Blackhawks

Blackhawks: Konroyd's keys to a Game 2 win in Nashville

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Blackhawks: Konroyd's keys to a Game 2 win in Nashville

1. Better job at the dots.

Faceoffs are not only important in establishing puck possession, they are also the most basic form of a 1-on-1 battle. The Blackhawks lost a lot of these battles on Wednesday night in Nashville. Jonathan Toews and Marcus Krueger were a combined 17 of 49 in the faceoff department. Not good when you are a puck-possession team. Paul Gaustad and Matt Cullen really owned the dots for the Nashville Predators, so don’t take this area of your game for granted tonight because you won the last game. You need all five guys on the ice helping out on the draws.

2. Stay out of the penalty box.

The Hawks did a fantastic job of staying disciplined throughout the regular season. They were the second-least penalized team in the entire NHL, averaging just 2 ½ minor penalties per game. That wasn’t the case in Game 1 where they took six minor penalties, all of the hooking-holding-slashing kind.

 

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These are lazy penalties where your legs aren’t moving and you are reaching to slow a guy down. Nashville had 11 shots on net during their 10-plus minutes of power play time, yet they scored just one power play goal. Best way to kill a penalty is to not take one. Good power plays don’t have to score to generate momentum and crowd enthusiasm.

3. Keep the pressure on Rinne.

Pekka Rinne was pretty ordinary going down the stretch for Nashville, losing his last four starts. He didn’t look much better on Wednesday night. Yes, he closed the door during the third period and overtime, but even when he was making the stops, he looked awkward. Losing his crease is something we saw time and again, and top glove is always an option when he is going down. He now has a save percentage of .871 in his last five starts. Don’t let him off the mat now; shoot early and often in Game 2.

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

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USA TODAY

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.

Niklas Hjalmarsson gets standing ovation from United Center crowd in Chicago return

Niklas Hjalmarsson gets standing ovation from United Center crowd in Chicago return

Niklas Hjalmarsson played for the Blackhawks for 10 years and won three Stanley Cups with the team so his return to the United Center was a big deal.

The defenseman, now with the Arizona Coyotes, made his return to Chicago in Thursday's game. The Blackhawks had a tribute video for him during the game and the crowd gave him a standing ovation after the video.

He was teary-eyed after getting the warm reception.

Hjalmarsson was traded by the Blackhawks to the Coyotes for Connor Murphy and Laurent Dauphin after the 2016-17 season. He played against the Blackhawks on Oct. 21 and again on Feb. 12 last season, but both games were in Arizona.

Injuries limited Hjalmarsson to 48 games last season and he missed Arizona's only trip to the United Center last season, which came in December.

Watch the video above to see Hjalmarsson's tribute and reaction.