Blackhawks

Blackhawks have to build on what progress they’re making on PK

Blackhawks have to build on what progress they’re making on PK

Coach Joel Quenneville gave a bit of a grin and a laugh when asked about the penalty kill, which has, if you’re looking for positives, killed off six of its last seven penalties.

It’s progress, right? Especially when those successful kills have come at the end of the Blackhawks’ last two games, leading to three of four points?

“It was a big chance to kill it down a goal, and have to kill one at that stage of the game, certainly gave us a chance. [Brent Seabrook] makes a big block on a 2-on-1 and we get a chance to score and tie it up. We were fortunate at the end of the day,” said Quenneville, speaking specifically of the Blackhawks’ late kill against the New Jersey Devils, who they came back to beat on Saturday. “But I still think there are some areas we have to be better at and look to build on the positives we’ve achieved.”

That last part is important. The Blackhawks still haven’t gotten through a game where they’ve been perfect on the penalty kill but they’ve been better the last few games.

As Marcus Kruger said, “we have to start somewhere.”

“It’s more about us being on the same page, being in shooting lanes, blocked shots. We need all of that. It’s not just one thing,” Kruger said. “It’s been a little bit better here. Every day we talk about it and learn from previous games. It would be nice to have a game where we kill all of them off.”

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So why have recent late-game kills been successful? Is the urgency that much higher in the third periods?

“I think urgency right now is, from the get-go, pretty much there,” Kruger said with a grin. “Some of those kills have been late in games, and maybe we’ve been a little bit sharper. I don’t know. But we want to do the same thing every game, every penalty kill.

“I don’t think it’s the urgency, really,” Kruger continued. “But it can give us confidence, killing them off late in games and getting a chance to tie it like we did last night.”

As a whole, this season is more of an early work-in-progress early than the Blackhawks have experienced the last few years. The kill just happens to be part of that.

“As a group, let’s take pride in working together, let’s make sure we’re getting good pressure up ice, good pressure on entries, good clears, [get in] shooting lanes, all the things that have an effect on a penalty killing unit,” Quenneville said. “Let’s think of getting good rotations where we’re going short, and it gets energy among the whole group.”

Forsling improving

Defenseman Gustav Forsling, who suffered an upper-body injury against Calgary on Monday, returned to practice on Saturday. While Quenneville originally said Forsling could come back Sunday vs. the Los Angeles Kings, he’s now targeting Forsling’s return for Tuesday against the Flames.

“I’m feeling better and better every day. It’s progress with practice today and I’ll try to get back as soon as possible,” said Forsling. “I want to be good when I’m back.”

Briefly

- Marian Hossa did not practice on Saturday (maintenance day) but is expected to play on Sunday.

- Corey Crawford will start vs. the Kings.

- Vinnie Hinostroza is expected to play against the Kings. He was a healthy scratch the previous four games.

- Andrew Desjardins (lower body) skated prior to the Blackhawks’ practice on Saturday. Said Quenneville, “we’ll get a better indication, see how he progresses, from [Saturday] to [Sunday.]”

Hawks Talk Podcast: Crawford's return, Saad's demotion and power play concerns

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USA TODAY

Hawks Talk Podcast: Crawford's return, Saad's demotion and power play concerns

In the latest Hawks Talk Podcast, Pat Boyle, Charlie Roumeliotis and Slavko Bekovic provide their thoughts on the Blackhawks’ 3-0-2 start.

They also discuss Brandon Saad’s demotion and whether it could serve as a wake-up call, Corey Crawford’s potential return on Thursday vs. Arizona and what could happen with Anton Forsberg because of it, and address the power play concerns.

The guys wrap up the podcast by making a few bold predictions going forward.

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below, and be sure to subscribe, rate us and write a review!

10 years with 'Coach Q' anything but ordinary

10 years with 'Coach Q' anything but ordinary

Over the last 10 years, the words “ordinary” and "OK" have taken on a new meaning to Blackhawks players and fans alike. 

That’s “Coach Q” speak. 

A language where “ordinary” means awful and “just OK” means you were a non-factor. The good news is the last 10 seasons under Joel Quenneville have been anything but ordinary at the United Center. 

On Oct. 16th, 2008, the Blackhawks let go of fan-favorite Denis Savard after a 1-2-1 start to the season and named Quenneville as head coach in his place. Quenneville coached the Colorado Avalanche the previous season, but after another disappointing exit in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the two mutually parted ways. He had originally planned to stay away from the bench for at least a season, but the Blackhawks triumvirate of Rocky Wirtz, John McDonough and then-GM Dale Tallon brought Quenneville on as a scout and then handed him the keys to the car shortly after.

“Dale’s obligation is to put together a winning team,” said McDonough at Quenneville’s introductory press conference. “At this point, Joel is the coach of that team.”

It was an emotional day at the Blackhawks offices. Savard – a Blackhawks legend on the ice and a coach the players held in high regard – was let go just as things started to turn upwards for the organization. The end of the 2007-2008 season saw the Blackhawks once again miss out on the playoffs, but the fans began to flock to the United Center once more, and the hype train around the young team built around Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane was gaining steam.

“Moving forward, if we want to be a championship-caliber organization, we have to make tough decisions,” said Tallon. “This was the toughest decision I’ve ever had to make.” 

Savard was 65-66-16 in parts of three seasons as head coach of the Blackhawks. Meanwhile, Quenneville had compiled eight 95+ point seasons behind the bench for the Blues and Avalanche in his 11 years as a head coach.

“We felt the experience and the track record of Joel would be a balance that we needed with a young, inexperienced team,” said Tallon. "Joel brings us a wealth of experience and a winning track record that will have an immediate and lasting impact."

The gamble paid off for the Blackhawks in a major way. Once Quenneville took over, the team got to the sought-after next level. 

They finished the 08-09 season with 104 points, third-most in the NHL’s Western Conference, had a franchise-record setting 9-game win streak in the month of December and returned to the playoffs for the first time since the 2001-2002 season. The “young and inexperienced” Blackhawks took the league by storm, dropping the Calgary Flames in the first round of the playoffs in six games before taking down the rival Canucks in the next round.

They ultimately lost out to the Detroit Red Wings in the Western Conference Finals, but the bar was now set for the organization. From then on, the Blackhawks were Stanley Cup contenders. 

Quenneville currently ranks 2nd in franchise history with 449 wins, trailing only Billy Reay’s 516. 

But most importantly, Quenneville’s 76 playoff wins rank at the top in the organization’s long and storied history, and those three Stanley Cups that he’s raised over his head were anything but “ordinary.”