Blackhawks

Blackhawks have to turn the page quickly

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Blackhawks have to turn the page quickly

The open place in the rafters, the one that’s sitting there among several Stanley Cup banners, was easy to spot. Blackhawks players saw it, for sure.

“Yeah, I noticed it,” Jonathan Toews said. “It didn’t slip by me.”

The Blackhawks will raise their third banner of the last five years on Wednesday night before they open their regular-season schedule against the New York Rangers. For the Blackhawks, opening night the past few years has been a balancing act: enjoy the banner raising for what it is, revel a few minutes more in what they accomplished last season and then move on. Pronto.

[MORE HAWKS: Five Questions heading into the Blackhawks season]

“They’re all special. It’s a very proud moment. The crowd gets into it, brings back some great memories,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “It was a special year. That was definitely the toughest Cup we ever had to win, or try to win. It was a tough one. It seemed like it was never going to end. It was hard earned. It’ll be nice to reflect but then let’s turn the switch.”

As tough as winning the Cup last season was, it will be even tougher to repeat. It’s not completely about the Blackhawks coming off a short summer and adjusting to offseason changes. It’s also about the competition, which always gets a little better and a little more determined to knock the Blackhawks off the perch.

“You think of a team that feels like they have something to prove, they've been sitting around since April last year,” Toews said. “So it's not so much our shortcoming; I think it's more other teams that are trying to come flying out the gate. So we have to be ready for that as well.”

The pomp and circumstance will take up part of the evening. For the rest of the night, however, the Blackhawks will have to focus on the present. The latest Cup was a triumph and a tough one to attain. Trying to win the next one will be even tougher.

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

“We’ve been stressing to try to get off to a good start, not only tonight’s game but also the first couple of months of the season. We know how important that is,” Patrick Kane said. “We went through it in 2010-11 after our first Stanley Cup when we got behind the 8-ball, had to play catch-up and snuck into the playoffs in the eighth spot. Our division’s tough this year, our conference is tough, then you open with a couple tough games against the Eastern Conference, too. No game’s going to be an easy game this year. Teams are going to give us their best, and we have to be ready.”

BRIEFLY

-Ville Pokka did not participate in morning skate on Wednesday. Quenneville said Pokka’s call-up and Viktor Svedberg’s reassignment to Rockford were more procedural than anything, and that Svedberg will “likely” return soon.

-Defenseman Kyle Cumiskey signed a professional tryout (PTO) with the IceHogs.

Hawks Talk Podcast: Thoughts on Corey Crawford's season debut

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USA TODAY

Hawks Talk Podcast: Thoughts on Corey Crawford's season debut

In the latest Hawks Talk Podcast, Pat Boyle, Jamal Mayers and Charlie Roumeliotis recap Corey Crawford’s season debut after missing nearly 10 months with a concussion.

Mayers talks about the Kitty system that Niklas Hjalmarsson and Vinnie Hinostroza probably dealt with in their returns to Chicago.

The guys also discuss what’s next for Crawford, the upcoming matchup against Artemi Panarin and the Columbus Blue Jackets, and the Blackhawks’ biggest areas for improvement.

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

Four takeaways: Blackhawks suffer first regulation loss, but Corey Crawford looks sharp in season debut

Four takeaways: Blackhawks suffer first regulation loss, but Corey Crawford looks sharp in season debut

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 4-1 loss to the Arizona Coyotes at the United Center on Thursday:

1. Return of the Crow

The Blackhawks got their man back between the pipes after a 10-month layoff due to a concussion. And he looked like same old "Crow."

Crawford stopped 27 of 30 shots for a save percentage of .900. He faced 12 shots and eight scoring chances in the first period, but nothing too out of the ordinary. The biggest save he made was on a Michael Grabner breakaway in the third period, bailing out a turnover in the neutral zone.

"I think I felt better in the second and third," Crawford said. "But they really didn’t get that many opportunities early. It was nice. I think they flipped one in for the first one, so that was kind of good just to get in it and feel one early. We were close in that one all game and we created a lot. I thought [Antti] Raanta played really well.

"It was a tough, tough break at the end. Still felt I should have stopped that one. We were right there, we were creating a lot and gotta try to come up with that one. Just gotta forget about it and worry about the next game."

2. Alex DeBrincat, Jonathan Toews extend point streaks

The hot start continues for the Blackhawks' two leading scorers, both of whom assisted on Erik Gustafsson's goal in the second period to stretch their point streaks to six games. DeBrincat and Toews each have 10 points this season.

3. Overtime streak ends

The Blackhawks made history by forcing five straight overtime games to start the season, something no team has ever done in the four major sports (NBA, NFL, NHL, MLB). But they didn't have the comeback magic in them this time.

Entering Thursday, the Blackhawks were 1-0-1 when trailing after two periods. They were 5-28-2 last season for a win percentage of .143.

4. Familiar faces, new places

Five former Blackhawks took the ice for the Coyotes: Vinnie Hinostroza, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Jordan Oesterle, Richard Panik and Antti Raanta.

It was Hjalmarsson's first trip back to Chicago since being traded in the 2017 offseason. He received a nice video tribute during the second TV timeout of the first period, which made him very emotional.

"I almost got emotional too seeing his reaction," Toews said. "He's one of those guys you'll never forget what he meant to this locker room. He was a quiet guy in the room but we all know how he played and put everyone else before himself. Pretty cool reaction from the fans too. I think we were all sad to see him leave this locker room, he did a lot of special things and was a massive part of our championship wins. Happy for him to get that reception. It's well-deserved and obviously we miss having him around."

As far as the game, Hjalmarsson logged a team-high 22:18 of ice time and blocked three shots. Oesterle registered a secondary assist on Arizona's first goal, which was its first 5-on-5 of the season.

Hinostroza, who was also part of the Marian Hossa trade over the summer, scored twice in his return to his hometown, beating Crawford with a wrist shot to make it 2-1 in the second period and an empty-netter in the third; his second goal turned out to be the game winner, the fourth of his career and first as a member of the Coyotes.

Panik recorded four shot attempts (three on goal). And Raanta improved to 16-0-3 in his career at the United Center, a remarkable record for any goaltender in any situation.