Blackhawks

Blackhawks: Andrew Shaw raising his game as confidence continues to grow

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Blackhawks: Andrew Shaw raising his game as confidence continues to grow

When the Blackhawks skated out for pregame warm-ups on Sunday against San Jose, an important player on the top line was missing: Marian Hossa, who has arguably played his best hockey of the season over the last several games.

Hossa was ruled out with an upper-body injury — and is listed as day-to-day, although he'll miss Tuesday's contest against the Dallas Stars — which meant it was an opportunity for somebody to step up on a line that was dominant in the Blackhawks' last game at the United Center, a 4-0 win over Edmonton.

The decision was easy for coach Joel Quenneville, who rewarded Andrew Shaw and his solid play as of late by plugging him in with Jonathan Toews and Teuvo Teravainen.

It paid off.

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Approaching the midway mark of the third period with the Blackhawks trailing 3-2, Shaw took matters into his own hands by driving hard to the net, sticking with the play even though Sharks goaltender Martin Jones poke-checked his initial stuff attempt, and slapped home the game-tying goal that sparked a Chicago team that had hit snooze in the second period and woke up a sold-out United Center crowd of 22,096.

"It just shows that you've got to go to those dirty areas to find those goals," Shaw said following a 4-3 overtime win over the Sharks. "They're tough to come by in this league. You've got to work hard and get dirty once in a while."

It wasn't pretty, but it got the job done.

[MORE: Blackhawks' Jonathan Toews nets game-winning OT goal vs. Sharks]

Earlier this month, Shaw emphasized that the Blackhawks can't rely on the second line of Artemi Panarin, Artem Anisimov and Patrick Kane for scoring on a nightly basis.

In the last eight games, Shaw has six points — three goals and three assists. He had seven points total in his first 27 games of the season.

Shaw has done his part to back that up.

"He's been playing awesome lately," Toews said of Shaw, who also registered a team-high five hits. "He's hitting, he's taking hits, he wants the puck. He's playing smart all over the rink, he's creating. There's not much more you can say about Shawzy. He's playing great hockey. Of course, we miss Hoss in all facets of the game but Shawzy worked and scored a big goal for us tonight."

"He didn't want to do it with his two linemates but that's okay, whatever works," Toews joked.

[RELATED: Five Things from Blackhawks-Sharks: Crawford stays hot]

It's precisely why Quenneville said he "absolutely" gave Shaw the first crack on the first line. A never-quit attitude, sticking your nose into dirty areas, and getting rewarded for it.

"Way better," Quenneville responded when asked about Shaw's recent play. "Much improved. Very effective. Dangerous with the puck, off the rush, on the puck area, lot of energy as well. He's been bringing it."

Whether it's on the third line or the top line, Shaw is providing that much-needed energy the Blackhawks typically lack and search for during the dog days of the season.

Credit that to his growing confidence, which took a while to build after a shortened offseason.

"It's obviously a lot higher than it was than at the start of the year," Shaw said of his current confidence level. "I didn't start the way I wanted to. The guys in the room have been a huge help. They're always making sure you're well-appreciated and if you keep working hard and doing the little things right, they'll start going your way."

Four takeaways: Blackhawks on wrong side of history in loss to Lightning

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AP

Four takeaways: Blackhawks on wrong side of history in loss to Lightning

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 6-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning at the United Center on Sunday:

1. Blackhawks on wrong side of history 

Earlier this year the Blackhawks made history by appearing in five straight overtime games to start the season, something no team in NBA, NFL, NHL or MLB history has ever done.

But Sunday they found themselves on the wrong side of it after allowing 33 shots on goal in the second period alone. It tied a franchise high for most given up in a single period — March 4, 1941 vs. Boston — and is the most an NHL team has allowed since 1997-98 when shots by period became an official stat.

"It's pretty rare to be seeing that much work in a period," said Cam Ward, who had a season-high 49 saves. "But oh man, I don't even know what to say to be honest. It's tough. We know that we need to be better especially in our home building, too. And play with some pride and passion. Unfortunately, it seemed like it was lacking at times tonight. The old cliche you lose as a team and overall as a team we weren't good enough tonight."

Said coach Joel Quenneville: "That was a tough, tough period in all aspects. I don’t think we touched the puck at all and that was the part that was disturbing, against a good hockey team."

2. Alexandre Fortin is on the board

After thinking he scored his first career NHL goal in Columbus only to realize his shot went off Marcus Kruger's shin-pad, Fortin made up for it one night later and knows there wasn't any question about this one.

The 21-year-old undrafted forward, playing in his his fifth career game, sprung loose for a breakaway early in the first period and received a terrific stretch pass by Jan Rutta from his own goal line to Fortin, who slid it underneath Louis Domingue for his first in the big leagues. It's his second straight game appearing on the scoresheet after recording an assist against the Blue Jackets on Saturday.

"It's fun," Fortin said. "I think it would be a little bit more fun to get your first goal [while getting] two points for your team, but I think we ... just have to [turn the page to the] next chapter and just play and be ready for next game."

3. Brandon Saad's most noticeable game?

There weren't many positives to take away from this game, but Saad was certainly one of them. He had arguably his best game of the season, recording seven shot attempts (three on goal) with two of them hitting the post (one while the Blackhawks were shorthanded).

He was on the ice for 11 shot attempts for and five against at 5-on-5, which was by far the best on his team.

"He started OK and got way better," Quenneville said of Saad. "Had the puck way more, took it to the net a couple of times, shorthanded."

4. Special teams still a work in progress

The Blackhawks entered Sunday with the 29th-ranked power play and 25th-ranked penalty kill, and are still working to get out from the bottom of the league in both departments. In an effort to change up their fortunes with the man advantage, the Blackhawks split up their two units for more balance.

They had four power-play opportunities against Tampa Bay and cashed in on one of them, but it didn't matter as it was too little, too late in the third period — although they did become the first team to score a power-play goal against the Lightning this season (29 chances).

"Whether we're looking for balance or we're just looking for one to get hot, I think our power play has been ordinary so far," Quenneville said before the game. "We need it to be more of a threat."

Four more minor penalties were committed by the Blackhawks, giving them eight in the past two games. That's one way they can shore up the penalty kill, by cutting back on taking them.

Blackhawks tie franchise record for shots on goal allowed in one period

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks tie franchise record for shots on goal allowed in one period

Well, things could be going better for the Blackhawks during Sunday's game against the Lightning.

In the second period Sunday, the Blackhawks surrendered 33 shots on goal, tying a franchise record for most in a single period. The previous instance occurred March 4, 1941 against the Boston Bruins, a game that the Blackhawks lost 3-2.

While the Blackhawks tied a franchise record for shots on goal allowed, they actually set an NHL record at the same time. The NHL did not begin recording shots on goal as an "official" statistic until the 1997-98 season.

Consequentially, Sunday's 33 shots on goal allowed in the second period is the "official" record, even though the Blackhawks accomplished the "feat" nearly 80 years ago. Confusing, huh? 

Unfortunately for the Blackhawks, they also surrendered three goals and scored zero in addition to the plethora of shots on goal allowed. They recorded just six shots on goal in the second period themselves, trailing 4-1 by the time the third period started.