Blackhawks

Hawks united, centered with mind games on

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Hawks united, centered with mind games on

Friday, April 22, 2011Posted: 8:10 p.m.
By Chris Boden
CSNChicago.com
If the Canucks were going to go back to Vancouver after Game Four, the Blackhawks thought they might as well go with them. If the Hawks were coming back home after Game Five, why not make the Presidents Trophy champs add to their miles, too?

Thats a lot cuter and easier-sounding than the reality, but the mind games have certainly begun.

WATCH: Luongo shaves playoff beard

Before we start crowning the defending champs as the next Miracle on Ice, lets keep in mind 44 other teams in NHL history have turned 3-0 deficits to 3-2, and only three have overcome. And besides the 10-1-2 stretch that bridged February into March, the Hawks havent been very consistent this season. They have to be now.

On paper, most NHL executives might take Vancouvers roster over these Hawks. The question now becomes if Jonathan Toews and company can keep a firm hold on momentum while continue raising the doubts of the team theyve KOd from the past two post-seasons.

You compare the last two games to the first three its definitely more fun now, said the captain Friday afternoon upon returning from Vancouver. Weve been in a battle a long time. Things have tilted our way and were playing our best hockey of the year when it counts. Every single guys buying into that. Were saying we have the potential to do something special if we keep going that way, and were not holding anything back.

While Toews has yet to score a goal (three assists) in this series, he continues doing everything else in his job description, and doing it quite well. Hes not letting the personal offensive snakebite get in the way of other things, but as Tracey Myers accurately indicated in her in-game Tweets during Game Five, the chances hes been getting the last couple of games would seem to bode well to join Marian Hossa and Duncan Keith with multiple mentions on the scoresheet.

Hossa started having a greater presence in the Game Four rout, before scoring twice and setting up another in Game Five. Hed already been reminded about scoring a total of three goals in his 26-game Blackhawks career before Thursday night.

Then theres Keith, who has four goals and two assists the last three games. The Norris Trophy winner has alluded to not quite being himself this season, but he provided some clarity upon getting off the team plane at OHare.

This year for mes been frustrating. Ive felt Ive had really good stretches and times where I dont want to say lose my focus, or not interested, but just good stretches and bad stretches. More inconsistency than I wouldve liked. Im trying to have a good playoff here and do what I can to help the team keep going.

Keiths known for his devotion to conditioning, and is a creature of habit during the season, and in the off-season. Last summer was hardly your typical off-season, even if he had the best possible reason for it not being typical.

I like to work out and train a lot, and Im not making excuses but I didnt feel excited coming back to start a season. Once you get a bad start that you dont like or arent happy with, it kind of snowballs in some ways. You think youre getting out of it, and it comes back and becomes a mental thing. It makes you appreciate having a good start.

Hes playing his best hockey, Toews says. Its been awhile since weve seen him play that well. He was just all over the place. There isnt anything he wasnt doing (Thursday night). He was getting into the mix after the whistle. He wasnt afraid to get in there. Hes been deadly with his shot from the point. Whether its the power play or the penalty kill, hes our top guy right now.

Part of the bad start to this series was Raffi Torress Game Three hit on Brent Seabrook, which has sidelined Keiths best friend, frequent defensive partner, and fellow Olympian.

Keith and the Hawks arent admitting to the non-suspension of Torres being a rallying point, just topping off the embarrassment of being on the brink of elimination so quickly. The team hopes to have a better idea of Seabrooks possible return when he takes to the ice Saturday morning, probably before the regular practice.

Were still realistic and know were in a tough spot and facing elimination, said Keith. A lot of our motivation comes from that.

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

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks visit Niklas Hjalmarsson, Coyotes

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Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks visit Niklas Hjalmarsson, Coyotes

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Arizona Coyotes Saturday night on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 7:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. Niklas Hjalmarsson's new home.

Brace yourselves, Chicago. It's going to be a weird site seeing Hjalmarsson in a different sweater other than the Blackhawks, where he spent his first 10 NHL seasons and won three Stanley Cups.

Now he serves as an alternate captain and blue-line anchor for the Coyotes, who are the only team still seeking its first win of the season. You know they'll be hungry to snap that skid, especially when there's extra motivation for a player on their team facing a bunch of old friends.

2. Connor Murphy returns to Arizona, too.

The man Hjalmarsson was traded for will also be returning to a place he called home for four years. Murphy's role with the Coyotes increased every year before he was dealt to the Blackhawks as part of a shake-up for both teams, so you know he's going to play with something to prove.

Murphy is a physical defenseman, and has laid several notable big hits this season. His former teammates surely know it, and may want to keep their heads up.

3. Patrick Kane 2.0?

Ever since he was drafted with the No. 7 overall pick in 2016, Clayton Keller has drawn comparisons to Kane. They're both undersized, offensive playmakers, possess supreme stick-handling abilities and are American-born players.

Keller got a brief taste of NHL action last year, but he's secured a full-time spot with the Coyotes this season and has been arguably their best player so far.

The 19-year-old forward paces all rookies with five goals and ranks second with seven points, and leads the Coyotes in both categories. Expect to see his name as a finalist for the Calder Trophy for the league's top rookie at the end of the season.

Anton Forsberg is giving the Blackhawks exactly what they need

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USA TODAY

Anton Forsberg is giving the Blackhawks exactly what they need

Anton Forsberg had just finished an extended morning skate Wednesday morning in St. Louis. The backup goaltender had played in one regular-season game for the Blackhawks to that point, so getting in extra work to stay sharp was helpful.

“I try to keep my focus in practice and work extra every day, get a few extra shots in practice with the extra guys who are out there, work with Jimmy and try to keep my game shape,” Forsberg said, referring to Blackhawks goaltending coach Jimmy Waite.

Whatever Forsberg’s working on in practice and skates seems to be working, because in two games with the Blackhawks he’s looked sharp. Forsberg probably deserved a victory on Thursday night when he stopped 40 shots in the Blackhawks’ 2-1 overtime loss to the Edmonton Oilers. It’s the backup life to wait and see when that next start will come, but Forsberg has been ready.

“For sure I felt more comfortable today, more used to the speed,” he said following Thursday’s game. “I felt I read the game better, felt I had more time moving around. It’s tough, again, to lose in overtime. Obviously I wanted to win and it’s frustrating.”

Frustrating for sure, but Forsberg is giving the Blackhawks exactly what they want and need: a dependable backup that gives them a chance to win. The two goals Forsberg gave up on Thursday weren’t softies, either — Patrick Maroon’s goal off a ridiculous Connor McDavid pass and Mark Letestu’s over game-winner that deflected off Brent Seabrook’s stick.

“He kept us in a tight game like he did in Toronto, got us to overtime. I kind of feel bad we didn’t get him a win in either of those,” Ryan Hartman said. “He played well both of those games. It’s nice to have a guy on the back end like that.”

Forsberg has blended in well with the Blackhawks. It helps that he already knew two of them, Brandon Saad and Artem Anisimov, his former teammates in Columbus. He and Corey Crawford already have a good rapport. Same goes for he and Waite, and Forsberg has soaked up any information they’ve given him.

“I feel like both him and Corey teach me a lot. We talk about different situations, especially all the reads,” Forsberg said. “I get to know how (Crawford) thinks the game. He’s been around a long time and has been doing well, so it’s interesting every day to hear what he has to say. Even Jimmy’s been around same thing there, discussing my game, what we want to improve, what we want to do different, what to keep the same and go from there.”

The extra work in practices and skates appears to be working as Forsberg has done a lot right in just his first two games, which were 10 days apart. The Blackhawks have had a good run of backup goaltenders; two games is a small sample size but Forsberg could be the latest reliable backup.