Blackhawks

Toews still torn about heading overseas

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Toews still torn about heading overseas

Jonathan Toews thinks about it every day -- the possibility of having to play overseas as the NHL lockout continues. And while the Blackhawks captain knows he has options, hes waiting for something to push me over the edge in that direction.

I guess, maybe if its at the point where the NHL has the nerve to cancel the season, then that would be the tipping point right there, Toews said after Wednesdays informal practice. Until then, its still an uncertainty.

Several Blackhawks have been considering overseas options for some time now. Those who have remained here have cited hopes that the NHL and NHLPA will work through their differences and get a new collective bargaining agreement in place. The two sides did meet with a federal mediator on Wednesday.

For Toews, the overseas decision is a tough one. He is certainly missing the routine hed be in during this time of year, the game schedule, the practices, all of it. And the burgeoning lockout frustration doesnt help.

A lot of us have waited patiently so far, he said. But when you constantly see the rejection and lack of negotiation, you get the ugly feeling its not going anywhere. Its a tough thing to do, to sit around and think about it even more.

But Toews is also looking at the other side of it. Hes healthy, hes still doing everything to keep in shape including all those informal practices -- and he wants to do everything he can to ensure hell have a long and healthy career. And not going through a grinding playing schedule has its benefits.

Until now I think Ive taken advantage of the time to take care of my body. I almost see this as an advantage, he said. You play so many games during the year and youre so busy, and this is a sport that takes a tremendous toll on your body. To be sitting on your butt is one thing. But to take advantage of this time off, to make yourself better and take care of your body, thats everything. Thats whats going to get you (not only) where you want to go and perform as well you want to, but to keep doing it for a long time.

Im not thinking of just this year or the next one. Im thinking further down the road than that, Toews said. Its a good thing to take care of yourself that way.

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: After 20 games, do we know the identity of this Blackhawks team?

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: After 20 games, do we know the identity of this Blackhawks team?

On the latest Hawks Talk Podcast Tracey Myers and Jamal Mayers join Pat Boyle to discuss the teams wins over the Rangers and Penguins.  Have they figured some things out and what is the identity of this team after 20 games?

Jammer weighs in on Artem Anisimov’s big week and are there enough Hawks committed to net front presence?  They also discuss the surging play of the blue liners and did the Hawks fail to send a message to Evgeni Malkin, after he kneed Corey Crawford in the head?

Blackhawks’ much-maligned power play is now clicking

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks’ much-maligned power play is now clicking

It’s an annual rite of passage if you cover or are a fan of the Blackhawks: you question the power play, because there always seems to be an issue with the power play. You wonder why every season, given the talent on this team. And again this fall the power play has sputtered.

But a funny thing happened at the end of the weekend. The Blackhawks’ power play started to look good, started to generate chances and started to score. In 10 games prior to the Blackhawks’ Nov. 12 game against New Jersey they had just three power-play goals in 40 opportunities. In their last three games (vs. the Devils, New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins), they’ve tallied five goals on 13 opportunities.

So what’s been working?

“I’ll probably give you the same answer as when it wasn’t working: pucks to the net, guys in front,” Patrick Sharp said. “We have the shot mentality more so than just moving it around and getting it set up. You look at the goals we’ve scored, it’s nothing overly complicated. It’s just getting the puck to the net. Just stay with it.”

Sounds simple enough, but the stay-with-it part has probably been the toughest segment of the equation. When the Blackhawks slumped they really slumped, and their lack of confidence on the power play was as evident as their lack of scoring on it. Yes, stressing over it can have its affect; and when the Blackhawks got those two power-play goals against the Devils it seemed to be a release.

“You get one, that weight gets lifted off your chest a little bit, you can play a little loser and maybe not grip your stick as tight as when things weren’t going well,” Cody Franson said. “When you’re confident out there you’re moving the puck cleanly, things happen a little quicker for you and give you those better looks at good chances. When you’re not that confident sometimes you’re not executing as well and things were moving slower and you’re not generating too much. Confidence definitely plays a big part in it.”

So back to what’s working. The Blackhawks started becoming more active on the power play, cutting down on the passes and increasing the shots. They’ve been there for rebounds. They started feeding off the success, be it with the power play as a unit or with individual performances. Artem Anisimov has returned to being a force at the net again; of his five goals in his last three games, two are power-play goals.

“A couple of broken plays and sometimes you get some breaks. You win a faceoff and make a quick little play after a couple of great opportunities on the prior whistle there that didn’t go in. I just think shots at the net and traffic and off that, sometimes they go in,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “Our entries have always been alright this year, so we’re getting zone time and let’s get some simpler looks and sometimes they go in. I think gaining confidence there, it seems like we’re having the puck more and longer and sustaining some offense off it.”

The Blackhawks have struggled more than they’ve succeeded on the power play the last few seasons. But as their overall scoring has increased again, so has their power-play production. Good timing.

“People tend to say the power play can keep you in games and the penalty kill can win you games. Our penalty kill’s been great and has given us chances in a lot of games. [Corey Crawford’s] been playing pretty well,” Franson said. “And when our power play can give us success we find ourselves in better situations to try and win games.”