Blackhawks

Myers: Hawks need to start win streak now

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Myers: Hawks need to start win streak now

Sunday, Feb. 13, 2011
Posted 8:16 p.m.

By Tracey Myers
CSNChicago.com

Average. OK. Pretty good. Sometimes you can skate by when you fit that description. We all have bad days, all have times where we dont do our jobs up to the best expectations. It happens. But when we take on that mode too often, it can be costly.

Take the Chicago Blackhawks latest road trip, which was decidedly average. Jonathan Toews said it. Brian Campbell said it. The 2-2-2 record they went on said it. If it were an anomaly, you could overlook it. Unfortunately for the Blackhawks, it hasnt been.

The Blackhawks have been a hard team to figure out this season and especially on this latest road trip. It was one where they needed to step up, dominate and gobble up points and yet theyre coming home 11th place in the Western Conference.

Is it time to panic? Not quite yet. Is it time for the Blackhawks to go on a definitive, playoff-ready run? Absolutely.

The frustrating part is the Blackhawks havent had one of those wow-worthy streaks all season. Theyve had three- or four-game winning rolls but since theyve usually followed them with losing runs of the same size, theyve gotten nowhere.

Others around them, meanwhile, are surging. The San Jose Sharks have gone from out to in after winning nine of 10 recently. The Nashville Predators and their lack-of-superstar roster have once again put on the hard hats and are sitting in fourth place. The only team that hasnt benefited from a run is Columbus, which has gone 8-3-2 since Jan. 13 but barely moved in the standings (13th to 12th).

Hey, theres always the exception.

So can the Blackhawks get that long talked-about run going now? They have to, simple as that. And they need to reverse another .500-type trend on their home ice this week, where theyll face (current) eighth seed Minnesota, fellow outside-looking-in team Columbus, and a very injured Pittsburgh.

If the Blackhawks need motivation, they shouldnt have to look further than the standings to get it. Theyre treading water in the West. Theyre one of too many trying to secure too few spots in the top eight. They are desperate, and their play needs to emulate that every single game.

(Twenty-six games) sounds like a lot but its going to go by quickly, Toews said after Saturday nights 3-2 shootout loss to Phoenix. We cant keep procrastinating. You have to look at every single game as an opportunity to better our situation.

The winning has to start on Wednesday against Minnesota and it has to keep going well beyond that. Average has frustrated the Blackhawks through 56 games. It cant be tolerated the final 26.

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

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks hit road to face Blue Jackets

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NBC Sports Chicago

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks hit road to face Blue Jackets

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Columbus Blue Jackets tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 5:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. One big reunion.

The Blackhawks will square off with the Blue Jackets for the first time since Oct. 7, which was the second game of the season. In that game, they won 5-1 led by Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Brandon Saad, each of whom scored a goal and added an assist.

Of course, that was the first game since the offseason trade that sent Artemi Panarin to Columbus and Saad back to Chicago, along with Anton Forsberg. Artem Anisimov, of course, was part of the original deal that sent Saad to Columbus in 2015, so there are a lot of emotional ties between the two teams.

Forsberg didn't get a chance to face the Blue Jackets in the first meeting, but there's a chance he will this time with it being the second of a back-to-back and Jean-Francois Berube getting the start in Friday's 3-1 win over San Jose.

2. Panarin and Kane bromance.

The emotions of a difficult break-up have probably died down by now, but Panarin and Kane gave us this moment at center ice during pregame warmups in their first game against each other and it hit Chicago right in the feels:

Panarin has spent enough time apart from Kane for people to realize how big of a star he is in his own right, leading the Blue Jackets in all three scoring categories: goals (17), assists (32) and points (49).

He hasn't gone more than three games this season without recording a point, and is looking to extend his point streak to four games, which would tie a season high.

3. Struggling Blue Jackets special teams.

The Blue Jackets got off to a great start but are barely clinging onto a wild card spot going into Saturday's game, and a big reason for that slide is their lack of success on special teams. Usually one can pick up the slack for the other, but they've been brutal in both departments.

The Blue Jackets are 0-for-9 on the power play in their past five games and are ranked 31st overall, converting on only 14.1 percent of their opportunities. They also have own the 27th-ranked penalty kill with a 76.3 percent success rate.

So if there's an area the Blackhawks can exploit, it's that. But, you know, still be mindful of that Russian winger's one-timer from the faceoff circle.

Jean-Francois Berube impressed in his first Blackhawks start

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USA TODAY

Jean-Francois Berube impressed in his first Blackhawks start

Jean-Francois Berube got his first start of the season on Friday night, and it couldn't have gone any better.

The 26-year-old goaltender stopped 42 of 43 shots, a career-high for him in saves, in the Blackhawks' 3-1 win over the San Jose Sharks at the United Center.

Since Corey Crawford went down with a head injury last December, the Blackhawks have been searching for consistency in the crease. 

The pair of Anton Forsberg and Jeff Glass — who was assigned to Rockford on Feb. 15 and replaced with Berube — have had their ups and downs since then. With the Blackhawks out of the playoff picture, Berube had an opportunity showcase his skills, and he didn't disappoint.

"We were very happy with him," said coach Joel Quenneville. "I thought he did a great job. He was comfortable. I thought he was very patient in his net. Absorbing a lot of pucks with people in front of him was good. Closed some gaps and got … of the top of the paint. Rebound control was effective. Nice response from a long absence."

Berube's last — and only — appearance with the Blackhawks prior to Friday's game came on Dec. 6, relieving Forsberg in a game against the Washington Capitals. He recorded 12 saves of 14 shots. 

When Crawford got injured, Berube was the primary candidate to become the team's backup goaltender. The only problem? He was injured too, so the Blackhawks promoted Glass.

"I didn't want to sit and think about it," Berube said of his injury. "At the same time, it was great for Glasser. He was one of those guys that probably deserved it earlier in his career and he finally got his chance. Sometimes you need a guy to go down to have your chance. So I was mostly happy for him.

On Friday night, he got his chance.

"You always want to have a good impression for your first game," Berube said. "I know what I can do at this level, so it was just a matter of getting the opportunity to play and showing people what I can do."

Celebrating his 22nd birthday, Nick Schmaltz also had a goal and an assist. Artem Anisimov scored an empty-netter.

"It's a lot more fun coming to the rink when you're winning, enjoying each other, playing well as a team," Schmaltz said of the Blackhawks' win, which have now won three of their last four games. "Hopefully we can keep that good energy and bring it to the rink every day, and build off of that.

"You never know where this team can go, a lot of great players, lots of guys that have had a lot of success. Hopefully we can continue to put together solid efforts."