Blackhawks

Kane returns, looking for quick start

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Kane returns, looking for quick start

Patrick Kane stood in front of the media throng on Thursday.
Five stitches dotted his upper lip, a parting gift from his final Swiss League game.
Caught an elbow to the face; its part of hockey, Kane, who played for EHC Biel from October until the lockout ended on Sunday, said. It was pretty painful. I was nervous how the doctors over there were going to do stitching my face. But I checked in here and they said they did a good job.
But the Chicago Blackhawks right wing got more than a sewn-up lip out of his Swiss play. He got plenty of games under his belt -- just about all of them at right wing -- and stayed in game form throughout the lengthy lockout. And Kane, who along with Viktor Stalberg, Nick Leddy, Michael Frolik and Bryan Bickell returned to Johnnys IceHouse skates on Thursday, hopes that overseas work translates into a fast start back here.
I think its going to be big for me, said Kane, who played eight games in 10 days, including five in as many nights, in his waning days in Switzerland. It was really good for my conditioning, skating and playing on the bigger ice. For all of us, its going to be an adjustment period (here). But Im happy I did it. It was a good experience and hopefully it helped.
Kane went to Europe early in the lockout, heading to Biel, Switzerland in early October. He tallied 13 goals and 10 assists in 20 games with EHC Biel, and played several games for HC Davos in the Spengler Cup. Kane said he didnt work on any specific part of his game overseas, other than to score goals as often as he could. The biggest goal was to stay sharp for whenever if ever the lockout ended.
If the lockout was going to go on, (playing overseas) was something I needed to do, Kane said. I felt I was just waiting around, waiting for hockey to start. I realized when I was playing my best hockey I was playing a lot. I figured I might as well get a head start for the (NHL) season when it did start back up, that maybe Id have a little bit of an advantage. Thats really the only reason.
Its reason enough, and Kane looked sharp skating around on Thursday. As players keep returning, so do the good vibes. When asked about Jonathan Toews role as coach on Thursday, Kane couldnt resist.
He talks a little too much. Were trying to shut him up, Kane said. Thankfully we have camp starting soon and get a real coach out there.
Camps are slated to start on Sunday, a day after the NHLPA should have the new collective bargaining agreement ratified. The Blackhawks are like every other team, hoping to get off to a fast start. Kane is looking for the same out of his game. He shouldve gotten the jump-start from the same place he got those stitches.
Ive always prided myself on getting off to a quick start; I usually have success doing that, Kane said. Hopefully I can continue it throughout the year.

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: After 20 games, do we know the identity of this Blackhawks team?

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: After 20 games, do we know the identity of this Blackhawks team?

On the latest Hawks Talk Podcast Tracey Myers and Jamal Mayers join Pat Boyle to discuss the teams wins over the Rangers and Penguins.  Have they figured some things out and what is the identity of this team after 20 games?

Jammer weighs in on Artem Anisimov’s big week and are there enough Hawks committed to net front presence?  They also discuss the surging play of the blue liners and did the Hawks fail to send a message to Evgeni Malkin, after he kneed Corey Crawford in the head?

Blackhawks’ much-maligned power play is now clicking

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks’ much-maligned power play is now clicking

It’s an annual rite of passage if you cover or are a fan of the Blackhawks: you question the power play, because there always seems to be an issue with the power play. You wonder why every season, given the talent on this team. And again this fall the power play has sputtered.

But a funny thing happened at the end of the weekend. The Blackhawks’ power play started to look good, started to generate chances and started to score. In 10 games prior to the Blackhawks’ Nov. 12 game against New Jersey they had just three power-play goals in 40 opportunities. In their last three games (vs. the Devils, New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins), they’ve tallied five goals on 13 opportunities.

So what’s been working?

“I’ll probably give you the same answer as when it wasn’t working: pucks to the net, guys in front,” Patrick Sharp said. “We have the shot mentality more so than just moving it around and getting it set up. You look at the goals we’ve scored, it’s nothing overly complicated. It’s just getting the puck to the net. Just stay with it.”

Sounds simple enough, but the stay-with-it part has probably been the toughest segment of the equation. When the Blackhawks slumped they really slumped, and their lack of confidence on the power play was as evident as their lack of scoring on it. Yes, stressing over it can have its affect; and when the Blackhawks got those two power-play goals against the Devils it seemed to be a release.

“You get one, that weight gets lifted off your chest a little bit, you can play a little loser and maybe not grip your stick as tight as when things weren’t going well,” Cody Franson said. “When you’re confident out there you’re moving the puck cleanly, things happen a little quicker for you and give you those better looks at good chances. When you’re not that confident sometimes you’re not executing as well and things were moving slower and you’re not generating too much. Confidence definitely plays a big part in it.”

So back to what’s working. The Blackhawks started becoming more active on the power play, cutting down on the passes and increasing the shots. They’ve been there for rebounds. They started feeding off the success, be it with the power play as a unit or with individual performances. Artem Anisimov has returned to being a force at the net again; of his five goals in his last three games, two are power-play goals.

“A couple of broken plays and sometimes you get some breaks. You win a faceoff and make a quick little play after a couple of great opportunities on the prior whistle there that didn’t go in. I just think shots at the net and traffic and off that, sometimes they go in,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “Our entries have always been alright this year, so we’re getting zone time and let’s get some simpler looks and sometimes they go in. I think gaining confidence there, it seems like we’re having the puck more and longer and sustaining some offense off it.”

The Blackhawks have struggled more than they’ve succeeded on the power play the last few seasons. But as their overall scoring has increased again, so has their power-play production. Good timing.

“People tend to say the power play can keep you in games and the penalty kill can win you games. Our penalty kill’s been great and has given us chances in a lot of games. [Corey Crawford’s] been playing pretty well,” Franson said. “And when our power play can give us success we find ourselves in better situations to try and win games.”