Cody Franson

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' shutout win over Flyers: Corey Crawford continues to show his value

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' shutout win over Flyers: Corey Crawford continues to show his value

Here are five takeaways from the Blackhawks' 3-0 win over the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday night:

1. The power play finally gets one.

The Flyers gave them enough opportunities – the Blackhawks went on their fourth power play before the midway point of the second period. They finally broke through on their fourth attempt, an Artem Anisimov rebound. It doesn’t make the recent numbers look much better – they’re 2 for their last 25 opportunities now – but it was definitely a weight lifted.

2. Not wasting time.

Getting any goals lately has been a chore for the Blackhawks so scoring two in 20 seconds gave them a boost of much-needed energy. Jonathan Toews’ breakaway goal following Anisimov’s power-play score brought life to a listless United Center and gave the Blackhawks their first 2-0 lead since Oct. 9 vs. Toronto.

3. Did we mention the goaltending?

There haven’t been many nights when Corey Crawford hasn’t had to work this season, and Wednesday was no exception. The Flyers were testing him throughout and Crawford held firm, stopping 35 shots for his first shutout of the season and 22nd of his career.

Said Cody Franson: “Until you play in front of him you don’t realize how good he is. He’s probably one of those guys that people don’t necessarily talk about when they talk about [Carey] Price and [Jonathan] Quick and those guys, but I think he’s up there with them.”

4. The Franson effect.

Franson played in just his fourth game on Wednesday night but he continued to make an impact, especially on the power play. The Blackhawks need a booming shot on it again and he’s providing it.

“He’s got a great shot, great release, and gets it through,” coach Joel Quenneville said of Franson’s shot. “His quickness off it is pretty amazing. He has other plays as well as the shot but he’s been good for the power play.”

5. Balancing emotions.

The Blackhawks won’t be getting too giddy off Wednesday’s game but there’s no doubt they had to play with more fire. Now to proceed accordingly.

“It’s having that urgency and playing with a little emotion, being pissed off but also not forcing it too much where you’re going to get too tight, start making mistakes and it goes the wrong direction on you,” Toews said. “Whether you’ve been in this room a long time or not, everyone can get that feeling in here of, let’s just go out there and play. Let’s have confidence. We have a ton of talent, a ton of ability in here. Just keep it simple and the plays and goals are going to come.”

Why Blackhawks felt a weight lifted off their shoulders in much-needed victory over Flyers

Why Blackhawks felt a weight lifted off their shoulders in much-needed victory over Flyers

As Artem Anisimov’s power-play rebound found its way into the Philadelphia Flyers net on Wednesday night the United Center erupted, drowning out the sound of the massive burden dropping from the Blackhawks’ shoulders.

“It’s the big weight lifted off your shoulders,” said Cody Franson, whose shot led to that goal. “Guys are a little more relaxed, getting back to what made us successful.”

This big reaction off one goal may seem overblown, and perhaps in hindsight it’ll be considered as such. But for a Blackhawks team that was struggling to score in pretty much any fashion but especially on the power play, Wednesday night’s 3-0 victory was a relief.

They snapped an 0-for-18 power-play slump and it led to more fast, with Jonathan Toews scoring just 20 seconds after Anisimov. Power-play troubles snapped, losing streak snapped, a big wave of frustration snapped.

‘It’s more relief. Something dropped from our shoulders when we scored that goal,” said Anisimov, who scored his third goal in as many games. “We just need to keep building off that. Just play simple, like that play. Pass over, shoot, rebound. Easy, you know?”

Anisimov laughed after saying that but the mood was definitely lighter on Wednesday night. It was a heavy early week for the Blackhawks, who were coming off a three-game losing streak and an angry close-of-practice talk from coach Joel Quenneville on Tuesday.

“I think it was a little bit of everything. Our first couple of power plays had some decent looks and [we did] the right thing on that one: get it to the net, traffic, get the rebound and get rewarded,” Quenneville said. “We obviously needed a power-play goal and that helped a little bit of confidence as we went along offensively.”

The Blackhawks didn’t do a complete 180 off their latest batch of games on Wednesday. They still gave up a lot of quality chances – credit Corey Crawford, whose 35-stop performance ensured that Anisimov’s goal would be the winning one. But the Blackhawks needed a positive. They needed a spark. They needed a power-play goal. Weights lifted.

“With this group, we never really freak out. We don’t lose our mind. It’s early in the season. You want to gain ground but you don’t want to create something that’s not really there,” said Corey Crawford, whose 35-stop performance made that power-play goal the game winner. “You’ve just come back and keep playing. you gotta stick with it. You can’t let a streak like that affect you and make it worse. We’re fine, we know how to play hockey, and we’ve just gotta keep going.”

Quenneville lights fire with heated 'let's go' message after ice cold stretch

Quenneville lights fire with heated 'let's go' message after ice cold stretch

The Blackhawks huddled at center ice, catching their breath after a series of end-of-practice sprints, something the team usually doesn’t do. Coach Joel Quenneville, unhappy with how the Blackhawks looked the last part of practice, barked out a heated message to his players and then immediately left the ice, something he usually doesn’t do.

Message sent.

“Those are never fun but you know what? It’s great in terms of [the fact that] losing is not acceptable here,” Cody Franson said.

Yes, that was definitely one part of the message on Tuesday. A sidebar to that could be that this is a reminder to the Blackhawks that, regardless of how much winning you’ve done in the past, sometimes you need a fire lit under you.

“The intensity and the pace went down. It was tough to look at it and I was just, ‘let’s go,’” Quenneville said of practice. “I think you’re always going to have bumps over the course of the season and stretches where your game isn’t where you want it to be, or there’s something that needs to be worked on in the game, attitudes or whatever. We want to make sure there’s enough intensity where we get something out of the practice. At the end, the pace wasn’t good enough.”

Tuesday’s practice, at least the part of it Quenneville wasn’t happy with, was a microcosm of the Blackhawks’ season thus far: not enough of a sustained work ethic and, as a result, disappointing results. From lackluster offense (including the power play) to facing early deficits, the Blackhawks have been frustrated by the recent results.

“We’re 5-5-2. It’s obviously not the start we wanted but we still have a lot of good players, we still have a good team. Let’s not push the panic button just yet,” Patrick Kane said. “Even looking back to last year, we had a really good regular season and guys and media and different things wanted to push the panic button because we got swept, and probably rightfully so. But I think when there’s a lot of attention on that, sometimes you have to loosen up.”

Again, there’s plenty of season remaining and the Blackhawks, losers of three straight, have shown they can get on a winning streak as quickly as they fall into a slump. Would it help if they loosen up? Maybe. But that looseness has to be coupled with a consistent work ethic and fire, otherwise there could be more sprints and harsh coaches talks in their future.

“When we’re playing our best hockey and we’re having fun, guys are out there smiling we’re not holding sticks too tight,” Kane said. “It’ll be fun to go out there [Wednesday], score a few goals, have some celebrations, get the boys smiling. I know that comes with hard work and winning games, but that seems to be when we’re at our best.”