Olli Maatta on returning to Pittsburgh and parallels between Blackhawks and Penguins leadership group

Olli Maatta on returning to Pittsburgh and parallels between Blackhawks and Penguins leadership group

Olli Maatta has had Nov. 9 circled on the calendar for a while now. It's the first time he'll be back in Pittsburgh since being traded to the Blackhawks in June for forward Dominik Kahun.

"Obviously I have a bunch of good memories there," Maatta said. "Really exciting times. I knew when we were going there."

Maatta was drafted by the Penguins in the first round (No. 22 overall) of the 2012 NHL Draft and won two Stanley Cups during his six-year tenure in Pittsburgh. He played a large role in the second of the back-to-back in 2017 particularly, averaging 20:37 of ice time in the postseason because the Penguins were without top defenseman Kris Letang for the entire playoffs.

The road to the Stanley Cup is always memorable when going through those ups and downs, but who you share them with is what you really remember.

"It's really exciting," Maatta said. "I think that's the one [thing], it's going to be nice to see the people there, all friends there."

The Blackhawks acquired Maatta to help shore up their defensive issues following a season in which they gave up the second-most goals and ranked 31st on the penalty kill. Only Duncan Keith (85) has more defensive zone faceoff starts at even strength than Maatta (77), who has also logged 32:01 of ice time on the penalty kill, good for fifth-highest on the team.

Maatta has brought some stability and experience on the back end defensively, even though his overall possession numbers haven’t been great.

"Yeah it'll be big for him going back, no question — a lot of history there and a lot of success," head coach Jeremy Colliton said. "I'm sure he'll be good, he'll have some energy and be excited about it. He's been solid, he's been dependable. Like our whole team, there's been ups and downs at times, but I just really like [that] he knows what he is — he's here to defend and kill penalties and be solid and that's improved our D core."

When Maatta was traded to the Blackhawks, he saw many parallels between the Penguins leadership group of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Letang and the Blackhawks’ of Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Jonathan Toews. 

All of them have three Stanley Cups, but nobody is satisfied. The hunger to win another one is at an all-time high and Maatta wants to taste that kind of success in Chicago now. 

"There's a lot of similarities when I came here, when you see the guys that have been around here," Maatta said. "Just the work in they put in every day and what kind of pros they are at first. But then they want to win. It just seems nothing's enough if you don't win, you always have to try and find a way and that's what it's been and I could see the same thing here."

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Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford's 250th win puts him in elite company


Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford's 250th win puts him in elite company

Corey Crawford captured a coveted goalie milestone with another solid performance in a 2-1 shootout victory for the Blackhawks on Friday in New Jersey. The Hawks (12-12-5) beat the Atlantic division-leading Bruins 4-3 in overtime in Boston with Robin Lehner in net on Thursday before playing the Devils, last in the Metropolitan, Friday with Crawford starting. 

"It's important to try to climb back up in the standings," Crawford said following the game. "We had a few tough games, it seems like it's been pretty streaky the first quarter of the season, but when we're playing well I think we're pretty tough to beat. We just got to try to find that game as much as possible. 

"But that was obviously a big win to start it and against one of the best teams in the league (the Bruins) and having a big lead too, going late into the third period, and then a team that's a little bit lower in the standings (the Devils), but you still have to come out hard and play, no games are easy. It was pretty competitive out there but it's nice to find a way to win." 

The two-time Stanley Cup champ saved 29 of 30 shots through overtime, including a Miles Wood breakaway with 11 seconds remaining in the second period and the game tied 1-1. He also stopped three of five New Jersey Devils shooters including Taylor Hall and 2019 No. 1 overall pick Jack Hughes in the shootout. 

Crawford became the 59th goalie in NHL history to record 250 wins. The 34-year-old is one of 13 active NHL goalies and just the third Hawks netminder to reach the milestone (Glen Hall: 276, Tony Esposito: 418).

Crawford is 250-149-52 in 464 games with the Blackhawks and has 26 shutouts. 

5 Takeaways: Kirby Dach leads Blackhawks to 2-1 win in shootout vs. Devils


5 Takeaways: Kirby Dach leads Blackhawks to 2-1 win in shootout vs. Devils

The Blackhawks won 2-1 against the New Jersey Devils in a shootout on Friday. Here are five takeaways:

Top to bottom

The Hawks were looking to establish some momentum in Jersey following a big win Thursday in Boston. Jonathan Toews scored in overtime and Alex DeBrincat ended a 12-game goal drought to help the Hawks to a 4-3 OT win over the Bruins, ending the Blackhawks' 3-game losing streak in which they were outscored 16-5. 

Going from facing the first place team in the Atlantic division (second in the NHL) on Thursday to the last place team in the Metropolitan division (second to last in the league) on Friday proved to be tougher than imagined. 

Alex DeBrincat scored the lone regulation goal for Chicago and Kirby Dach, the No. 3 pick of the 2019 NHL Draft, scored the final goal of the shootout and set up No. 1 pick Jack Hughes to get stopped by Corey Crawford for the 2-1 final score. Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane also scored in the shootout for the Blackhawks.

Crow 250

Corey Crawford won his 250th NHL game on Friday. The two-time Stanley Cup champ is the 59th goalie in NHL history to reach the milestone and one of 13 active netminders to do so. The 34-year-old is the third goalie to reach 250 wins with the Blackhawks. 

Crawford saved 29 of 30 New Jersey shots ahead of the shootout. 

Cat on the prowl 

DeBrincat scored his second goal in two games after not lighting the lamp in his previous 12. This is a good sign for the forward, who is known to score in bunches.

Gilbert getting noticed

Dennis Gilbert skated in his second straight game with the Hawks with Olli Maatta (flu-like symptoms) missing both contents on the road trip. Gilbert had a solid game in Boston Thursday and improved his case Friday, putting a big hit on Hughes then having a decent showing after answering the bell with Wayne Simmonds.

Kane watch

Kane tied Andy Bathgate for 93rd on the NHL career points list (973), assisting on DeBrincat's second period goal.