying through the middle. I'm just a sitting duck there at the other end of the ice waiting for him to come full speed. It's a hard play to defend against."
 
4. Anton Forsberg sharp again.

It's a small sample size, but the Blackhawks' backup goaltender has looked really sharp in practically every start he's had in a Chicago uniform, including preseason.

He deserved a better fate in his regular season debut last week in Toronto when he stopped 39 of 43 shots in an overtime loss, and the same applied here.

Forsberg tied a career-high with 40 saves, and seemingly got better as the game went on.

"I for sure felt more comfortable, felt like I was more used to the speed," Forsberg said. "It's tough again to lose in overtime, obviously I wanted a win and that's kind of frustrating."

"Excellent games, both games," Quenneville said of his goaltender. "Would've been nice to get him a win tonight."
 
5. Jordan Oesterle keeps it simple in debut.

The Blackhawks' crowded blue line has made it difficult for Quenneville to give all eight defensemen a fair amount of playing time, but Oesterle took advantage of his season debut.

He logged 15:01 of ice time, registered three shot attempts (two on goal), and blocked two shots.

"I liked him," Quenneville said. "Moves the puck."

Said Keith: "I thought he was good. Tough situation for him, he hasn't played all year in a game but I thought he played good. He's got good poise, he's smart back there."

Power play woes continue for Blackhawks in OT loss to Oilers

trahawks.png
USA TODAY

Power play woes continue for Blackhawks in OT loss to Oilers

Mark Letestu raised his arms in celebration, his 4-on-3 power-play goal giving the Edmonton Oilers an overtime victory over the Blackhawks. The home team could only look on in frustration, knowing that if it could have just converted one power play on Thursday it may have been a different result.

Five more power plays, five more opportunities that yielded nothing for the Blackhawks, who are now 6-for-39 (15.4 percent) in that department on the season. The 5-on-4 chances were tough enough but coach Joel Quenneville and several Blackhawks pointed specifically to the 5-on-3 the Blackhawks had for 56 seconds.

“The 5-on-3, we had some great looks around the net,” Quenneville said. “A lot of loose pucks that we just didn’t find the handle [on], we’re not anticipating or sniffing them out around the net. Some close looks but no finish.”

It’s been a recurring theme for the Blackhawks on the power play, and not just this year. Again, in the past the Blackhawks didn’t sweat any power-play issues much; their 5-on-5 scoring was usually strong. This early season, however, things have quieted on that front. On Thursday the Blackhawks cleaned up a lot of the mistakes they made against the St. Louis Blues the previous night. Anton Forsberg was terrific. The Blackhawks’ second line of Ryan Hartman, Nick Schmaltz and Patrick Kane was looking like it did prior to Schmaltz’s injury. But the power play remained the same.

“Yeah, we had a lot of chances, we made plays to the net. We just didn’t capitalize on the power play which would’ve been the difference,” Ryan Hartman said. “We have a chance on the 5-on-3, which would’ve been nice. Just some chances all around, like [Jonathan] Toews’ shot that just squeaked by. Just some missed opportunities.”

The Blackhawks have looked at ways to get their power play going. They’ve tinkered with personnel – the latest was keeping the top two lines together for their respective power-play shifts. Usually it’s come down to the problems that have hampered them before: not enough movement, not enough shots, not enough hunger around the net for loose pucks. The final issue was especially prevalent on Thursday.

The chances were there on the power play. The home team had the bulk of the opportunities. The visiting one had the finish.

“The 5-on-3 we had some decent looks but that was a chance to get a huge goal for us,” Quenneville said. “The power play late in the second was decent, the third was ordinary, but we’ve been moving personnel around. We have the ingredients to make it work but a lot of loose pucks we didn’t get in our 5-on-5 game comparable around the net on the power play as well. We didn’t smell anything out around there.”