Blackhawks

Sharp-Kruger-Stalberg line experiencing success

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Sharp-Kruger-Stalberg line experiencing success

Patrick Sharp rolled off his linemates talents, and why, combined, theyve been so successful. There was Marcus Krugers tenacity and fearlessness and Viktor Stalbergs speed and burgeoning confidence.

Sharps contribution?

Im just out there to look pretty and shoot the puck, he said to laughs.

Yes, between Sharps shooting and Kruger and Stalbergs work, the Blackhawks second line has been potent lately. And despite not getting on the score sheet much in the teams 4-3 shootout victory over St. Louis on Thursday, theres no doubt it was the Blackhawks best line of the night. Theres chemistry among the three of them, and its paid dividends for the Blackhawks.

Weve got a little bit of everything, Stalberg said. Weve got a shooter in Sharpie. And (Kruger) gets the pucks in our hands with a lot of speed, and thats something you look for in a center.

As much as Sharp could play center if need be, just looking at his numbers reminds you why hes best on the wing. Despite missing eight games with a broken wrist, Sharp has 31 goals, just three shy of last years total and five away from his career-best 36 of 2007-08. Sharp has never been shy about taking his shots, and he had a team-high seven against St. Louis.

The rookie Kruger has emerged as a solid No. 2 center for the Blackhawks. Hes not the biggest guy 6-foot, 181 pounds but Kruger nevertheless plays a crashing, fearless style that compliments the lines speed and shooting.

Hes been doing it all year for us, Quenneville said. I think whether hes productive offensively, you know that he brings so many other things to the table and to his linemates. He sustains a lot of pucks offensively, he can make some plays, hes sneaky good offensively and very reliable and predictable defensively.

As for Stalberg, his game is starting to come full circle. While the scoring potential has always been there Stalberg has 19 goals entering the final four regular-season games his puck possession has improved throughout the season. Quenneville said, I know hes had some good games and Id put that in the list at the top of it, as far as the impact and the influence he had shift to shift.

Stalberg said hes felt more confident as the seasons progressed.

Ive been getting roles to hold onto the puck a little more. Its something I like, something I used to play more in college and in the minors, Stalberg said. I havent had the chance or confidence to do it in this league yet, but the last 20 games I feel like I can do things and try to be a threat every night. Playing with those guys, its a good combination.

It has been a good combination. The three have built good chemistry, good instincts around each other. All in all, its been pretty successful.

That line has, in the last two games, been outstanding, Quenneville said. They have some speed off the rush, a lot of cycle time and a lot of puck possession, and theyre a threat with their quickness off the rush. They all complement one another.

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 5-2 loss to Blues: What's up with the power play?

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USA TODAY

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 5-2 loss to Blues: What's up with the power play?

Here are five takeaways from the Blackhawks' 5-2 loss to the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday night:
 
1. Nick Schmaltz returns but sizzle doesn’t.

You didn’t expect the fireworks of the season opener but you figured Schmaltz, Ryan Hartman and Patrick Kane would connect pretty quickly again. The speed was certainly there. The connections on passes were not. It wasn’t just that second line, though: it was another night on which the Blackhawks’ offense was sluggish. 
 
2. Tripping along.

I joked that tripping is the new slashing. Maybe that’s not the case league-wide but it was for the Blackhawks on Wednesday night. The Blackhawks took five tripping penalties overall, including three in the first period. It was a clear sign that the Blackhawks were trying to play catch-up all night, and they didn’t fare well at it.
 
3. Power play gets something but…

It took until late in the third period (when the Blackhawks’ offense seems to get going lately). The Blackhawks got two late power-play goals, a reminder of what they can do when they battle for the puck and show some spark.

“Our sense of urgency in the puck area, be it 5-on-5 or on the power play, that’s the differential of keeping the puck in the offensive zone and making plays off it is one of our strengths,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “We didn’t do that very often and we haven’t won many battles.”
 
4. Starting slow.

Why these are happening is a mystery, and they’ve been most evident in the Blackhawks’ last three games, which have all come against division opponents. Too much relying on Corey Crawford again and not much in terms of shots, be it quality or quantity through the first two periods. The Blackhawks were outshot 17-8 through the first 40 minutes on Wednesday. While they created little they gave up way too much.
 
5. Patrick Sharp OK?

Sharp was injured late on Wednesday night when the Blackhawks-Blues game got chippy in the final five-plus minutes. Quenneville thought Sharp was fine but he wasn’t positive at the time of his postgame press conference.

Blackhawks stumble out of the gates against Blues: 'We were brutal'

Blackhawks stumble out of the gates against Blues: 'We were brutal'

ST. LOUIS – The Blackhawks’ first tripping came barely a minute into the game. Then came another one. And another. And another. And another. Despite welcoming one of their fastest players back into the lineup, the Blackhawks were overall flat-footed and playing catch-up all night, be it on the ice or on the scoreboard, to the St. Louis Blues.

Nick Schmaltz returned but the effect on the second line and the Blackhawks overall wasn’t immediate. Instead the Blackhawks looked sluggish. Their offensive opportunities were few – a one and done here and there but no sustained zone time or pressure on Blues goaltender Jake Allen – their passing was off and they were on the defensive all night.

And then there were the tripping penalties. The Blackhawks’ penalty kill held up through it, nullifying all five Blues power-play opportunities. But the Blues found other ways to inflict their damage.

“They played well and we were brutal,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “That was a bad start, a bad middle and even [though] it was a little excited at the end it wasn’t very good. That’s as close to brutal as you can get.”

The Blackhawks’ last three games have common themes: they’re outshot for a good part of the game, they’re giving up a good amount of quality shots and then the urgency hits them midway through the third period. For the third consecutive contest the Blackhawks scored two goals late and in two of those three games it wasn’t nearly enough.

“Obviously it wasn’t good enough for two periods. If you take any positives out of this game, it’s the way we played in the third,” Patrick Kane said. “At least we know we can do it. Just gotta do it before our backs are against the wall.”

Why it’s taking the Blackhawks so long to get going, however, is the question. Obviously the Blackhawks’ late third-period pushes show how capable they are of producing when necessary. Said Alex DeBrincat, who assisted on Ryan Hartman’s goal late in regulation, “If we’re would’ve been crashing the net like that all game it may have been a different story.”

But they didn’t. The Blackhawks welcomed back a teammate that’s injected speed into their lineup but the team was once again stumbling out of the gate.

“We’re supposed to be out there, giving our all every minute we’re out there and every shift, go out there and take it a shift at a time and give it all you got every shift,” Hartman said. “We have four lines that can roll so there’s no excuse for not going out there and putting all your energy out there for a shift and getting ready for the next one.”