Blackhawks

How Blackhawks are leveraging fast starts into victories

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How Blackhawks are leveraging fast starts into victories

Artemi Panarin laced a shot past Brian Elliott on Sunday night, giving the Blackhawks a critical 1-0 lead over the Blues.

It took a little time – the goal came nearly 15 minutes into the second period – but it had its desired effect. Some of the pressure was off the tired Blackhawks and put on the equally-fatigued Blues. A little more than 25 minutes later, the Blackhawks were claiming their 13th victory in their last 15 games.

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It goes without saying that getting that first goal gives the scoring team an edge. For the Blackhawks, that edge has been tremendous. They have a league-leading 30 victories (30-4-2) when scoring the first goal, and their ability to parlay that early lead into victories is a big reason they’re atop the Central Division.

“It’s huge,” said Andrew Shaw. “You never want to be behind in a game, especially in this league where guys shut down and play solid defensively. It’s nice to get the early lead. It all comes from our starts: we’ve been coming out pretty fast, doing the little things right, getting pucks in and putting the pucks in with traffic.”

The Blackhawks had their share of fast starts when they went on their franchise-record 12-game winning streak. During that, they scored the first goal in 11 of those 12 games – the one exception was in Colorado on Dec. 31, and they came back to win that game in overtime.

With those leads, the Blackhawks have avoided the dreaded chase game. As much as there have been games in which the Blackhawks have gone into full defense mode to protect that lead, they and Corey Crawford have done so plenty of times.

“It’s a huge advantage, scoring first in games, having the lead and playing with it. The other team has to press, take chances, and when you’re playing patient and playing the right way, you can capitalize on some of the chances based on them trying to be creative,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “Defend-first mentality is something we stress a lot. Teams really are in the checking mode this year and it’s hard to score. It just seems to add to your advantage if you can score early.”

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Again, it adds to the defensive mode. Goaltenders have to be that much more on their toes against a desperate team, and Crawford has been that this season. Still, there’s a small sense of relief when the Blackhawks score first for Crawford, knowing the firepower he has on his side.

“Every shot’s important throughout the game. You can’t let up at any point in the game but I think us scoring first, with the amount of skill wehave, teams when they’re behind they have to press a little more than usual to take some chances, and maybe that gives us a couple more good chances to score goals,” Crawford said. “It’s just a see-saw battle like that when you’re leading. It forces them to try and do something.”

Blackhawks release statement following incident that happened during game vs. Capitals

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AP

Blackhawks release statement following incident that happened during game vs. Capitals

Four fans at the United Center were thrown out of Saturday's Blackhawks game for taunting Washington Capitals forward Devante Smith-Pelly with racist remarks.

Midway through the third period, Smith-Pelly, who is black, was in the penalty box when fans shouted "basketball, basketball, basketball" at him, the Washington Post reported.

Here is a GIF of Smith-Pelly's interaction with the fans:

After the game, the Blackhawks released this statement:

Capitals head coach Barry Trotz also had this to say about the incident:

Cue Chelsea Dagger: Blackhawks blow out Capitals to snap eight-game losing streak

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USA TODAY

Cue Chelsea Dagger: Blackhawks blow out Capitals to snap eight-game losing streak

Win one game.

That was Joel Quenneville’s message during the Blackhawks’ eight-game losing streak, which finally came to an end on Saturday night.

How about a 7-1 victory over the Washington Capitals on home ice for a streak-breaker? Now that’s more like it.

Prior to Saturday, the Blackhawks hadn’t recorded a win in February — or a win at the United Center since Jan. 12. 

Though the Blackhawks will likely miss the playoffs for the first time since Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane were rookies, a blowout win over the leaders of the Metropolitan Division Capitals had to have felt great.

"It’s a nice way to get over the hump," Toews said. "Sometimes you might just win a 2-1 game or just kind of grind it out, but it was nice for us to fill the net the way we did tonight."

Added Joel Quenneville, "Certainly feels 100 times better than coming in and trying to explain how we had a lead and were unable to sustain it. The complete 60 minutes, three periods the right way, more consistency in our game, way more pace than we’ve seen recently, composure with the puck, shooting around the net. It was fun but that’s one. Let’s see how we respond to this because there’s a lot of hockey left."

The Blackhawks are 25-26-8 with 58 points, and are 11 points out the final wild card spot, currently held by the Minnesota Wild.

Among the highlights:

— Seven different Blackhawks scored: Toews, Kane, Alex DeBrincat, Brandon Saad, Artem Anisimov, Nick Schmaltz, Ryan Hartman

— The Blackhawks are 74-6-4 in the regular season in which Kane and Toews both record a goal — and 41-0-0 in their last 41 games, according to NBC Sports Chicago stats guru Chris Kamka.

— Kane registered career assist No. 500, becoming the sixth Blackhawk with 500 or more. Kane is also the seventh U.S.-born player with 300-plus goals and 500-plus assists, joining Mike Modano, Keith Tkachuk, Jeremy Roenick, Pat LaFontaine, Joe Mullen and Phil Housley, according to Kamka.

"You think about the amount of great Americans that have played the game, how many players actually play hockey in the United States... Growing up all I wanted to do was play hockey," Kane said. "That means a lot, especially when you talk about American-born players."

— DeBrincat's 22nd goal of the season has him tied for the rookie-lead with Tampa Bay Lightning's Yanni Gourde. DeBrincat and Kane also lead the Blackhawks with 22 goals.