Blackhawks close out homestand with win over struggling Stars

Blackhawks close out homestand with win over struggling Stars

When you’re missing key guys from your lineup, sometimes you have to simplify.

You have to be smart. You have to take advantage of what opportunities you do get and you have to quell your opponent’s chances as much as possible. The Blackhawks did a pretty good job in all of those categories on Sunday night.

Marian Hossa scored his 15th goal of the season and Scott Darling stopped 23 of 24 as the Blackhawks beat the Dallas Stars 3-1. The Blackhawks now have 40 points, which keeps them atop the Western Conference standings.

Artem Anisimov scored his 12th goal of the season and Artemi Panarin added his 11th, a power-play goal in the third. Ryan Hartman had an assist – he probably should have had a second – and played a strong all-around game.

The Blackhawks played their ninth game without captain Jonathan Toews, who skated on Sunday and hopes to be on the team’s upcoming trip to New York. They’re now 5-2-2 in his absence. Brent Seabrook missed his second consecutive game and Corey Crawford has now missed five in a row.

With that many top guys out, the Blackhawks have needed everyone to do a little more. On Sunday, everyone did.

“Overall our whole team game, I really liked tonight,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “We did some good things technically and defensively. We managed the puck a little better and scored some timely goals as well. We talk about everybody and everybody contributed in a lot of ways. Hoss continues to score some big and timely goals for us. But I don’t think we gave up much tonight and that’s why we’ve been having some success here.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

No, the Blackhawks didn’t give up much quality to the Stars, whose lone goal came from Devin Shore in the second period. Sure, the Stars have been decimated by injuries but they still have their threats, from Jamie Benn to Jason Spezza to Tyler Seguin. The Blackhawks held them in check, however, and Darling stopped whatever did get through.

“That's a good, high-powered hockey team over there and we did a really good job defensively tonight,” Darling said. “[They] helped me out big time.”

The Blackhawks got the necessary offense, too. Hossa came through once again, tying the game just 52 seconds after Shore had given the Stars the lead in the second period.

“Well, what can I say? I tried to shoot when I had a good opportunity,” said Hossa, who was denied his 15th due to an offside call on Friday. “Tonight, out of nothing, I tried to release it and I got one of those lucky ones.”

Panarin’s was a big one, a scorcher that gave the Blackhawks a two-goal cushion in the third period. After that the defense kept the Stars from making any serious threats.

The Blackhawks may be on the mend, as Toews and Seabrook could be heading to New York. But in their absence the Blackhawks have still kept gaining points. They’re also gaining confidence in their team game, which is a good sign no matter who’s in or out of the lineup.

“Well, this was definitely a good test of what the team can do without key players,” Hossa said “It’s hard to replace guys like that, all three of them, but I think with the little things, guys doing baby steps, those guys get opportunities to play more and they’re taking advantage of it. That’s good for the future, when everybody’s going to be back.”

How Blackhawks are staying positive and adapting to Jeremy Colliton’s system


How Blackhawks are staying positive and adapting to Jeremy Colliton’s system

It's been a challenging week for Jeremy Colliton. He's winless in his first three games (0-2-1) as an NHL head coach, but has taken over behind the bench for a Blackhawks team that hasn't won since Oct. 25.

There hasn't been a winning feeling in the locker room in almost three weeks, which has certainly been difficult for a rookie coach as he tries to reestablish a winning culture while implementing details of his system on the fly. But they're seeing some progress.

"I had a really good feeling after the game," Colliton said on Tuesday regarding the 3-2 overtime loss to the Carolina Hurricanes. "I thought we played pretty well. Of course, disappointed we didn't get rewarded. This team needs some positive reinforcement with points. We can tell them, 'Hey, we're getting better guys,' and showing them the positive progression, but in the end, it's about results and we want to get them. That's going to be the final reminder that we're on the right track.

"When you're in a losing streak, it's hard to get out of it. You need to play really, really well. You need a couple breaks, but you often don't get them. You've got to make your own breaks. And we're close. Once we break through, that tide will turn and we can go on a run."

It's easy to squeeze the sticks a little harder when a losing streak is nearing the double digits, but the Blackhawks haven't shown any signs of that. There isn't any boiling frustration because they know they're close and can give more.

"I know we've got a couple losses, but just trying to get better every day," Brandon Saad said. "He's our new coach. We want to commit to his system and buy into his play. Once we get that going, we're going to have some success. Early on we had a few losses, but it's about keeping that confidence and staying positive. We've got good things going forward.

"It's fun coming to the rink learning every day, talking with him. He's got his knacks and every coach wants you to play a certain way and play within a certain system. For us it's just getting familiarized with that and buying into the system. It's always more fun winning. I think everyone has that hunger and compete level every day, trying to get back on the winning side of things."

A week into Colliton's tenure in Chicago, the Blackhawks are getting more and more comfortable with how he wants them to play the more reps they get. But it's still an adjustment.

"There's definitely some differences and some things we're trying to change and you're trying to do it on the fly," Patrick Kane said. "It's not the easiest thing when you're doing it in the NHL, but we played pretty well [on Monday] and probably could've had a better result, could've had some more goals, had some chances that we didn't really capitalize on. Hopefully it's all coming together here.

"I know we're in a little bit of a skid, but it's one of those things where we want to end it, we want to get some momentum on our side and then I think everyone will start feeling comfortable with where we're at. But he's implemented some things that I think are really going to help us."

It's difficult to make up ground in the Central Division and Western Conference as a whole, but there's still more than 75 percent of the season to go. That doesn't mean they can afford to take their time in snapping out of this eight-game losing streak (0-6-2), but there is time to get it right and go on a run to climb back into the playoff race.

They're not focused on the bigger picture right now though. It starts with winning one game, and as long as the Blackhawks continue to have the right mindset, it will get turned around sooner than later.

"We've got to keep the belief," Colliton said. "In my view, the only thing that gets in the way from us turning the ship around and having a lot of success is if there's doubt in what we're doing, if guys stop believing we're on the right track. So that's our job of the staff and leadership group to make sure we continue to believe we're on the right path. All we've got to do is show them the clips, show them the video. It's pretty clear. We will get it going here."

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.