Blackhawks go silent in shutout loss to Kings


Blackhawks go silent in shutout loss to Kings

Eighteen seconds. It was a time span the Blackhawks would like to replay, forget, something.

Because in 18 seconds the Los Angeles Kings took a lead their goaltender made sure the Blackhawks wouldn’t get near challenging.

Kris Versteeg had a goal and an assist against his former team and Jonathan Quick stopped all 32 shots he saw as the Los Angeles Kings beat the Blackhawks 5-0 on Monday night. The Blackhawks, who have won just one of their last five games (1-3-1), remain in third place in the Central Division with 88 points. The first-place Dallas Stars (91 points) were idle and the second-place St. Louis Blues (also 91 points) lost to the Calgary Flames.

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Quick was big early when the Blackhawks got nine shots on their first two power plays. He stayed strong throughout, and the Kings gave him plenty of offense on the other side.

Corey Crawford allowed five goals on 25 shots.

The Blackhawks did exactly what they wanted to in those first three minutes, firing five shots on their first power play. But just 17 seconds after that power play ended, Versteeg scored his first goal since being traded to the Kings; just 18 seconds after that, Milan Lucic’s goal made it 2-0.

Those few seconds, and the mistakes that occurred on them, hurt.

“Yeah, certainly didn’t help,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “I liked the start, we collided with each other off the faceoff, fortunate bounce off two skates right to Steeger, and then the next one we give them a semi odd-man break, we’re down 2-0 right out of the gate. That’s exactly how you don’t want to begin a game. We couldn’t get one to get energy going.”

The Blackhawks weren’t good at either end of the ice in this one. They struggled to do anything offensively. Part of that was Quick. Part of that is the Blackhawks still not finding enough production from other lines, especially now that the second line of Artemi Panarin, Artem Anisimov and Patrick Kane have gone through a cool streak.

“Couple quick goals we give up and after that everything snowballs in the wrong direction for us,” Jonathan Toews said. “We couldn’t help our goaltender. Crow’s been unreal for us all year and these two games we’ve kind of hung him out to try. Collectively as a team, everyone’s to blame. At the end of the day, tough couple of games.”

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The Blackhawks have had a tough time finding consistency for some time now. They went on a 12-game winning streak in late December/January. They’re 9-10-2 since. That’s a tough pill to swallow for a team looking to stay atop the Central Division.

“We’ve had a tougher schedule, we’ve had some tough games. During this stretch our penalty killing hasn’t been great. Some nights it could’ve won us some games, getting the job done,” Quenneville said. “But that [winning streak] was a stretch where we made a lot of hay and put ourselves in a great spot. Now we’re not taking advantage of it, which is disappointing.”

The Blackhawks are still in the Central Division title hunt, despite these games. Still, they realize they need to be playing better hockey, and they need to start playing it now.

“You go in stretches where you win 12 in a row and we have this stretch now. We obviously want to shore that up before the playoffs and make sure we’re going in feeling consistent about our game,” Kane said. “We’ve been in a few of these games where they’ve been blowouts and we’ve been on the wrong side of them. We need to get rid of that, too.”

Wake-up call? Brandon Saad 'surprised' about possibility of being a healthy scratch


Wake-up call? Brandon Saad 'surprised' about possibility of being a healthy scratch

Brandon Saad played a majority of last season on the first line, started this season on the second to change things up, got demoted to the fourth by the fifth game, and could find himself out of the lineup in the sixth.

Before the Blackhawks hit the ice for practice on Monday, the 25-year-old winger found a white jersey hanging in his stall. That's usually reserved for players who are injured — Andreas Martinsen (back) was the only other player wearing one — or players who are on the outside looking in, which appears to be Saad right now considering he was not part of the four-line rotation.

"I don't think anyone wants to be wearing white around here," he said. "But it is what it is and there's nothing you can do but keep trying to improve. It's their job to make the call to put the best team out there to win hockey games."

Known for being even-keeled through the ups and downs, Saad expressed disappointment about the possibility of being a healthy scratch on Thursday against the Arizona Coyotes. He didn't exactly show that emotion following his demotion to the fourth line, perhaps out of respect to the players he was playing with by noting how it brings balance.

But he did on Monday, and it was the first time we've really seen some sort of emotion out of him.

"Everyone makes mistakes and things aren't always going to go your way but to be out of the lineup, a little surprised today," Saad said. "But it is what it is. ... No one wants to be out of the lineup. That's never fun regardless of who you are."

When asked to pinpoint what's gone wrong, Saad said he wasn't the right person to ask.

"I think you got to ask him that," he said, referring to Joel Quenneville and the coaching staff. "It's his calls. For me, you can talk pros and cons as much as you want but just trying to go out there and compete and win hockey games. We've won a few here, I know every game has gone to overtime so they've been close. Nothing was said to me about lineup change or anything like that. You just come in and you see your jersey and you go out there and you play."

So Quenneville was asked.

"Just expect more," he said. "That's the situation."

Is his mindset in the right place?

"I think he's fine," Quenneville said. "His mindset is what it is. Whether it's urgency or passion, coming up with loose pucks in those areas is going to be the difference."

The Blackhawks sending a message shouldn't only be directed at Saad. It also serves as a reminder to his teammates and is important to note for the younger guys about earning your ice time.

"I don't really know where the coaches are coming from so I'm not going to comment on that," Jonathan Toews said respectfully. "But [Saad] has been doing some good things and I think it's good for all of us to know what's going on there because if [Saad] can get his ice time taken away, then so can a lot of guys, myself included. So we all want to play well and have team success."

The Blackhawks need Saad to return to form quickly because he's crucial to their overall success. There's no debate about that. It's why the thought of Saad, who played in all 82 games last season, serving as the 13th forward is frustrating for everyone involved.

It hasn't been a problem in the past, but now it's becoming one because of the Blackhawks' aspirations of getting back to the playoffs and their dependence on their top players.

"I don’t think it’s an issue," Quenneville said. "We just expect more out of him."

Blackhawks make sports history with fifth straight overtime game to start season

Blackhawks make sports history with fifth straight overtime game to start season

The Blackhawks made sports history on Saturday after they appeared in their fifth straight overtime game to start the season.

No NHL team has done that since the league introduced a regular-season overtime period in 1983-84, per the Elias Sports Bureau. It also has never happened in the history of MLB, NBA or NFL, showing just how crazy this early season run has been for the Blackhawks, who have rallied from all five games and have come away with wins in three of them.

"We’ve had five games, every one of them have been extremely intense and the game’s been on the line from start to finish," coach Joel Quenneville said following a 4-3 overtime win over the St. Louis Blues. "Our group’s been competitive this year, the guys have been working hard for one another. I don’t know how many games we’ve been down in the third period, and coming back to win is special."

The Blackhawks appeared in 17 overtime/shootout games last season and won seven of them. They are one of six teams this season that have yet to pick up a regulation win.

On a separate note, Saturday marked the eighth time in Blackhawks history that one player scored a tying goal in the third period and scored in overtime (Alex DeBrincat), according to the NHL's PR department. It's the second time it's happened this year for the Blackhawks, with Jonathan Toews the other on Oct. 6 against St. Louis.