Blackhawks continue prepping for 3-on-3 OT


Blackhawks continue prepping for 3-on-3 OT

Coach Joel Quenneville was giving his assessment of 3-on-3 so far this preseason, although some outings haven’t allotted him a good look.

“The other night the game ended so quickly I couldn’t get a good read on it,” he said about 3-on-3 vs. St. Louis on Saturday, which ended a minute into overtime.

The Blackhawks are like every other team in the NHL this preseason, acclimating themselves to 3-on-3 before it starts to count for a point during the regular season. The league implemented it in the hopes of reducing the number of shootouts.

Judging by preseason results, it’s having the desired effect. According to the league, of 17 necessary 3-on-3 overtimes thus far, 13 have been decided in that overtime.

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In the Blackhawks’ first 3-on-3 vs. Detroit, Trevor Daley scored off a 3-on-1 just one minute, 40 seconds into it. The second one was planned regardless of the score at the end of regulation – the Blackhawks had already won 3-1 – and lasted just 60 seconds.

A quick poll of fellow hockey writers shows most 3-on-3 sessions – be it those the league stipulated to have 3-on-3 regardless or ones necessitated by a tie – are ending quickly. And by quickly, we mean finishing in two minutes or less.

Quenneville said there are so many factors that will go into capitalizing on a 3-on-3.

“Changes are a big part of it and puck possession’s key. How do you play without the puck and you’re incorporating goaltending with it. There are a lot of intangibles,” said Quenneville. “Groups of three: two forwards and a [defenseman], two Ds and a forward or three forwards? There are a lot of options you can sort out. The personnel going into games will dictate that but technically we need some rules of thumb of how you play certain situations, particularly in your own end without [the puck.]”

Marian Hossa said he sees the opportunistic angle as well as the concerns of it.

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“There’s so much ice there and it could be a lot of fun. But also defensively it’s not easy to contain,” he said. “Because when you have big, skilled players coming against you and you lose half a step, there’s a scoring chance every time.”

It’s easy to believe the open ice means fire away from the offensive standpoint. But there’s danger in that, too. If a rebound gets away from the team on the attack, things could quickly go the other way. 

“Yeah, that’s something you have to watch out for,” Daley said. “The shooter has to protect everyone else. It’ll be interesting to see how it turns out.”

While goalies have that much more pressure on them, Quenneville said they could also be the catalyst for starting their team’s offensive push.

“I think that’ll be exactly what will happen: you’ll be in the offensive zone and you might want to keep the puck, send it down and change, come back and here we go again,” Quenneville said. “Changes are important. Getting fresh guys out there will be critical as well – how do you get the change when you’re tired and in your own end? But I think the goaltender and how he handles it, he could be one more guy who is part of the attack.”

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Corey Crawford’s OK with possibly starting things off with a pass?

“I don’t know. I don’t want to be trying too much. If there’s an opportunity I’ll take it,” Crawford said with a smile. “I have to stop the puck first.”

There is going to be a lot of trial and error with the 3-on-3, especially in the early going. And don’t be surprised if games end shortly after that overtime begins, at least until teams become more comfortable with the new format.

Is 3-on-3 a good thing? Will it be the scorer’s dream? Will it be every goaltender’s worst nightmare? Those questions will be answered as the season progresses. It will definitely be entertaining. And right now, it looks to be serving its original purpose.

“For the people, it’ll be real interesting and a lot of goals,” Hossa said. “And you probably won’t see as many shootouts.”

Report: Tommy Hawk attacked at the United Center


Report: Tommy Hawk attacked at the United Center

According to a report from the Chicago Sun-Times, the Blackhawks organization dealt with a disturbance off the ice during their 4-3 loss on Friday night to the Winnipeg Jets.

According to authorities, mascot ‘Tommy Hawk’ was attacked by a male fan around 11:15 PM on the United Center concourse.

A video of the incident was spreading on social media and the Chicago Police have since confirmed the disturbance.

No one is in custody as of Saturday evening, though there is a physical description of the alleged attacker.  

A Blackhawks spokesman gave this statement:

We are gathering the facts and will have no further comment at this time, pending our investigation.

Four takeaways: Jets win in overtime, but Blackhawks building momentum

Four takeaways: Jets win in overtime, but Blackhawks building momentum

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 4-3 overtime loss to the Winnipeg Jets at the United Center on Friday:

1. Top guns lead the charge for Jets

The Jets are one of the best teams in the NHL because they're absolutely loaded up front and get their scoring from everywhere. The Blackhawks know this of their Central Division foes and after seeing them for the third time in two weeks.

On Nov. 29, it was Nikolaj Ehlers who had a hat trick. On Tuesday, Kyle Connor had a two-goal night. On Friday, it was Mark Scheifele (two goals, one assist) and Blake Wheeler (three assists) leading the way for the Jets with three-point efforts. The top guys have been a thorn in the Blackhawks' side this season, with Scheifele scoring the game-winner 50 seconds into overtime for their third victory against Chicago in 15 days.

"You can play really well against them for 58 minutes, but it only takes just an instant and then it’s in the back of your net," coach Jeremy Colliton said. "That’s something that we gotta learn, to play against those guys and in those situations if you’re going to be able to go head-to-head. A lot of it we were really good, we had let downs and it made it tough for us. But we did a lot of good things."

2. Last-minute goals

In all three periods, there were last-minute goals that changed the flow of the game. 

After the Jets took a 1-0 lead in the first period, Jonathan Toews responded for the Blackhawks with 10.2 seconds left to even it at 1-1. In the second, Mathieu Perreault scored on a breakaway coming out of the penalty box with 18 seconds remaining to put the Jets back in front 3-2. And then in the third, Erik Gustafsson tied it at 3-3 with 7.5 left to force overtime. 

"It's tough after a loss in overtime, but it felt good," said Gustafsson, who missed the previous two games with an illness. "I didn't know it was 7 seconds left, but it was good to see it go in. ... It was good to be back here with the team, too. I wasn't in the last game. We came out hard the first period and I think we played a solid 60 minutes. Tough break in the overtime."

3. Captain Consistency

Toews usually produces on the scoresheet in spurts. Historically, he'll go through stretches where his offense dries up for several games in a row. And then he'll follow that up by getting really hot. This season has been different.

The Blackhawks captain's longest point drought this year is three games. After scoring two more goals, his season total is up to 16 through 34 games, taking over the team lead from Patrick Kane. He had 20 goals in 74 games last season, showing just how far he's come from a year ago.

Toews is on pace to finish with a career-high 39 goals — his current personal best is 34, set in 2008-09. The Blackhawks need him to continue producing at that rate, and there's no reason he can't.

"Our line played well and created a lot of chances," Toews said. "If it's me scoring or [Dominik Kahun] or [Brandon Saad], it doesn't really matter. As long as we're making plays when we've got the puck out there, we're happy about that."

4. Jets power play stays hot

The best advice when you play the Jets: Stay out of the penalty box. Because they'll make you pay.

Entering Friday, they had the top-ranked power play with a 30.4 percent success rate. The Blackhawks gave them three opportunities and they cashed in on one, giving them eight power-play goals on 17 attempts in their past four games (47.1 percent conversation rate). They also improved to 5-for-11 (45.5 percent) in three games against the Blackhawks.

To the Blackhawks' credit, they killed off two key penalties in the third period before the first TV timeout and it allowed them to keep it a one-goal game and ultimately force overtime by scoring the next goal.

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