Blackhawks

Blachawks: Richards, Timonen sparked by postseason potential

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Blachawks: Richards, Timonen sparked by postseason potential

NASHVILLE — Brad Richards talked of the “second season,” as it were, that time of year that reignites the spark that can sometimes flicker in a draggy, 82-game season.

“I can tell you all year how excited I was to play games in October,” he said. “But when I signed in July I was thinking about this.”

“This” is the postseason. “This” is what so many players aspire to get to, and what the Blackhawks have gotten to for seven consecutive seasons. It’s exciting for every player. It’s even more exciting for those like Richards and Kimmo Timonen, who, either via free agency or trade, looked at the Blackhawks as their next great opportunity to win a Stanley Cup.

“I still feel we have really good chance to do something well here,” said Timonen, who is chasing his first Cup. “We all know it’s a long process. It’s not something we can do quickly. But this team has as good a chance as anyone else. I’ve seen clips when this team plays really well; we are hard to beat. In the playoffs it’ll be tight. But I have a lot of confidence we can do it.”

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Timonen missed the last three games of the regular season with an upper-body injury sustained against the St. Louis Blues. But coach Joel Quenneville said Timonen be healthy and available to play during the postseason. The veteran defenseman is here for one reason: he wants to win a Cup. It’s the one thing that kept him motivated as he battled blood clots, which were discovered last summer and kept him off the ice until February.

Going back to Nashville, where he played for several seasons, is extra motivation.

“It gives me some extra energy, extra excitement,” he said. “I was there eight years and I was a captain one season. I had a good time there, played a lot of games there. Excitement is building and it’s a good sign. That’s what we do this sport for, and I’m sure everyone’s feeling the same way.”

For Timonen, this is it. Whether he wins that elusive Cup or not, he said he’s retiring at the end of this season. Richards has several years’ worth of hockey in front of him, although it’s likely one-and-done with the Blackhawks. The motivation’s there nonetheless. This is the fun part of the season, the time every player strives to get to.

[MORE HAWKS: Can Versteeg-Kane-Richards line work again?]

“You go through the process, go through the grind – especially since I signed two weeks after losing in the Cup Final. So you’re really hungry and want to get back into the battle,” Richards said. “Starting Wednesday night, that makes it worth the whole process. I have as good a chance as anyone with this team to win.”

The thought process behind overloading one line for Blackhawks

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The thought process behind overloading one line for Blackhawks

Depth scoring is key in today's NHL. If you can't roll four lines, it will eventually catch up to you over the course of an 82-games season and, if you get there, in the playoffs, where it will certainly be exposed.

But equally important in today's NHL is having one dependable line that can be a difference-maker on a nightly basis. We're seeing it more and more across the league where teams overload one line as a "try and stop us" mentality and it's working.

Colorado's top line of Landeskog-MacKinnon-Rantanen leads all trios with 19 even-strength goals this season. Three other lines are tied for second with 16 (Panarin-Dubois-Atkinson in Columbus, Skinner-Eichel-Pominville in Buffalo and Hyman-Tavares-Marner in Toronto).

Boston’s trio of Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak has controlled a ridiculous 60.1 percent of the even-strength shot attempts over the last three seasons and has a plus-20 goal differential, according to corsica.hockey. Over that same span, Nashville’s first line of Forsberg-Johansen-Arvidsson has an NHL-leading plus-29 goal differential.

All of these teams are seeing the benefits both in the short-term and long-term as it’s translating to overall team success. Rather than playing pick your poison, the Blackhawks are trying to do the same in putting Saad-Toews-Kane together (along with DeBrincat-Anisimov-Schmaltz), hoping to spark some steady offensive production.

"If we play them together, they've got to produce," coach Jeremy Colliton said. "But sometimes when you spread them out, no one produces. By loading them up, it puts some pressure on them, but hopefully they play so well that it doesn't matter who has the puck. They're making plays, they break through anyways, no matter who they're playing against. That's what we ask of them, and so far they're coming through for us."

Patrick Kane leads the Blackhawks with 12 goals. Jonathan Toews is second with 10. Brandon Saad has six (three in his past five games). In putting them on a line together, the goal for them is to continue scoring at a high rate, but doing so on a more consistent basis.

“We’re definitely hurting for offense right now, and that’s from top to bottom, the production has gone down,” Kane said. “You take it upon yourself as a player that’s supposed to score and produce, be able to do that every night. It would be nice to be able to do that more often.”

Hawks Talk Podcast: Are the Blackhawks relying too much on Corey Crawford?

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Hawks Talk Podcast: Are the Blackhawks relying too much on Corey Crawford?

On the latest Hawks Talk Podcast Adam Burish joins Pat Boyle to breakdown the Hawks’ recent four-game points streak, Corey Crawford's second star of the week honors and Brandon Saad’s best stretch of hockey since he returned to Chicago.

Burish talks about the criticism that Nick Schmaltz receives, the tweaks to the power play and whether he is impressed with how the team leaders have handled the coaching change.

Burish also shares his thoughts on Joel Quenneville attending Sunday night’s Bears game, Eddie Olczyk’s "One More Shift" and shares a couple off-ice stories about Patrick Kane.

:36 - What have you seen over this four-game points streak?

2:35 - Crow is second star of the week, are the Hawks relying too much on Crawford?

4:00 - Crow: no soft goals and rebound control

5:30 - Problems exiting zone cleanly

8:00 - Art of the hoister

9:40 - Best Saad has looked?

10:45 - Schmaltz inconsistencies

12:30 - New wrinkles on Power Play

16:30 - Sikura call up?

18:00 - Leaders handling coaching change

22:00 - What Q’s been up to

25:00 - Burish Beauty

26:00 - Edzo's One More Shift and Hockey Fight’s Cancer Night

28:30 - Kane’s 21st Birthday and off-ice 88 story

Listen to the full Hawks Talk Podcast right here: