Blackhawks

Sweet stick music: Hawks roll to third straight win

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Sweet stick music: Hawks roll to third straight win

Thursday, Feb. 24, 2011
Posted 9:35 p.m. Updated 10:40 p.m.

By Tracey Myers
CSNChicago.com

NASHVILLE - The Chicago Blackhawks have squandered some opportunities this season when they didnt play a strong defensive game. On Thursday, their ability to do that earned them one of their biggest victories of the season.

WATCH: Crawford, Hawks hungry

Tomas Kopecky, Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp scored and Corey Crawford earned his third shutout this season in a 3-0 victory over the Nashville Predators. The Blackhawks, who have now won three in a row and four out of their last five, climbed back into the top eight of the Western Conference.

And the only thing lost on Thursday was coach Joel Quennevilles voice.

Going into the third my voice (left). It was like the first day of training camp or the first regular-season game. Id been idle for a while, said Quenneville, who was coaching in his first game since having treatment for an ulcer last week. Thursdays game was obviously a welcome sight for him.

Crawford was great but the whole defensive core played great, he said. We made some plays up to wingers and forwards. That was good was how solid we were defensively.

It was another dose of momentum for the Blackhawks, who were strong, stoic and defensive-minded from the net out. Crawford stopped all 31 shots he faced and his teammates blocked another 21 shots 13 by defensemen.

It seems like every time I was trying to fight through screens our guys came up with big blocks. That makes a huge difference for a goaltender, Crawford said. We were hungry tonight all over the ice. Our forwards were getting back pressure on their rushes, helping out our D and we were making great plays to get out of our zone.

And when the Predators made mistakes, the Blackhawks turned it into offense. The Blackhawks were about to get a power play late in the first period but Kopecky, the extra attacker on the delayed call, took a pretty Sharp pass and scored.

Hossa was next, causing a Predators turnover then splitting the defensemen en route to a breakaway goal and a 2-0 lead early in the third.

WATCH: Hossa relieved after game

It felt good just to have a regular goal, said Hossa, whose last three goals have been two empty netters and a penalty shot. Ive had some good chances but the puck doesnt want to go in. I saw the puck was coming straight in front of me. I just had to out-skate the defensemen.

Sharp added the empty-net goal with 31 seconds remaining.
After shutting out the Predators, Corey Crawford improved to 21-12-3 this season with a 2.11 goals against average and .923 save percentage. (AP)
(Our focus) needs to stay right where its at, knowing that we havent done anything yet, said Duncan Keith, who had a team-high four blocked shots. Its been a nice couple of wins here that we can really build off of and try to keep it going.

The Blackhawks are gaining momentum that they hope finally leads to that lengthy winning streak thats eluded them so far this season. Theyre feeling better. But given the crazy West race, they know they cant get too comfortable.

There shouldn't be any complacency, Quenneville said. You want to keep pushing ahead. In the rear-view mirror, its so tight. Were never in a place where we should feel comfortable.
Briefly

Niklas Hjalmarsson missed a few shifts at the end of Thursday nights game. Quenneville said the defenseman has an upper-body injury but that it doesnt look like its serious.

Kopeckys goal was his 11th of the season, giving him a new career high.

Sharps goal was his 32nd of the season.

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 look to bounce back against Panthers

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Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks look to bounce back against Panthers

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

(Reminder: Use #AskEdzo on social media and your questions may be answered by Eddie Olczyk, who will be in studio along with Adam Burish, Brian Campbell and Pat Boyle).

1. Another fast start coming?

The Blackhawks had one of their best starts of the season Wednesday in Tampa Bay, and the numbers favor Chicago to dictate the pace of play early again.

The Panthers are tied with the Buffalo Sabres for the fewest goals scored in the first period (13), and have taken a lead into the second period only four times (3-1-0) in 21 games. They are 2-7-1 in the 10 games they've trailed after the opening frame.

The Blackhawks, on the other hand, are tied for fourth when it comes to first-period goals (22) — albeit, five of them came on Opening Night against Pittsburgh — but they are just 4-2-2 in eight games when leading after one period. In fact, they took a 2-0 lead into the second in their most recent game against the Lightning and lost in overtime 3-2.

So while a fast start could certainly be in the cards, the finish must also be there.

2. Take advantage on special teams.

The Panthers are one of two teams ranked among the bottom six in both power play percentage (26th at 16.0) and penalty kill percentage (30th at 73.2).

Meanwhile, the Blackhawks are coming in hot in both areas. They're 6-for-17 (35.3 percent) on the man advantage in their last four games, and own the fourth-best penalty kill unit (84.8 percent).

This is the area to exploit for the Blackhawks going into the matchup, and it could decide the game.

3. Feed Lance Bouma!

In his seventh season, Bouma has faced every NHL team at least five times in his career, with the exception of Vegas (pointless in one game this season).

Bouma is not known for his offensive prowess (72 points in 325 career games), but it's a different story when he plays Florida.

In six career games against the Panthers, Bouma has one goal, six assists and a career-high plus-8 rating. That one goal also happens to be one of his six career game winners.

Florida is the only team Bouma is averaging at least a point-per-game against for his career, so you know what that means: Feed No. 17!

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' overtime loss to Lightning: Missed opportunities and one too many penalties

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' overtime loss to Lightning: Missed opportunities and one too many penalties

Here are five takeaways from the Blackhawks’ 3-2 overtime loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday night:
 
1. One too many penalties.

The Blackhawks flirted with danger in the first period when they handed the Lightning three straight continuous power plays, a four-minute double minor high-sticking penalty from John Hayden and a Jonathan Toews hooking call that resulted in a 5-on-3 opportunity for Tampa Bay for 43 seconds. 

The penalty kill unit that ranked fourth in the league entering the matchup, however, killed off all three of those penalties against the NHL's top-ranked power play, and did so in commanding fashion.

The Blackhawks went 5-for-5 on the penalty kill in regulation, but couldn't stop the sixth one — a questionable slashing call on Nick Schmaltz —  in overtime when Brayden Point buried the winner on a 4-on-3 opportunity.

It was also interesting that Jon Cooper elected to go with four forwards (Nikita Kucherov, Vladislav Namestnikov, Point and Steven Stamkos) and zero defensemen during that man advantage, putting all of his offensive weapons out on the ice. It's something more teams should do in that situation.

2. Patrick Kane gets going.

After scoring just one goal in his previous 10 games, Kane found the back of the net twice in the opening frame against Tampa Bay and stayed hot against a team he historically plays well against. And he nearly netted a hat trick in overtime but couldn't cash in on a breakaway opportunity.

Kane has 20 points (eight goals, 12 assists) in 14 career regular-season games against the Lightning, and extended his point streak to five games. He has three goals and four assists over that stretch.

We wrote about how important it is for the Blackhawks' superstars to get going again with the offensive contributions mainly coming from role players as of late, and Kane getting into a groove is a perfect step in that direction.

3. How about that goaltending battle?

Corey Crawford and Andrei Vasilevskiy showed us exactly why they belong in the Vezina Trophy discussion, and as of this moment, it's hard not to include both of them as finalists. They put on a goaltending clinic, seemingly topping the other as the game went on.

The two teams combined for 71 scoring chances, and Crawford and Vasilevskiy came up big when their teams need them the most.

Crawford finished with 35 saves on 38 shots (.921 save percentage) in the loss while Vasilevskiy stopped 29 of 31 (.935 save percentage), and improved to 15-2-1 on the season. 

4. Missed opportunities.

You couldn't have asked for a better start for the Blackhawks. They scored the first goal 3:49 into the game and the second on the power play at 15:54, killed off three penalties, including a 5-on-3, had 24 shot attempts (13 on goal) compared to the Lightning's 16 attempts (11 on goal) and led in even-strength scoring chances 9-6.

It was a different story the rest of the way.

The Blackhawks took their foot off the gas pedal a bit and let the Lightning back in the game by getting away from what they do best, and that's control the puck. Obviously, you expected the league's best offense to push back and it's certainly not an easy task to keep them off the scoresheet all together. 

But the Blackhawks had their chances to stay in front or retake the lead and just couldn't bury them. Tampa Bay had 50 shot attempts from the second period on while the Blackhawks had only 32, and finished with 44 scoring chances compared to Chicago's 27.

5. Richard Panik in the doghouse?

Joel Quenneville didn't go to his line blender in this one, but he did shorten some leashes. Panik, most notably, had a season-low 12:28 of ice time in the loss and had 15 shifts, which was second-fewest only to Ryan Hartman (13) on the team.

Panik had a prime chance to break a 2-2 tie in the third period but was denied by Vasilevskiy, who made a remarkable left-pad save. Instead, Panik extended his goal drought to 12 games and didn't get a shift in overtime.

He's certainly better and will get his scoring chances when playing on the top line with Toews and Brandon Saad, but the missed opportunities are magnified in tight losses. It doesn't look like a move down in the lineup is coming given the success of Alex DeBrincat, who gives the Blackhawks an offensive weapon on the third line, but perhaps it should be considered.