What Jeremy Colliton has learned about the Blackhawks after one week

What Jeremy Colliton has learned about the Blackhawks after one week

It’s been a week since Jeremy Colliton took over as head coach of the Blackhawks. In some ways, it feels longer than that. In reality, he's just getting started.

Coming into a situation where the team had lost five straight games didn't help make the transition easy for Colliton, and dropping his first three contests as an NHL coach hasn't been ideal, either.

But he's been around long enough to get a feel for what he has in the locker room and how his players are responding to the adversity. 

Asked what he's learned from this group so far, Colliton didn't hesitate.

"I've learned that they want to win," he said. "They're extremely open to feedback. They want to get better. They want the video. They want the meetings. They want to talk. They want these ideas. They want to know how we can win. What's the plan? And it's right on down the line. The youngest guys I knew that because I had them in Rockford. But the oldest guys, they're almost the most excited about talking hockey and how we're going to turn this around. So that's been a pleasant surprise and makes me very excited about the future."

There are nine players on this Blackhawks roster with at least two Stanley Cups on their resume. Yet, none of them are satisfied with where they're at right now, which isn't surprising to anybody in Chicago. That’s why they’re winners.

The Blackhawks want to turn this losing skid around as quickly as possible and it's the veterans who are leading the charge in that respect, both on the ice and in the film room. That's the kind of leadership they have and need to have in the locker room, especially as a 33-year-old rookie NHL coach looks to gain respect of the group on the fly.

Four takeaways: Blackhawks power play can't crack Carey Price in third period


Four takeaways: Blackhawks power play can't crack Carey Price in third period

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 3-2 loss to the Montreal Canadiens at United Center on Sunday:

1. The second goal is more important than the first

For the 10th straight game, the Blackhawks have given up the first goal. What's become a more concerning trend, however, is how quickly they're allowing the second.

Of those 10 games, the Blackhawks have allowed at least two first-period goals in nine of them. That's way too many. On Sunday, the Canadiens scored two goals in 1:31 to put themselves ahead 2-0 and the Blackhawks again found themselves chasing the game.

"For whatever reason the last few games, teams probably sense that we're a little vulnerable and they come out really hard," coach Jeremy Colliton said. "We need to match and exceed that intensity. If it means playing 25-30 seconds like it's the last minute of the game, that's what we got to do."

2. Eight power plays

The Blackhawks had a season-high eight power play opportunities against the Canadiens, who came in ranked 20th with a 78.3 percent kill rate. The Blackhawks capitalized on one of them, when Patrick Kane scored in the final minute of the first period to make it 2-1. 

But they had exactly 10 minutes of 5-on-4 time in the third period and came up empty on each of them, despite recording a combined 12 shots on goal during those five man advantages. The game was there for the taking, but Carey Price came up large and the Blackhawks couldn't make him crack.

The Canadiens eventually scored with 1:17 left in regulation to hand the Blackhawks their seventh consecutive defeat, and it's not hard to look at those missed five power-play opportunities as a reason why they couldn't come up with at least a point.

"I don’t know if we could’ve done much more, to be honest with you," Kane said. "We moved it around well, we had good motion, we had good shots. They did a good job of blocking them, could’ve been a bounce either way. I thought the power play was pretty good tonight even if you look at the numbers and we’ve only got one goal on so many opportunities."

3. Patrick Kane breaks out

In the first 11 games of the season, Kane had just as many goals. He was among the league leaders in that category at the end of October.

Since then, he's been on a dry spell as he entered with only two goals in his previous 18 games. Kane broke out of that by scoring twice, including a power-play goal to put him at a team-leading 15 for the season.

The Blackhawks are 7-3-1 when he scores a goal, so it's important for Kane to build on that production.

"It’s always nice to produce," Kane said. "It’s been a while for me here lately. I could kind of feel it coming the last couple games. It’s nice to get on the score sheet. Would’ve been nice to get another one there in the third or get something, especially on the power play. But it didn’t happen."

4. Connor Murphy's return

The Blackhawks could use all the help they could get on the back end. And with Gustav Forsling out because of a shoulder injury, Murphy's return came at a good time.

In his season debut, he had five shot attempts (four on goal), three hits and a takeaway in 16:46 of ice time. He committed a high-sticking penalty in the third period, but also drew one that led to a power play opportunity. 

"Physically, I felt good," Murphy said. "It was nice to get into a normal rhythm at the start of the game. Just getting into the flow of it was good. It was nice to have a home game. I felt like the guys were skating pretty well tonight and didn't have too much time defending, which is always nice to play a little more offense. So that part of it was good."

Blackhawks getting much-needed boost on defense with return of Connor Murphy


Blackhawks getting much-needed boost on defense with return of Connor Murphy

After missing all of training camp and the first 30 games with a back injury, Connor Murphy has been activated from injured reserve and is slated to make his season debut when the Blackhawks host the Montreal Canadiens on Sunday.

"Yeah, I'm definitely excited," Murphy said after practice on Saturday. "I've been waiting for a long time."

It's a much-needed boost on the back end for the Blackhawks, who have given up the most high-danger chances at 5-on-5 this season, according to He won't be asked to save the day, but any addition is a positive as the Blackhawks look to snap a six-game losing streak.

"He's a really good player," Corey Crawford said. "But we're not relying on just one guy. We've still got to play better as a team. But to add a player like that will definitely help us."

After starting the season 6-2-2, the Blackhawks are 3-14-3 in their past 20 games and have been struggling as a team to snap out of a funk that's lasted for a month and a half. And that's been a helpless feeling for Murphy, who hasn't been able to do anything about it but will now get that chance to make an impact.

"It's hard any time you miss games, whether it's one or 30," Murphy said. "It's not fun, and especially seeing the team struggle a little bit is harder. I've been lucky enough to be around the room and around the guys to feel a part of it a little bit. But any time you go through skids — there's always ups and downs in a season — but the recent ones have been hard and you feel for the guys. Everyone's working hard and wanting to win, and we're not getting the results. But we show spurts in games and playing hard and doing things well. So I think it'll come and I'm really happy to start contributing."

There will probably be some rust for Murphy to shake off. That's natural. The other challenge is that the Blackhawks made a coaching change while he was on the sidelines and he'll have to adapt to Jeremy Colliton's new defensive zone system in going from a zone coverage to a man-to-man.

"That stuff will come," Murphy said. "I don't know if you want to let that creep in your mind, thinking too much about systems or different personnel. I think just going out and having fun and competing at my hardest will be what I'm looking for."

Murphy accumulated 14 points (two goals, 14 assists) in 76 regular-season games last season, and ranked second on the team with 138 hits. He was partnered with Erik Gustafsson on the third pairing during practice on Saturday, so it appears that's where he'll start.

"It's another guy fighting for ice," Colliton said of Murphy. "We want it to be competitive for roles and roster spots, so positive to have him back and looking forward to seeing him play."

To make room for him on the 23-man roster, Gustav Forsling was placed on injured reserve with a shoulder injury, retroactive to Dec. 5. Colliton said he doesn't believe his injury will be long-term.

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