Hawk Talk: Toews, Kane, Sharp line making impact


Hawk Talk: Toews, Kane, Sharp line making impact

Tuesday, March 1, 2011
12:27 p.m.

By Chris Boden

Three weeks ago today, here we sat, the Blackhawks still Stuck-In-A-Rut. They'd just put forth a flat effort in Calgary in a game that was pretty important coming off an encouraging effort, but a loss, in Vancouver.

So Joel Quenneville did two things: He skated his team up and down the ice for about an hour in Edmonton on an off-day, giving them a workout they didn't provide the night before. And, amidst a season of inconsistency, he went with something he could pretty much bank on. He put Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and Patrick Sharp together on the same line.

READ: Blackhawks acquire defenseman Campoli

The risk in putting all those proverbial eggs in one basket was not getting enough production from the other three lines. It was also about that time he shuffled his defensive pairings to ease some of massive workload off Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook.

That gut move probably has nothing to do with the bleeding ulcer that soon victimized the head coach. If anything, the decision has to have him feeling better with the results he's received. It hasn't been the lone cause of this recent warm-up and season-high five-game win streak, but as they prepare to face Calgary for the first time since, they're 7-1-2 in the ten games since walking out of the Saddledome saddled with continuing frustration and uncertainty.

The way the West is, they're not out of the woods, but things have gotten fun again as the Blackhawks have answered the pressure - their best players have started being their best players.

In the 10 games, Toews, Sharp and Kane have combined for 14 goals and 40 points. The rest of the roster's contributed 18 goals, which will do the job if that pace should continue. Marian Hossa has a four-game goal streak. But there's no question the leaders of a stretch that also includes banking 10 of a possible 12 points on the road is the Toews Trio.

READ: High Five: Red-hot Hawks, Toews fly by Wild

Let this also be an all-points alert for every February to come in Toews' career: He has 49 points in 41 NHL games in the second month of the calendar year, not to mention an Olympic Gold medal on a team in which he was named the tournament's Outstanding Forward. Dating back to the January game prior to the All-Star Game in which Kane teased his team selection and Sharp was named MVP, he's piled up 23 points over 14 games, nine multi-point contests. Since one two-game blip when he slipped off the scoresheet, Toews has 11 points over six points. Tuesday, the NHL named him the league's 1 Star of the Month.

With numbers like that, do we really have to March on to a new month?

Deadline Doings

...or maybe not doings...

Besides the Kings' acquisition of Dustin Penner, no other West contenders were really active, save for the Columbus-Phoenix trade.

Alex Goligoski has had an impact in Dallas, but they were shutout on a Deadline Day in which there was about half the activity of a year ago. They held onto Brad Richards, and maybe they think that'll be a positive vibe in the room, removing any doubt whether he'll be there the rest of the way.

Nashville made a strong move awhile ago with the acquisition of Mike Fisher, but surprisingly, nothing else for a team needing a jolt, not to mention a banged-up roster needing bodies.

Minnesota also did nothing, perhaps hoping the return of Mikko Koivu and Guillaume Latendresse in a couple weeks will provide a boost. They're hoping they're still in it by that point.

San Jose was cash-strapped and sat tight after some earlier depth moves has coincided with them playing better, along with Antti Niemi doing a flashback to 2010.

Vancouver decided to tinker with depth up front, including acquiring an agitator. Was it necessary? Will they really need that at the time of year they're pointing towards?

Anaheim made several moves over the past few weeks, but the bottom line is, they need Jonas Hiller healthy.

The Hawks are a stronger, deeper team with Chris Campoli out there. Now they need to avoid further injuries (is that possible?), and Michael Frolik to find the net. Once he does, let's see what happens after that.
Remember -- 8:00 start Wednesday night, 7:30 Pregame on Comcast SportsNet

Chris Boden is the host of Blackhawks Pre and Postgame Live on Comcast SportsNet.

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:

What should the Blackhawks do in goal next season?

What should the Blackhawks do in goal next season?

The last time the Blackhawks were in Winnipeg they exploded for three first-period goals en route to a 5-1 victory on Dec. 14.

The roles were reversed on Thursday.

It appeared the Blackhawks might be headed for another drubbing when Brandon Saad scored 11 seconds into the game and they were awarded an ensuing power play following a failed offside challenge by the home team, but the Jets killed it off then responded with five unanswered goals over the next 11:53 and didn't look back as Chicago lost 6-2.

Anton Forsberg was pulled for the sixth time in his 27th start this season after allowing three goals on six shots, while J-F Berube gave up two goals on his first five shots before stopping 27 straight. It was the 14th time the Blackhawks allowed five or more goals in a game this season, having done that only eight times last season.

Needless to say, it's been a roller coaster in goal as of late.

To make matters worse, the Blackhawks aren't as optimistic about Corey Crawford returning before the season ends and maybe that's for the better.

But there's a big question mark between the pipes when you factor in Crawford's health and the inconsistency from their backups, which has included Jeff Glass, Forsberg and Berube.

The Blackhawks weren't expecting Forsberg to be the next Scott Darling when they included him in the trade package involving Saad and Artemi Panarin this past offseason, but they were certainly hoping he would be around the league average in save percentage (.913).

Instead, it's slipped to .905, which ranks 43rd of 52 goaltenders that have started at least 20 games this season. That's also his 5-on-5 save percentage, which is 49th out of 52 among goalies with 800-plus minutes of ice time.

When it rains, it often pours with Forsberg in net and he hasn't shown signs of progression to prevent the bleeding from getting worse.

The backup goaltending position is more important than ever in this day and age, especially for the Blackhawks with Crawford likely going into next year having not faced a shot in game action in nine months.

For those reasons, it might be wise for the Blackhawks to strongly consider rolling with Berube as the No. 2 to at least start next season if an external option isn't the preferred direction.

It would allow Forsberg to fine-tune his mechanics, build his confidence and continue his overall development with the Rockford IceHogs in the American Hockey League, where he backstopped the Lake Erie Monsters to their first ever Calder Cup championship in Columbus Blue Jackets franchise history two years ago.

Berube and Forsberg are both under contract for the Blackhawks in 2018-19, and it's no secret there's a belief within the organization that Forsberg has a higher ceiling. He just hasn't been able to reach it yet in the NHL for whatever reason.

There are 11 games left, and it wouldn't be surprising to see Berube get more than half of those.

Yes, his save percentage is one percentage point below Forsberg's at .904. But three of his eight appearances have come in relief.

In his five starts, he has a .908 percentage; in his three relief appearances, it's at .893.

Berube deserves a longer look, one that could carry weight when determining next season's backup.