Blackhawks

Quenneville's message to young Blackhawks: Play to your strengths in season-opener

Quenneville's message to young Blackhawks: Play to your strengths in season-opener

Here we are again, prepping for another season-opener.

For half of the Blackhawks, this is old hat. For several, however, this is new territory. It’ll be a little nerve-wracking, it’ll be a little daunting, but the Blackhawks are sending a message to their new players right away: Stick with what got you here.

Coach Joel Quenneville had individual player meetings heading into Wednesday night’s game, the Blackhawks’ season-opener against the St. Louis Blues. There are a lot of new faces in the lineup, but the overall message is the same for all of them.

“Make sure you’re comfortable out there, play to your strengths and the things we’re trying to instill in them technically. We don’t want you to be thinking out there every single shift, so trust your instincts and we’ll reinforce doing the right things and the good habits as you go along here,” Quenneville said following Wednesday morning’s skate. “Be comfortable, be confident and be ready to play.”

The Blackhawks’ bottom two forward lines have a bulk of their new faces, including Tyler Motte. The former University of Michigan star is lined up with Marcus Kruger, with whom he’s already found good chemistry on the penalty kill. Any familiarity the youth has developed with the veterans is key in how quickly everything clicks.

“He’s done a great job of helping me with the systems especially on the PK here,” Motte said of Kruger. “It’s nice to have a guy like that on your line and in situations like that.”

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While the Blackhawks have new personnel, the Blues have somewhat of a new identity. Gone are some of their most familiar faces, including former captain David Backes. Troy Brouwer and goaltender Brian Elliott are also gone. So the Blues will have their own adjustments.

“It’s been a little different, but guys like me and (Vladimir Tarasenko) and Jaden Schwartz, who are being asked to have more of a leadership role this year, we learned from those guys. We were fortunate we were able to play with them and be in a locker room with them for so long,” Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said. “It’s something we’ll have to adjust to, and (we’re) asking younger guys to step up but those are the growing pains you have to go through as a young player.”

It’s a whole new season, and for some of the Blackhawks, a whole new experience. They’re here for a reason. Now they’ll see if it translates into successful regular-season hockey.

“I’m not going to come out and try and play a different game. Coaches and (veteran) guys have told me that,” Motte said. “It may be on a bigger stage, the official opening-night game, but the sport’s no different. You have to go and play the same way.”

Expected forward lines/defensive pairs

Blackhawks

Richard Panik-Jonathan Toews-Marian Hossa
​Artemi Panarin-Artem Anisimov-Patrick Kane
Tyler Motte-Marcus Kruger-Ryan Hartman
Vinnie Hinostroza-Nick Schmaltz-Jordin Tootoo

Duncan Keith-Trevor van Riemsdyk
Michal Kempny-Brent Seabrook
Gustav Forsling-Brian Campbell

Blues

Robby Fabbri-Paul Stastny-Alex Steen
David Perron-Jori Lehtera-Vladimir Tarasenko
​Dmitrij Jaskin-Patrik Berglund-Nail Yakupov
Scottie Upshall-Kyle Brodziak-Ryan Reaves

Jay Bouwmeester-Alex Pietrangelo
​Robert-Bortuzzo -Kevin Shattenkirk
Joel Edmundson-Colton Parayko

Blackhawks edge out Senators in shootout: 'It was really nice to get a win'

Blackhawks edge out Senators in shootout: 'It was really nice to get a win'

It was a rare sight to see the Blackhawks in a shootout on Wednesday night.

It was just the second time this season — and first time at the United Center — that the Blackhawks made it past 3-on-3 overtime. 

The last came on Dec. 2, 2017, a 3-2 shootout loss to the Stars in Dallas. On Wednesday night, the Blackhawks were on the other end, beating the Ottawa Senators 3-2 in a seven-round shootout. Nick Schmaltz netted the game-winner.

"We'll take it," coach Joel Quenneville said. "I thought we had a decent game tonight. Overtime not so good, I liked the shootout victory, Fors made some big saves for us particularly as the game got deeper. Our third was OK, I thought our first two were way better, and overtime we gave up some high quality, some bells were rings for a bit there. But it was nice to see the shootout win."

Patrick Kane had a goal and an assist, recording another multi-point game, his 16th of the season.

"I mean we need every point we can get at this point," Kane said. "There's still belief in this locker room. Obviously we need to go on quite a run and have a big record here down the stretch. But take it a game at a time and nice to get two points."

Anton Forsberg was a big reason the Blackhawks even recorded those two points. The 25-year-old netminder stopped 34 of 36 shots and made a handful of big saves down the stretch.

"It was really nice to get a win for sure," Forsberg said. "I would love to have a lot more wins, but right now just gotta look forward and get as many wins as possible."

Added Quenneville: "I think it was good for him to win a game the way he did. Lot of shots were on the line, as we progressed, got deeper, hitting the point first was big for him and for us and then finding a way to get the extra one was a good win."

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

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NBC Sports Chicago

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Ottawa Senators tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. Trade chips.

The Blackhawks have reached the point in their season where they have no choice but to become sellers before the Feb. 26 deadline, and we saw that when they traded Michal Kempny to the Washington Capitals on Monday for a conditional third-round pick in 2018. Tommy Wingels could also be an attractive piece for a team looking to fill out their depth.

The Senators will definitely be sellers, and wow do they have some names potentially on the market that can fetch large returns: Derrick Brassard and Mike Hoffman are two players who log top-six minutes on a nightly basis and also have term left on their contract, which is great for teams looking to load up for this year and beyond.

The biggest name to watch, probably in the league altogether, is Erik Karlsson, who could be on the move if a team offers a big enough package for the Senators to pull the trigger now as opposed to in the offseason if they feel him re-signing is a long shot. He was the best defenseman last season, and if a team steps up to get him, they're getting two possible postseason runs out of him.

2. Artem Anisimov's experiment at left wing not working.

Joel Quenneville has tried rekindling the magic between Anisimov, Nick Schmaltz and Patrick Kane as of late, only this time Anisimov is playing the wing and it just hasn't been very effective. The trio was on the ice for each of the two 5-on-5 goals the Kings scored on Monday, and Anisimov completely lost his man on the first one.

It's important to establish a consistent left winger for Schmaltz and Kane, and maybe putting Alex DeBrincat up there is something you consider going forward as part of a long-term solution. Move Anisimov back down as the third-line center to play in more of a defensive role and continue using his big body on power plays for his offensive abilities might be the best bet.

3. Win the special teams battle.

In their last meeting against Ottawa on Jan. 9, the Blackhawks went 4-for-6 on the power play and 4-on-4 on the penalty kill in an 8-2 win. And those are two areas to look out for again.

The Senators own the 28th-ranked power play with a 16.1 percent success rate and 29th-ranked penalty kill with a 74.5 percent success rate. Get ready for another offensive outburst?