Blackhawks

Blackhawks notebook: Kane-Toews chemistry, Seabrook's contract, Crawford update and Smith's role

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks notebook: Kane-Toews chemistry, Seabrook's contract, Crawford update and Smith's role

It's no surprise that Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews each had offensive explosions after getting put on the same line together on Sunday against the defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals. But at the same time it was.

The duo played 273:28 minutes at even strength together last season, according to naturalstattrick.com, but had a minus-6 goal differential during that time. It was bizarre because they controlled 56.9 percent of the shot attempts and 60.5 percent of the high-danger chances.

Perhaps the hockey gods are repaying them for what they deserved a year ago. Or those are the results you're eventually going to get when you put two future Hall of Famers on the ice at the same time.

“For an offensive guy that wants the puck, he’s pretty much the perfect center to play with," Kane said. "He wins a lot of battles, he wins faceoffs, he’s obviously able to make plays and he can get to the hard areas, too, so he opens up a lot of space. We haven’t played with each other a lot over the past handful of years, but we played a lot together early on, so I think sometimes we just kind of revert back to what we did back then. It makes the game simple. It’s not like you have to think too much or even talk too much about what we want to do. We just want to work hard, win battles and play well defensively. If we do that, we should get a lot of chances.”

Toews turned the clock back before he and Kane were even in the NHL.

"I remember since we were like 12 or 13 playing against each other in Triple-A hockey, he was one of the smallest guys out there and he just seemed to be able to handle the puck so well even at that age," Toews said of Kane. "He could back defenders off and create time and space. He was tough to check because he was slippery and he was just deceptive. I think that's what sets him above everybody else in the league and most star players that maybe can take advantage of skating, size and speed where he doesn't really need any of those things. He's so smart when he gets the puck."

Whether or not they stay together for the long term remains to be seen, but the when Nos. 19 and 88 are clicking, usually the Blackhawks are too.

Brent Seabrook's contract

It's no secret in Chicago that Seabrook's contract sticks out as one that won't exactly age well for the Blackhawks under a salary cap system. At age 33, he's in Year 3 of an eight-year deal that carries a $6.875 million cap hit. 

While his best years on the ice may be behind him, his teammates believe Seabrook is still as important as ever inside the locker room and the team unity. Kane came to his defense on Monday after practice in response to a question about the core veterans trying to sustain a winning culture in a trying season.

"People want to get on Seabs about his contract," Kane said. "But to us, he’s underpaid [for] what he brings in this locker room and the way he’s such a great leader, such a big part of this locker room, takes in every guy just like he’s known him his whole life. He’s an unbelievable teammate. Even that game when we missed him when he was sick, you lose your heart and soul of the team a little bit because he’s such a big piece."

Corey Crawford update

Jeremy Colliton's playing career was cut short because of his concussion history. He knows exactly what Crawford is going through, which means he knows how to handle his situation from a coach's perspective.

Crawford skated with the team for the first time over the weekend, but Colliton cautioned not to read anything into it. He didn't provide much more information than that.

On Monday, Colliton offered a longer-form response on why he's been mum about Crawford's status:

"Him going on the ice, I said it two days ago, not to read too much into it. It’s going to be a process here. The day-to-day, it doesn’t really matter. It’s over time. Is he feeling better? Is he progressing? I’m not in his ear, 'How are you feeling?', asking [head athletic trainer Mike Gapski], 'How’s Crow feeling?' It doesn’t help me, it doesn’t help him and minute-to-minute, it doesn’t matter. It’s over time, how does he feel, is he getting better? Did I talk to him today? Yeah I talked to him today. But I didn’t ask him how he was feeling. Because day to day, it’s a non-issue. I just want him to be happy and over time, feel better. And then we’ll see if he can play at the end of that."

Barry Smith's role

When Blackhawks practiced wrapped up on Monday, Smith addressed the team in a huddle, got a stick tap ovation and received a handshake from every player. This was his last practice as the assistant coach, and Tuesday vs. the New York Islanders will be his last game behind the bench before Sheldon Brookbank officially takes full control of those responsibilities along with Don Granato.

After Tuesday, Smith will transition back into his role with the Blackhawks as Director of Player Evaluation.

"Certainly his experience and just his presence," Colliton said on what Smith brought to the table. "Great guy, very, very fun to be around. I knew him from last year, he’d been around Rockford. We were a little bit shorthanded and he left his wife and his previous life, lived in a hotel for two and a half months and was a great resource for me and the staff, and really appreciate that. He’s been through the wars already, so for him to come back into it was very selfless of him, I thought."

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Hawks Talk Podcast: Patrick Kane streaking into wildcard weekend in Chicago

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AP

Hawks Talk Podcast: Patrick Kane streaking into wildcard weekend in Chicago

On the latest Hawks Talk podcast, Pat Boyle, Jamal Mayers and Charlie Roumeliotis preview a wildcard weekend in Chicago, discuss Patrick Kane continuing his point streak, the latest on Corey Crawford, what Colin Delia needs to work on, and how the Hawks will approach the trade deadline.

1:00 - Hawks winning when not playing their best

1:45 - Kane extends point streak to 19 games

3:00 - Can Kane surpass his previous 26-game point streak?

8:33 - DeBrincat reaches 33 goals this season

10:30 - Hawks get ready to take on Avs and Stars

13:30 - Update on Corey Crawford status

16:00 - Crawford play before the trade deadline?

17:30 - Crawford being around affecting Colin Delia?

18:30 - What Delia needs to work on

21:00 - How the Hawks will approach Monday's trade deadline

14:00 - Is Gustav Forsling the only defenseman the team would move?

26:00 - Are Perlini and Sikura part of the long-term plan with the Hawks

28:00 - How Artem Anisimov's contract will affect his future with the Hawks

29:00 - Would the Hawks be willing to move Brandon Saad?

Listen to the entire podcast here or in the embedded player below.

Blackhawks Talk Podcast

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Four takeaways: Patrick Kane plays overtime hero for Blackhawks, who briefly pull inside playoff picture

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AP

Four takeaways: Patrick Kane plays overtime hero for Blackhawks, who briefly pull inside playoff picture

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 5-4 overtime win over the Detroit Red Wings at Little Caesars Arena on Wednesday:

1. Patrick Kane to the rescue

After squandering a three-goal lead in the third period, the Blackhawks found themselves fighting for the extra point in overtime when they thought they had it locked up. And they picked it up thanks to No. 88 saving the day.

The play started because of a terrific individual effort by Jonathan Toews, who drove it hard to the net, followed up on his rebound and fed it to Erik Gustafsson, who put it right on Kane's tape and buried it. It was Kane's second goal of the game, and 38th of the season, pulling within four of Alex Ovechkin for the NHL lead.

While Kane's 18-game assist streak ended, his point streak was extended to 19 games, as was his goal streak and multi-point streak to four games. Showtime delivered when the Blackhawks needed him most, as he often does.

2. Overcoming first-period struggles

Going into Wednesday, the Blackhawks had given up a league-worst 82 goals in the first period this season; no other team had allowed more than 68. And in their previous four games, they had given up 12 goals — three per game. It's been an area concern as of late.

Even though they gave up a goal in the opening frame against Detroit, the Blackhawks answered with three of their own and cashed in on their limited opportunities. Jimmy Howard was pulled after giving up four goals on eight shots, marking the second straight game the Blackhawks forced the opposing coach to change goaltenders mid-game.

It was important that the Blackhawks got off to that start, given how the rest of the contest unfolded.

3. Third-period collapse

The worst lead in hockey is three goals, as they say. Because teams tend to think their lead is safe and sit back. Then before they know it, the game is closer than they imagined it would get and the tide has quickly turned.

That's what happened to the Blackhawks, who had no answer for the Dylan Larkin and Anthony Mantha line. The duo combined for two goals, five assists and 22 shot attempts (16 on goal) as the Red Wings scored three times in the third period, including a late goal by Andreas Athanasiou for his second of the game with 1:26 left in regulation.

The Blackhawks were outshot 12-5 in the final frame and generated only two scoring chances to Detroit's nine. They nearly survived in regulation, but the Red Wings' push was too much to stave off.

4. Who's ready for Friday?

It doesn't matter how you pick up points at this stage in the season. A pretty win or ugly win counts the same in the standings.

By earning another two points, the Blackhawks jumped the Minnesota Wild for the second position in the Western Conference with 61 points. But it didn't last too long as the Colorado Avalanche beat the Winnipeg Jets 7-1 shortly after and moved into that spot because they have a game in hand. 

Which brings us to Friday, when the Blackhawks and Avalanche clash at the United Center in a potential four-point swing.

Authentic Fan Night. An early 6:30 p.m. start. Margaritaville Night. And a chance to move into a playoff spot. What more could you ask for?

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