Blackhawks

Hawk Talk: Sly leaders emerge, wake up troops

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Hawk Talk: Sly leaders emerge, wake up troops

Monday, Jan. 17, 2011
9:45 PM

By Tracey Myers
CSNChicago.com

Theres something to be said for a good, honest chat. Airing grievances, getting things off your chest, venting; whatever you call it, it can lead to good things.

Just ask the Blackhawks, who got the most out of a little player pow-wow they had after a lousy first period against Nashville on Sunday night. They talked, they hashed things out, heck they couldve screamed at each other for all we know.

Bottom line is, whatever was said worked. The Blackhawks came through with a good second period and a better third period, one that came with four goals and a victory over a division opponent. And heading into this five-day break, they needed that.

Yeah, its something for guys to be loud and to speak their mind in this room, Dave Bolland said. Having guys speak and know whats wrong and whats bothering them is good.

Some players talked. Troy Brouwer said that, but wouldnt specify who exactly the talkers were. Those who werent talking were apparently listening; the words ruffle feathers as much as they stoked team morale.

We just got excited about going out there and getting something done, said Jonathan Toews, who not surprisingly was one of the vocal players. We all knew we had to be better after that first period.

Maybe the Blackhawks have had these players-only discussions in others games this season. Im sure they had their talkers during last seasons Stanley Cup run. Maybe its the same guys. Maybe some of the veterans acquired in the offseason piped up. Maybe guys who were hesitant to talk last season have no problem doing it now.

Whatever the scenario, it worked on Sunday. After a myriad of offseason changes and in-season injuries, the Blackhawks are starting to find their team identity and line chemistry. Theyve also found their voices. Theyll need hard work and health to keep them in the Western Conferences top eight.

Theyll also have to keep talking. When youre trying to get the most out of each other and go on another playoff run, silence wont be golden.

More musings

--Nick Leddy was reassigned to the Rockford IceHogs on Monday morning, but with the Blackhawks not playing again until Saturday, it looks like this was just a salary-cap move. The 19-year-old defenseman has earned nothing but praise from coach Joel Quenneville since being recalled on Jan. 7.

--The checking line guys keep adding offense while denying the opposition. Bolland is on a four-game points streak after adding two goals on Sunday night. He now has four goals and two assists in these past four contests. Bryan Bickell added his 12th goal of the season on Sunday night.

--The NHL All-Star game captains are going to be named soon. Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said earlier this week that he would select Sidney Crosby and Steven Stamkos as the respective team captains. But am I the only one wondering if Crosby even plays in this game? Hes been sidelined with concussion since Jan. 6. The All-Star game is less than two weeks away. Even if Crosby is concussion symptom-free and playing again, does he play in Raleigh? Just wondering .

--Brouwer, who had the tying and game-winning goals against Nashville, was the NHLs third star for Sunday night.

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

Eight-defensemen rotation tricky, but Blackhawks understand juggling act

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USA TODAY

Eight-defensemen rotation tricky, but Blackhawks understand juggling act

For Jordan Oesterle, the wait really wasn’t a terrible thing.

Sure, he was used to playing more consistently in the past. But he knew with the Blackhawks carrying eight defensemen that several players, including him, would need to practice patience and understanding.

“It hasn’t been too long. It’s only been a week and a half so it’s not terrible,” said Oesterle on Thursday morning, a few hours before he made his Blackhawks debut against his former team, the Edmonton Oilers.

For the second consecutive season the Blackhawks are going with eight defensemen to start the season. In one way, it’s good: if anything goes awry, be it someone’s game or someone’s health, the depth is readily there.

But so are the challenges. It’s a juggling act, a delicate balance between making the right decisions and making sure a player understands that a scratch may be more about the rotation and not his individual game.

Communication, above all, is key.

“It’s not easy being the guys who are in or out, right on that bubble situation where you come in not knowing if you’re going to play. But as a staff we want to keep everyone involved,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “We know the depth of your defense is going to get challenged at some point during the year. We feel the eight guys who are here can play but that’s how we’ve always done it: We’ve always let guys know whether you’re in or out. Sometimes you have to be more patient than you’d like but handling it the right way, whether you’re a good pro or teammate, that can be healthy around the environment of your team.”

Based on all outward appearances, everyone has handled it well. Connor Murphy has been a healthy scratch twice – “I mean I just want to see the team win really...if we're winning and guys are playing well that's all that matter,” Murphy said after his first scratch.

Oesterle was a healthy scratch the first seven games. Michal Kempny, who Oesterle replaced, has been scratched the last two games. Cody Franson has also sat seven games. Franson, whose patience has been in place while awaiting contracts in his career, is practicing it again. But he’s appreciated the Blackhawks’ communication on it.

“This situation gets tough when they don’t say anything to you; you don’t know if it’s because of the way you’re playing, you don’t know if it’s something you did or what the situation is. The coaching staff has done a great job of being in our ear, letting us leave our work at the rink and not take it home with us,” Franson said. “That goes a long way in being able to stay positive and in the right mindset through it.”

After starting with eight defensemen last season the Blackhawks eventually went back to seven. Will they do that again this season? Maybe, but whoever gets sent down would most likely have to go through waivers. The Blackhawks reassigned Gustav Forsling last season to get back to seven defensemen and get Forsling more playing time. But this season Forsling and Jan Rutta have been dependable and have pretty much become the Blackhawks’ second pairing.

So for now, eight defensemen it shall be. Being part of the rotation isn’t always easy but so far players seem to get that it’s for the greater good.

“It’s one of those things where we’ve got eight quality guys. I think no matter who’s sitting on any given night, it might not necessary be due to how they’re playing or how they’re doing individually,” Franson said. “I think Q’s done a great job of managing that situation. That’s one of those things where it’s a great problem to have but it’s not an easy one to handle. So we’re all aware of what’s taking place right now and you just try to be as professional about it as you can.”

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 4-2 win over Coyotes: Puck don't lie

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 4-2 win over Coyotes: Puck don't lie

Here are five takeaways from the Blackhawks' 4-2 win over the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday night:
 
1. Surviving a crazy first period.

The Blackhawks committed four penalties in the opening frame within a 2:18 span, and escaped unscathed from it despite a pair of 5-on-3 opportunities for the Coyotes.

Of course, the only goal allowed in the period came from a fluke deflection off Jordan Oesterle's stick and slipped underneath Corey Crawford's five-hole.

Joel Quenneville likes to say the team that takes advantage of their 5-on-3 opportunities has a pretty good chance to win the game. It applied in this case, with the Blackhawks coming out victorious after surviving that stretch.

2. Power play comes alive early.

The Blackhawks got off on the right foot in an area that has been an issue for them this season, capitalizing on their first power play of the game 24 seconds into it when Richard Panik redirected a Jonathan Toews shot that tricked past Louis Domingue.

Good thing too, because it was the only man advantage they'd get. Well, excluding the power play they received with 17 seconds left in regulation when the game was already decided. 
 
3. Another controversial review in Arizona.

What's with it with controversial reviews in Arizona and the Blackhawks being on the wrong end of the call?

The Blackhawks appeared to have taken a 3-1 lead when Tommy Wingels converted on a penalty shot, but it was overturned after officials reviewed it and determined the Coyotes netminder got a stick on Wingels' initial shot. Replays didn't exactly show conclusive evidence, but the NHL released a statement proving otherwise:

Video review determined that Wingels shot the puck into the net after Arizona goaltender Louis Domingue made contact with the puck. According to Rule 24.2, "No goal can be scored on a rebound of any kind."

Shortly after, the Coyotes scored in the final minutes of the period to even up the score at 2-2 in a big turn of events at the time.
 
4. ... But puck don't lie.

The overturned penalty shot didn't matter in the end though, because the Blackhawks came away with the victory and Wingels ended up getting his first goal after all on an empty netter that iced the game.

It was Wingels' first goal as a member of his hometown team, and it was well deserved for a guy who was part of the fourth line that turned in arguably their best performance of the season.
 
5. Lance Bouma rewarded with game-winning goal.

Speaking of which, it was fitting that Bouma scored the game winner with 4:24 left in the third period because that trio of Bouma, Wingels and John Hayden was around the net for the majority of the night.

They combined for two goals and two assists, had eight attempts shot attempts (five on goal), eight of the team's 16 hits and four blocked shots.