Blackhawks can't solve Cam Ward, fall to Hurricanes

Blackhawks can't solve Cam Ward, fall to Hurricanes

RALEIGH, N.C. – That the Blackhawks were involved in a close game was nothing new.

This is typical for them, and has been for some time. For a good part of this season they’ve been winning these games. Lately, however, they’ve struggled. Coming off a come-from-behind victory in Nashville, the Blackhawks were looking to close out 2016 with a victory in Carolina.

Instead they made some early mistakes, couldn’t best a hot goaltender and could be down another player for a few weeks.

Michal Kempny scored his first career NHL goal and Vinnie Hinostroza scored his fourth of the season. But Carolina scored twice in 65 seconds and Cam Ward was stellar in the Hurricanes 3-2 victory over the Blackhawks on Friday night. The Blackhawks went 1-3-1 in their last five games of 2016. They still lead the Western Conference by one point over the Minnesota Wild, who are on a 12-game winning streak.

And then there’s Marcus Kruger, who could be out a few weeks with an upper-body injury sustained in the second period.

“He’s going to miss some time,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “We’ll say week-to-week but we don’t know the extent [of the injury] right now.”

As for the game, it was an entertaining few opening minutes before the Blackhawks lapsed into a familiar first-period pattern of getting outshot (16-8) and falling behind (2-1). Carolina scored twice in 65 seconds, erasing the 1-0 lead Kempny gave them with his laser from the blue line.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

“I liked the play we made on our goal and they made a couple of plays around our net,” Quenneville said of Carolina’s two quick goals, both coming on rebounds. “We were a little sloppy and we don’t give up those kind of goals.”

Toews, who finished with two points, said the Blackhawks have to stop their first-period trend.

“It’s something we have to just keep trying to hammer home, that we have to start trying to take over games right away,” he said. “Obviously we’re not going to win them in the first period but we have to come out flying and really try and send that message and try and play ahead for once and see how that works out for us.”

The Hurricanes were up 3-1 when a Jonathan Toews shot went off Hinostroza’s leg and past Ward. Despite sustained zone time late in the third period, the Blackhawks couldn’t get the equalizer.

“You never assume [you’ll come back]. You just want to keep playing and build off it,” Hinostroza said. “We had a couple of good looks after that and kept coming. Unfortunately, we didn’t score.”

The Blackhawks have once again played in a lot of close games this season. They’ve won a good deal of them but lately, the trend has gone in the wrong direction. 

“We did some decent things tonight," Quenneville said. "The game against Colorado was a point, so every game’s different. Every game’s been close, like this, all year long. We’ve been fortunate to win some of these games that went like that. But all three goals [tonight] could have been prevented.”

Andrew Shaw on his career season in Montreal and adding toughness to Blackhawks

Andrew Shaw on his career season in Montreal and adding toughness to Blackhawks

Andrew Shaw had a terrific 2018-19 season with the Montreal Canadiens. He set a career high with 47 points (19 goals, 28 assists) despite missing 19 games due to injuries and averaged 15:55 of ice time, which was the highest of his NHL career.

When asked to explain why he believes he had the best offensive output of his career, Shaw pointed to one thing.

“Honestly I just think it was the hunger for the game," Shaw said in an interview with NBC Sports Chicago. "I missed nine months with knee surgery and concussions. I battled back to get back to where I needed to be and just started having fun again. Maybe I’m bigger, stronger, older. I think I’ve been in situations in games so many times that you’re better at reacting to them so I think that maybe that has a little bit to do with it.”

The Blackhawks reacquired Shaw because they've lacked some jam in their game over the past couple seasons. And looking at the other moves GM Stan Bowman has made this summer, it's clear that's an area they prioritized.

Shaw noticed it too and he's excited to see how it'll all come together this coming season.

“I still have to be me," Shaw said. "I still have to go out there and work and compete and bring the energy I’ve always brought. I think it’s the intensity and the love of the game that pushes me to do that so I think it’s something that others feed off of. With a couple other guys they brought in, too, we got a little bit more grit, a little bit more defensive game. I think it’s going to be a really good year.”

Check out the interview in the video above.

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Brian Campbell on Adam Boqvist's progression and preaching patience in his development

Brian Campbell on Adam Boqvist's progression and preaching patience in his development

The breakout star of Blackhawks development camp in July was undoubtedly Adam Boqvist, who was taken No. 8 overall in 2018. It was evident how much his game has grown over the past year.

Former Blackhawks defenseman — and now player development coach — Brian Campbell worked closely with Boqvist this past season and raved about the steps he took with the London Knights in the OHL. But Campbell is also preaching patience in Boqvist's development. Boqvist just turned 19 on Thursday, and it's important to let him develop at his own pace.

“Yeah, I was impressed," Campbell said in an interview with NBC Sports Chicago. "Obviously, he’s come a long way in a year from last development camp. There’s no pressure being put on him. He’ll develop at his time. If he pushes for a spot, great, but I just don’t want people to get away. There’s a lot to keep learning and he wants to learn, which is the greatest thing. His teammates love him: great thing. He wants to do extra and learn the game: great thing. He is preparing himself days before, even in development camp, he’s preparing himself days before. So all great things and he’s on the right path.

"Hopefully that happens and maybe it does happen but if it doesn’t then that’s not the case and he keeps getting better and wants to keep getting better. Definitely, we know his skill level is there and I think he’s taken a huge step in the last year in preparing himself and knowing how to prepare as a pro player now. There’s a lot of great things there, and hopefully he does do that, but for me, I just don’t want to put too much on him right now. He’s turning 19 soon so he’s still a really young kid and it’s a tough position to play at a pro level. Believe me, I’m smiling, but I just don’t want to force the issue too much. Hopefully he can do some great things, but if he doesn’t, then that’s OK too.”