Blackhawks

Hawks win one for 'Q' due to Brouwer, Crawford

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Hawks win one for 'Q' due to Brouwer, Crawford

Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2011
Posted 9:29 p.m. Updated 10:40 p.m.

By Tracey Myers
CSNChicago.com

The Chicago Blackhawks faced as much of a must-win situation on Wednesday as they ever have this season. To add more mental weight, coach Joel Quenneville was in the hospital instead of at his usual spot behind the bench.

The Blackhawks needed to be calm and focused against the Minnesota Wild, and acting coach Mike Haviland supplied the right message.

WATCH: Toews thinking of Coach Q

I just said, Hey, its time for us to make a stand here. We know we can do it in this room. We just cant wait for tomorrow.

It worked.

Troy Brouwer scored the game-winning goal in the third period, a power-play effort 34 seconds after the Wild had tied the game, and the Blackhawks took a 3-1 victory over Minnesota at the United Center. Brouwers goal came just 34 seconds after the Wild had tied the game at 1-1.

The victory snapped a two-game winless streak and gave the Blackhawks some solace on a day when Quenneville wasnt there.

There was no post-game update on Quenneville, who was hospitalized and in stable condition on Wednesday with an undisclosed illness. Quenneville went to the emergency room late Tuesday night with what team physician Dr. Michael Terry said was severe discomfort. Terry added that the health concern was not of cardiac nature.

Despite Quennevilles illness, the Blackhawks said they put it out of their mind at games start because they had no choice.

We left him out of it just because we didnt want too much of a distraction, especially coming into a huge game like tonight, said Brouwer. We wouldnt say we put our season on how the game was going to go tonight, but it had big relevance on where we feel our team is headed for the next 25 games.

Nevertheless, the Blackhawks played the first 10 minutes like they had their minds elsewhere. They were sloppy, struggling for zone time and scrambling. The Wild were relentless on the other end, outshooting the Blackhawks 11-2 midway through the first period. Corey Crawford, who stopped 33 of 34 on the night, was stoic through the first when the Wild also had two power plays.

He was making some huge stops. Especially early in the game, when we needed it most, he was there, said Jonathan Toews. When you have to kill a couple big penalties like that, it says a lot about your goaltender.

Brian Campbell gave the Blackhawks a 1-0 lead on his power-play goal about 13 minutes into the first. They got four power plays in the fourth but came up empty on all of them. Despite that, and Wild center Matt Cullens tying goal early in the third, the Blackhawks were confident in their game.

All standings and stats aside, we played a solid game and we carried it through, said Toews, who added that they kept Quenneville in mind. We just knew what we had to do and what Q would want us to do and thats work hard and compete and not change anything.

Just 34 seconds after the Wild tied it up Brouwer came through with his winner. Haviland said sending out that No. 2 power play, which has been hot lately, was assistant coach Mike Kitchens idea.

Kitch said to me, lets start Bolleys group instead of the other ones, Haviland said. Obviously Kitch was right on for that one.

The Blackhawks still have plenty of work to do. They had a lot on their minds today, with their head coach ailing. But come game time, they focused on what they could control.
Mike Haviland shouts instructions to the Blackhawks during the victory over the Wild on Wednesday. Blackhawks players presented Haviland with the game puck for earning his first career win as acting head coach and said his pregame speech really got them ready for the game. (AP)
Im sure (Quennevilles hospitalization) was in their heads. Thats a gutsy effort, our coach not being here, Haviland said. You can put a lot of things into it: the (recent lengthy) trip and youre battling for every inch, every point. We battled from the cage on out.

Kane better

Patrick Kane, who was sick with the flu and didnt skate the past two days, played just over 19 minutes. He had three shots on goal. Haviland said Kane was fine afterward.

I talked to him right after and he said he got better as the game went on, Haviland said. He said he felt winded early. Give him a lot of credit. He battled through not skating these last couple of days.

Briefly

Former Blackhawkscurrent Wild right wing Martin Havlat played in his 600th career game on Wednesday night.

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?