Blackhawks

'It's crazy the amount of moves': Connor Murphy on Blackhawks offseason additions

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AP

'It's crazy the amount of moves': Connor Murphy on Blackhawks offseason additions

The second annual Chicago Pro Hockey League kicked off on Wednesday at Fifth Third Arena, featuring more than 80 professional hockey players from the NHL, AHL, ECHL, along with elite amateurs from various Division 1 colleges, junior teams and AAA programs. And for the first time, a women's division has been added.

Connor Murphy was among those who participated in Week 1, and he spent some time beforehand to talk about the Blackhawks' offseason moves so far and his excitement level going into the 2019-20 season.

"It’s been awesome," he said. "It’s crazy the amount of moves. It seems like every week there’s something and you open Instagram and see something pop up. It’s hard to see certain guys go that we’ve been teammates with the last couple of years, but we’ve gotten some experienced guys who are definitely big players in the league who can help us a lot I think."

Many of the moves GM Stan Bowman has made this summer is directly correlated with what went wrong last season, which included a leaky defense and 31st-ranked penalty kill. For example, trade acquisitions Calvin de Haan and Olli Maatta are expected to play large roles on the penalty kill, as is free-agent signing Ryan Carpenter, who's also a faceoff specialist.

"I’m sure there are different parts management feel they needed to clean up a bit," Murphy said. "But I think some of that stuff, too, is just team play and things we maybe started to do a little bit better in the later part of the year that, hopefully when we have a full training camp under our belt with team and coaching staff that we get things more in order and have a hot start going over to Europe. There’s definitely things those guys can bring to the table that will affect our team in a big way. I’m sure we’ll see it pay off right away."

Murphy hasn't gotten a chance to meet some of the new additions yet, but he did get an opportunity to meet Robin Lehner in Chicago this week and that's a signing that sticks out as one that could be impactful immediately.

"He’s a great guy," Murphy said. "He’s big, so you love seeing big goalies. And to have two really experienced guys — [Cam Ward] had experience, too — and [Lehner] with the success and unbelievable year he had last year with the Islanders, is impressive. I’m a fan of his, so it’s nice to have him back there."

Perhaps the most important part of training camp and preseason will be getting everyone on the same page, whether the players were on the team last season or not. For the players that were here, they know exactly what to expect out of Jeremy Colliton and the way he wants to play. And for the new additions, it's about getting acclimited as quickly as possible so the Blackhawks can hit the ground running on Opening Day.

"Yeah, I think that’s important," Murphy said. "For the coaching staff in general, they mentioned a little bit last year at times that it’s nice to have that time to clean things up. It’s hard when they jump in, when you have games and only one day of practice in between each game. You don’t have a lot of time to work on little details. So that stuff came slower and this year, having that time to practice and all of camp is important to kind of get that message and get through the kinks in exhibition games. It’s nice to have everyone on the same page with new players coming in and new staff, for us all to come together right away and have that time."

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Blackhawks hit new low after epic collapse in St. Louis

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USA Today

Blackhawks hit new low after epic collapse in St. Louis

ST. LOUIS — The Blackhawks needed something to feel good about going into a Central Division showdown against the reigning Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues. A solid 60-minute effort would've sufficed, but a win would've trumped all, no matter how they got it. Two points translates into confidence and confidence turns into belief.

Well, both the Blackhawks' confidence and belief are starting to run thin after hitting a new low in Saturday's 4-3 loss.

For the second time in 10 days, the Blackhawks squandered a three-goal lead in the third period by giving up four unanswered goals in a span of 13:16 to a Blues team that, quite frankly, dominated the entire game. The Blues led in shot attempts (65-40), shots on goal (38-22), even-strength scoring chances (34-13) and even-strength high-danger chances (14-2), according to Natural Stat Trick, but couldn't crack a red-hot Corey Crawford until the third period. 

It was an epic collapse for the Blackhawks, who lost their fourth in a row and for the 10th time in 13 games. And there are no words to describe it.

"It shows where we're at," head coach Jeremy Colliton said. "We're not good enough in those situations. All we can do is continue to talk about and show the team and work together to make it better. That's the only way it gets better. We recognize the problem. We've got to find a way to take a step. I think we have taken steps at times, but it's not consistent enough."

The Blackhawks are a fragile team right now and you could see it in their body language from the opening faceoff, almost as if they're starting the game already down a couple goals. Can you remember the last time they opened a game by dictating the terms?

In dark times like these, your best players have to step up and take control and they did that on Saturday.

Brandon Saad scored twice, Jonathan Toews registered two primary assists, Patrick Kane ended a six-game goal drought and Crawford stopped the first 32 shots he faced before the Blues' third-period onslaught. And yet it still wasn’t enough.

Brent Seabrook and Toews — two members of the Blackhawks’ leadership group — were sitting at their stalls after the game awaiting the media and made no excuses. They accepted responsibility and acknowledged being in this position is unacceptable.

"Being out there in those situations, you got to take pride in it," Seabrook said. "I know I take a lot of pride in it. ... I know I'm on there for two [goals], the second and third one. It's a critical part of the game and I've got to be better in those moments."

"That sucks to blow that one with the lead that we had," Toews said. "But there's situations where we've got to get pucks out and I lost my check a few times."

So what now? Where do the Blackhawks go from here? Will it get worse before it gets better? 

Is the season even salvageable?

"Why not? One game at a time," Toews said. "We had a rough week. ... It's easy to look at the storyline and get really discouraged and come up with the wrong mentality in your mind about what can happen going forward, but it's the wrong way to go about it. We've just got to focus on tomorrow night and build off the things we keep doing well. Each guy has to look at himself and try to find ways to bring more out of himself every night."

The Blackhawks have been searching for answers all season and they’re not getting any closer to finding a solution. They’re getting further away from it.

A drastic change might be necessary, but the frustration stems from the Blackhawks knowing what the problem is on the ice and still not doing anything about it.

"We need to, when the game's on the line, buckle down, stop and start, make the right read,” Colliton said. “I know they know and I know we as a group know what we have to do to have success and it's just a matter of doing it."

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3 Takeaways: Blackhawks lose 4-3 against Blues

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USA Today

3 Takeaways: Blackhawks lose 4-3 against Blues

The Blackhawks lost 4-3 to the St. Louis Blues on Saturday. Here are three takeaways: 

Blackhawks blow three-goal lead 

After Patrick Kane's beautiful stick-side snipe at 4:16 of the third period, the last place Hawks led the defending Stanley Cup champs 3-0 in St. Louis. It was going to be a huge moral victory for Chicago, who had lost three straight games and been outscored 10-3 in their past two. 

Twenty four seconds later, Tyler Bozak scored the first of four unanswered Blues' goals to give St. Louis their first lead of the game, and the final score in regulation, 4-3.

"Sucks to blow that one with the lead that we had, but there's situations where we've got to get pucks out, and I lost my check a few times," Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said after the game. "Those guys can make plays when you turn the puck over and you lose your check, so just got to keep going back to the drawing board."

Alex Nylander turned the puck over in Chicago's D zone to Robert Thomas near the high slot, who gave the puck to Bozak for the Blues' first goal of the game which sprung three more. 

“If we benched every player who made a mistake, we wouldn’t have any players," Blackhawks head coach Jeremy Colliton said after being asked if he thought about benching Nylander after the mishap.

Shot suppression has to happen

As they've done a lot this season, the Hawks allowed the opposition way too many shots on their net. The Blues were able to pepper Corey Crawford with 38. 

"I thought we had a good start to the third, obviously," Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook said. "Crow was huge for us all night, really kept us in the game the whole game and I think we let him down."

Crawford and Robin Lehner have been leaned on too much this season by a struggling defense who's definitely missed Calvin de Haan (right shoulder) and Duncan Keith (groin) the past few games. Even before the pair's injuries, the netminders facing around 40 shots was happening too frequently. 

"We all take responsibility," Colliton said. "With the coaches, we have to find a way to prepare these guys better so that they can execute those types of reads when the game's on the line. So, that's it."

Colliton also said Keith began skating in Chicago. There's no set timetable for his return, but it should be sooner rather than later now. 

Saad doubles down

Forward Brandon Saad scored his ninth and tenth goals of the season in St. Louis on Saturday. His first goal came 19 seconds into the first period, assisted by Toews.

Saad's second goal of the game came 30 seconds into the third period. Toews used his body to maintain possession on the boards and feed Saad the puck in front of the net for his second helper. 

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