Blackhawks

Blackhawks excited to reunite with rivals

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Blackhawks excited to reunite with rivals

Dave Bolland walked into the Blackhawks locker room with a grin on his face. Its a game against Vancouver tonight, a date that Bolland probably circled on the calendar.

I love this day. I think the guys always love this day, too, Bolland said. Were playing Vancouver, its a great rivalry and its going to be a hard, tough game.

The Blackhawks will be without Duncan Keith (left hand) again tonight, but that wont quell the buzz that always surrounds a Blackhawks-Canucks tilt. Its a rivalry that was born in the playoffs and bolstered every time they meet, be it regular- or postseason.

There are some games over an 82-game schedule that just feel like another game. This is the exact opposite of that, captain Jonathan Toews said. Ive said it multiple times. Theres a lot of motivation in a game like this.

Coach Joel Quenneville said the Blackhawks lineup will be comparable to what it was against the Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning. The Canucks, meanwhile, will be without Sami Salo (groin) and Alex Burrows (back) tonight. Aaron Rome (finger) is a game-time decision.

The motivation for the Blackhawks is to keep doing what they have been over the first month of the season. The Blackhawks have been rolling right along, getting points in all but two games. But with the Canucks, theres always that extra incentive, whether youve been with the Blackhawks for years or you just got here.

People around the league get the sentiment, Toews said. The new guys have done a great job of just coming in here and playing and doing their job and being a part of this team. Im sure everyone is very aware of the rivalry between the two and were prepared to play our best game.

For the Canucks, its a little different right now. They bested the Blackhawks in seven games last season but theyre not thinking too much about that right now. The Canucks have struggled out of the gate and have lost four of their last six. So its not so much about beating Chicago as it is getting points.

(The Game 7 victory) seems like a long time ago now, Canucks defenseman Kevin Bieksa said. It was a really good game at the time, one of the biggest arguably in franchise history. It felt like we won the Cup after we won that game. But thats in the past now. Its not going to help us tonight.

What we learned about Blackhawks during five-game road trip

What we learned about Blackhawks during five-game road trip

"Every game now is a playoff game, pretty much. We've got to approach it like it's life or death."

Those were the words of Drake Caggiula and that was the mindset for the Blackhawks going into their five-game road trip in Western Canada, which was easily their most important swing of the season to date, given the circumstances. All five teams were ahead of them in the Western Conference standings, the Blackhawks were knocking on the door of a playoff spot and they had a chance to prove themselves ahead of the Feb. 24 trade deadline.

The Blackhawks finished the trip with a 1-4-0 record, picking up only two out of a possible 10 points. They ended the weekend sitting six points out of the final wild card spot with two games in hand but four teams to jump. It's not impossible to get back in the race, but the cards are certainly stacked against them.

So what did we learn about this team?

The easy narrative would be to say the Blackhawks shrunk in games that had playoff-type implications, but that‘s just not true. They simply failed to capitalize on their opportunities, and they had plenty of them.

In Game 1 against Winnipeg, the Blackhawks held a 2-0 lead before allowing a shorthanded goal in the second period that was the first of five unanswered for the Jets, who went on to win 5-2. The Blackhawks went 0-for-3 on the power play and were outscored (1-0), outshot (3-2) and out-chanced (4-2) during those three opportunities. That was their downfall.

In Game 2 against Edmonton, the Blackhawks held a pair of one-goal leads — 2-1 in the first period and 3-2 in the second period — but couldn’t close the deal despite the Oilers playing without the NHL's best player in Connor McDavid. Again, a huge missed opportunity that was there for the taking.

In Game 3 against Vancouver, the Blackhawks peppered a season-high 49 shots on goal on Jacob Markstrom, 25 of which came from high-danger areas, but couldn't crack the code. It was one of their most dominating performances of the season from start to finish and yet they weren't rewarded for it.

In Game 4 against Calgary, the market quickly corrected itself when the Blackhawks scored a season-high eight goals on 28 shots in an 8-4 win over the Flames. It’s the exact response they were looking for, with all four lines contributing on the scoresheet.

In Game 5 against Winnipeg, the Blackhawks scored the first goal, then fell behind 2-1 before evening things up at 2-2 in the final minute of the second period. The game was up for grabs. But the Jets scored 1:36 into the third period after a shot from the point deflected off Alex DeBrincat’s stick and in, and it turned out to be the game-winning goal.

Look, there are no moral victories at this time of year. An ugly win beats the heck out of a pretty loss.

If the power play doesn't go 0-for-14, we might be having a different discussion because it had a chance to change the complexion of each game except the last one — because, well, there were no penalties called on either side, which was the first time that's happened in an NHL game this season.

But the Blackhawks have no margin for error and they're learning that the hard way.

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3 Takeaways: Blackhawks have hole to climb out of after road trip

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USA TODAY

3 Takeaways: Blackhawks have hole to climb out of after road trip

Patrick Kane had a goal and an assist, but the Blackhawks lost 3-2 to the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday to close out their five-game road trip. Here are three takeaways:

Bad trip

After losing in Winnipeg, the Blackhawks finished their five-game road trip with a 1-4-0 record. They began the trip last Sunday in Winnipeg with a 5-2 loss. 

Sunday's game against the Jets had flashes of good, but it was mostly strong plays from the go-to guys like Kane and Jonathan Toews. All three Jets' goals came from deflections off shots from the point. Overall, the effort and productivity paled in comparison to the lone victory of the trip, Saturday's 8-4 win over the Flames in Calgary on Saturday. 

The Blackhawks, six points out of the second wild card spot, will return home and face the New York Rangers at the United Center on Wednesday. They have 23 regular season games remaining. 

Kane keeps climbing 

With a two-point outing in Winnipeg, Kane tied former Blackhawk Steve Larmer for 87th on the NHL all-time points list with 1,012. 

"Showtime" set up Ryan Carpenter for the first goal of the game at 15:44 of the first period by backhanding a pass towards the front of the net for the crashing Carpenter to bury.

Kane scored with less than a minute remaining in the second period to tie it 2-2 off a three-way passing play with Jonathan Toews and Dominik Kubalik. Kane has 27 points (seven goals, 20 assists) in his past 18 games. 

With the primary assist on Kane's goal, Toews earned his sixth point (two goals, four assists) of the road trip. 

0.0

Sunday's Blackhawks-Jets game was the only NHL contest this season to have zero penalties. This was good news for Toews, who had five minor penalties over the prior four games. 

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