Blackhawks cognizant of mumps' return to NHL

Blackhawks cognizant of mumps' return to NHL

It's February. While the weather's been unusually nice there are a few other things synonymous with this time of year, including illness. The Blackhawks have encountered some of that right now. Fortunately for them, however, it's not the mumps that are once again hitting other NHL locker rooms.

The Minnesota Wild, who played the Blackhawks before heading into their bye, came out of their break with several players diagnosed with the mumps. It's the second time in three seasons the Wild have dealt with the illness. The Vancouver Canucks also came out of their bye with several players affected by the mumps. The Blackhawks are taking the necessary precautions to maintain health but aren't too concerned about it affecting them.

"I mean, it's that season where people get the flu, people get sick. You have to take care of yourself, get your sleep, get your rest, all the little things a doctor would tell you to do," Jonathan Toews said. "You make sure you're healthy and your immune system's strong. What else can do you? Knock on wood we squeak by with this whole deal again." 

The mumps, which are highly contagious, can be spread in various ways, including by sneezing or coughing, using the same cutlery/plates as an infected person or sharing food or drink with an infected person according to Medical News Today. Considering that and other causes, it's no surprise that it can go through a locker room fast.

"It's weird it seems to happen in the NHL and not elsewhere," Trevor van Riemsdyk said. "Obviously you're aware of all that stuff but we do a good job of doing the precautionary measures. It's tough to prevent. You can pass through physical contact, stuff like that, but with everything else we do a good job of taking care of ourselves. We're doing our due diligence on what we can control."

[MORE: Niklas Hjalmarsson out, Scott Darling starts vs. Penguins]

Asked if the Blackhawks got the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine after the outbreak two seasons ago, coach Joel Quenneville wasn't sure. He reiterated what others said about taking the necessary steps to stay healthy.

"I think our organization, staff, medical team, trainers are well aware when there's sickness internally, they're right on top of it," he said. "We're probably the only team in the league that travels with a doctor on the road full time. Whether it's flus, colds, mumps or what have you, [being] diligent on that is something the guys have done a really good job with; trying to prevent an epidemic where you have half a team out at the same time."

The Blackhawks have been hit by some bug recently. Corey Crawford and Jordin Tootoo returned to practice on Tuesday after dealing with their respective illnesses. The mumps, however, have returned to the NHL. The Blackhawks will do what they can to make sure they're not the next team battling them.

"You hear that word and you might get a little scared but at the same time we've had guys sick in here [with other things] as well. Throughout the whole year you try to take care of yourself, keep yourself fresh. It's easier said than done sometimes, and guys are eventually going to get sick," Patrick Kane said. "But at this time of year you really want to be cautious."

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Blackhawks offense finally opens things up as Patrick Kane starts streaking

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Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Blackhawks offense finally opens things up as Patrick Kane starts streaking

On the latest Blackhawks Talk Podcast, Pat Boyle and Charlie Roumeliotis break down the changes made to the Hawks defensive zone coverage (1:50) and Patrick Kane’s current points streak (7:30). They also discuss how most of the players that have been scratched recently have had bounce-back efforts (11:20), as well as the improved play of Erik Gustafsson (18:12) and both special teams units (20:16). Plus, the debut of “Checkpoint Charlie," where Charlie gives us a taste of life on the road and his encounter with Chris Rock’s brother (29:00).

Listen here or in the embedded player below. 


Blackhawks Talk Podcast


Jeremy Colliton explains schematic change and why Blackhawks made it

Jeremy Colliton explains schematic change and why Blackhawks made it

The Blackhawks made a schematic change after their four-game road trip and they've seen the benefits of it immediately. They're 2-0-1 in their past three games and have scored 12 goals over that stretch.

We broke down on Monday what changes were made systematically and how it has freed up the offense, but head coach Jeremy Colliton elaborated on it Tuesday and explained the reasoning behind the decision.

"All it is is, our weak side forward, we pushed him up higher in defensive zone coverage," Colliton said. "Before, we had four low a lot of times, to try and overload in certain situations. That's good, it gets you out of D-zone, but the problem is when you win the puck back, a lot of times you're very close together and it's harder to make clean plays, it's harder to exit with space to make plays. So we were having trouble entering the zone.

"There's been a lot of talk about how we have been dumping too many pucks in. Well, we're not trying to dump the puck in, but when you're attacking and you don't have numbers, you don't have space in behind, you have to, you're forced too. I think we're doing a much better job of getting from D-zone clean, because we have a forward a little bit higher, there's a little more space, it happens quicker. And then I think we've done a good job with the low three [of] someone jumping by and then we can create a little bit more space off the rush and we don't have to chip it in. We can enter clean, make some plays and I think the guys are doing very well."

Patrick Kane, who has erupted for seven points (four goals, three assists) in the past three games since the change, sees the change opening up more opportunities for the Blackhawks on offense.

"I think a lot of us probably stressed that there wasn't as much flow to it, for whatever reason that was," Kane said. "They made a change and all of a sudden it seems like we have more options coming out of our end, we have more motion, more speed coming out of our end, which is always a good thing."

The Blackhawks' dump-in rate, as Colliton noted, has been much higher this season and it’s noteworthy because they generated a lot of their offense off the rush last season from mid-December and on. But what we didn’t know was the exact reason why the Blackhawks altered the way they entered the offensive zone.

Aside from the obvious answer of cutting down on neutral zone turnovers and limiting the amount of odd-man rushes against, Colliton notes the Blackhawks were forced to dump it in more because they weren’t entering the zone with numbers. The defensive scheme didn’t really allow them to.

But with the recent fundamental change, the Blackhawks have more options to exit their own zone cleanly, pick up speed through the neutral zone and do what they do best: by carrying the puck in and having more freedom to create offense. It’s something the coaching staff and players discussed with each other, and the consensus is it will maximize the talent of this group.

"We kind of felt it was time," Colliton said. "I mean, we're always talking with them for sure and guys, they want to score more. They want to produce, guys want to make plays. And so we're just trying to find the balance. We want to continue to work on being good defensively, but we've got to score more than them. I think we can still hold onto those defensive gains we've made and score more goals."

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