Blackhawks

King's Ransom: Toews helps Hawks sweep L.A.

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King's Ransom: Toews helps Hawks sweep L.A.

Monday, Jan. 3, 2011
Posted 10:37 PM Updated 11:58 PM

By Tracey Myers
CSNChicago.com

LOS ANGELES Theres no doubt the Chicago Blackhawks felt the absence of captain Jonathan Toews when he missed the last two games with a right-shoulder injury.

They felt his return even more.

Toews scored the game-winning goal with five and a half minutes remaining in the third period and the Blackhawks beat the Los Angeles Kings 4-3 at the Staples Center on Monday night. The Blackhawks, who got off to a horrible start in this one, snapped a three-game losing streak.

Patrick Sharp scored twice, giving him 23 goals halfway through this season; he scored 25 all of last season.

For Toews, the game wasnt so much about his strong return as it was the much-needed two points the Blackhawks got. Still, the captain looked strong in his first game back, playing 19:41 and firing six shots.

And the winner wasnt even technically one of them. Toews was planted in front of the Kings net when defenseman Drew Doughtys clearing attempt hit off Toews and past goaltender Jonathan Quick with 5:27 remaining in regulation.

It was one of the luckiest goals Ive ever seen, Toews said. Thats the name of the game. If we can win that way Ill take it. Sometimes you need to get some bounces.

Defenseman Duncan Keith said Toews brings a lot to the table, and one of the biggest things is his grittiness and his ability to play down low, wear out their D. You can never have enough of that. Sure enough he gets the game-winner for being right in the paint.

The Blackhawks once again got off to a bad start. They were badly outshot in the opening minutes the Kings had eight before the Blackhawks had one in the first and were sloppy with the puck. Marian Hossas power-play goal near the end of the first helped offset the early messiness.

Then theres Sharp, who in a season full of Blackhawks ups and downs has been a steady offensive threat. His power-play one-timer off a Patrick Kane feed gave the Blackhawks a 2-1 lead in the second and his second goal came off a turnover he and Tomas Kopecky caused along the boards.

If we can keep the puck alive and give it to him on the power play, well see a lot of goals, Toews said of Sharp. Hes been great for us there and it doesnt matter who hes playing with.

The Blackhawks also needed to kill off some late penalties that they wanted to avoid before Toews came through with the winner.

The Blackhawks will take these two points. Theyll also take the health they now have with Toews back in the lineup.

Were finding ways to win the game. It was a pretty ugly 40 minutes but the power play kept us in it, Sharp said. We saw a lot of individual battles and our compete level was higher than in the past.

Praise for Byfuglien

Duncan Keiths noticed how well former Blackhawks teammate Dustin Byfuglien has done as a defenseman this season with the Atlanta Thrashers.

Byfuglien, who is averaging more than 22 minutes per game, leads all NHL defensemen in points (47) and goals (16). His play has earned him mention for Norris Trophy consideration. And reigning Norris winner Keith isnt surprised at that.

He can go wherever he wants and play however he wants to play. That experience on forward helped him, too. Now hes back on D and hes thinking like a forward a lot of times and playing defense, Keith said. Im not taking anything away from him. Hes been great. Hes a big reason why Atlanta is doing so well.
Sharp snub

Sharp wasnt on the NHL All-Star Ballot and may not be heading to Raleigh, N.C., despite putting up 23 goals already this season. Still, Sharp said it doesnt bother him.

Its something out of my control and its something I stopped thinking about a long time ago, he said. Im happy to end this losing streak and that were healthy in here.

Briefly

Fan voting for the NHL All-Star Game ended on Monday night, and it looks likely that Toews and Keith will be headed to the game later this month. Both were among the leading vote-getters in their respective categories throughout the voting. The All-Star game will be played Jan. 30.

Hossas goal snapped a 10-game goal-less drought, the longest of his career.

Forward Jake Dowell and defensemen Nick Boynton and John Scott were healthy scratches on Monday night.

Tracey Myers is CSNChicago.com's Blackhawks Insider. Follow Tracey on Twitter @TramyersCSN for up-to-the-minute Hawks information.

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 2-1 overtime loss to Oilers: Connor McDavid adds to highlight reel

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USA TODAY

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 2-1 overtime loss to Oilers: Connor McDavid adds to highlight reel

Here are five takeaways from the Blackhawks' 2-1 overtime loss to the Edmonton Oilers on Thursday night:
 
1. Shake-up on power play doesn't work.

Joel Quenneville spruced up his power play units before Wednesday's game in an effort to snap a dry spell, but the Blackhawks had no luck in that department in the second of a back-to-back.

The Blackhawks went 0-for-5 on the man advantage against an Oilers team that was ranked dead last in penalty kill percentage going into the contest, and failed to capitalize on a 5-on-3 opportunity for 56 seconds in the opening minutes of the season period.

They're getting off a fair amount of shots, but the quality of them isn't there.

2. Ryan Hartman fine after brief exit due to illegal hit.

It was a physical game between the Blackhawks-Oilers, but a line was crossed at the 4:59 mark into the second period when Zack Kassian delivered a huge hit on Hartman, who went face-first into the boards.

Kassian was given a two-minute minor penalty for boarding, a call that didn't sit well with the sold-out United Center crowd of 21,444. Hartman went to the locker room to be checked out after the hit despite getting up quickly and showing no visible signs of distress, but he fortunately returned a few shifts later.

It was a dangerous hit by Kassian, and an avoidable one too. 

Quenneville admitted Hartman getting up quickly perhaps may have "helped" keep it a minor penalty and not a five-minute major, but the Blackhawks coach wasn't focused on that after seeing the result unfold.

"I saw how hard it looked," Quenneville said. "But Hartzy getting up right away, that helped. You don't even measure it anymore after that. That's the one thing you're hopeful for right off the bat."
 
3. Connor McDavid adds another play to highlight reel.

We're only two weeks into the season, but the 20-year-old reigning Hart Trophy winner submitted an early entry for Assist of the Year.

Late in the first period, McDavid flew from his own end into the offensive zone, made a spin-o-rama move on two-time Norris Trophy winner Duncan Keith and backhanded a perfect pass to Patrick Maroon, who tapped in a goal at the doorstep.

It looks impossible to defend from anyone watching, and Keith pretty much felt the same way.

"When he gets the speed in the other end there and he's able to skate all the way down, it's tough to stop a guy especially when he's that fast," Keith said. "He's just flying through the middle. I'm just a sitting duck there at the other end of the ice waiting for him to come full speed. It's a hard play to defend against."
 
4. Anton Forsberg sharp again.

It's a small sample size, but the Blackhawks' backup goaltender has looked really sharp in practically every start he's had in a Chicago uniform, including preseason.

He deserved a better fate in his regular season debut last week in Toronto when he stopped 39 of 43 shots in an overtime loss, and the same applied here.

Forsberg tied a career-high with 40 saves, and seemingly got better as the game went on.

"I for sure felt more comfortable, felt like I was more used to the speed," Forsberg said. "It's tough again to lose in overtime, obviously I wanted a win and that's kind of frustrating."

"Excellent games, both games," Quenneville said of his goaltender. "Would've been nice to get him a win tonight."
 
5. Jordan Oesterle keeps it simple in debut.

The Blackhawks' crowded blue line has made it difficult for Quenneville to give all eight defensemen a fair amount of playing time, but Oesterle took advantage of his season debut.

He logged 15:01 of ice time, registered three shot attempts (two on goal), and blocked two shots.

"I liked him," Quenneville said. "Moves the puck."

Said Keith: "I thought he was good. Tough situation for him, he hasn't played all year in a game but I thought he played good. He's got good poise, he's smart back there."

Power play woes continue for Blackhawks in OT loss to Oilers

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USA TODAY

Power play woes continue for Blackhawks in OT loss to Oilers

Mark Letestu raised his arms in celebration, his 4-on-3 power-play goal giving the Edmonton Oilers an overtime victory over the Blackhawks. The home team could only look on in frustration, knowing that if it could have just converted one power play on Thursday it may have been a different result.

Five more power plays, five more opportunities that yielded nothing for the Blackhawks, who are now 6-for-39 (15.4 percent) in that department on the season. The 5-on-4 chances were tough enough but coach Joel Quenneville and several Blackhawks pointed specifically to the 5-on-3 the Blackhawks had for 56 seconds.

“The 5-on-3, we had some great looks around the net,” Quenneville said. “A lot of loose pucks that we just didn’t find the handle [on], we’re not anticipating or sniffing them out around the net. Some close looks but no finish.”

It’s been a recurring theme for the Blackhawks on the power play, and not just this year. Again, in the past the Blackhawks didn’t sweat any power-play issues much; their 5-on-5 scoring was usually strong. This early season, however, things have quieted on that front. On Thursday the Blackhawks cleaned up a lot of the mistakes they made against the St. Louis Blues the previous night. Anton Forsberg was terrific. The Blackhawks’ second line of Ryan Hartman, Nick Schmaltz and Patrick Kane was looking like it did prior to Schmaltz’s injury. But the power play remained the same.

“Yeah, we had a lot of chances, we made plays to the net. We just didn’t capitalize on the power play which would’ve been the difference,” Ryan Hartman said. “We have a chance on the 5-on-3, which would’ve been nice. Just some chances all around, like [Jonathan] Toews’ shot that just squeaked by. Just some missed opportunities.”

The Blackhawks have looked at ways to get their power play going. They’ve tinkered with personnel – the latest was keeping the top two lines together for their respective power-play shifts. Usually it’s come down to the problems that have hampered them before: not enough movement, not enough shots, not enough hunger around the net for loose pucks. The final issue was especially prevalent on Thursday.

The chances were there on the power play. The home team had the bulk of the opportunities. The visiting one had the finish.

“The 5-on-3 we had some decent looks but that was a chance to get a huge goal for us,” Quenneville said. “The power play late in the second was decent, the third was ordinary, but we’ve been moving personnel around. We have the ingredients to make it work but a lot of loose pucks we didn’t get in our 5-on-5 game comparable around the net on the power play as well. We didn’t smell anything out around there.”