Blackhawks

A Blackhawks lesson in Chemistry 101

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A Blackhawks lesson in Chemistry 101

Don't look now, but the Blackhawks are the only team in the NHL with four wins and no losses this season. San Jose and Ottawa have achieved perfect records so far as well, but both have only played three games in 2013.

It may be early in the season, but right now the concept of the Blackhawks doing some serious damage within the Western Conference looks pretty good. Did we see this coming? Well, yes, but there were a lot of "ifs" that needed to be answered in order to feel fully confident.

Would Marian Hossa return to the form that saw him perform as a perennial All-Star after suffering a severe concussion to end last season? Would the special teams, both power play and penalty kill, return to the form that saw them among the leagues elite just a few years ago? Would the Blackhawks find that second line center that seems to have eluded them since Jonathon Toews became the captain of this team? Would the duo of Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook return to become the best twosome in the entire league to man the blue line? Would Patrick Kane return to being Patrick Kane?

So far, all of these questions have been answered in the affirmative, but I think there is one more key here that is easy so overlook from an outsiders perspective: chemistry.

Whether its hanging out with each other on the road, pranking each other in the dressing room, or blocking a shot in front of the net after your teammate has turned it over, these guys have a bond that borders on brotherhood. The fact that the Blackhawks have just two new faces in the lineup (Michal Rozsival and Sheldon Brookbank) certainly helps, but the way this team has come together both on and off the ice is going to make them a team that is hard to compete with.

Eddie Olczyk takes "One More Shift" with Blackhawks on Sunday

Eddie Olczyk takes "One More Shift" with Blackhawks on Sunday

Pregame at the United Center was extra special on Sunday night.

Ahead of their game against the Wild, the Blackhawks honored former Blackhawk and current television color analyst Eddie Olczyk with "One More Shift." Olczyk suited up in his Blackhawks uniform, skating around the United Center ice ahead of puck drop.

In addition to honoring Olczyk, the Blackhawks also hosted their "Hockey Fights Cancer" night, wearing special lavender-colored jerseys during warmups. Olczyk recently beat colon cancer, so the night surely was special for him as a whole.

The Blackhawks selected Olczyk, 52, third overall in the 1984 NHL Entry Draft. He scored 77 goals across five seasons with the team (1984-87, 1998-00).

In the past, the Blackhawks have also honored Bryan Bickell, Ed Belfour, Steve Larmer, Jeremy Roenick, Ed Belfour and Troy Murray, among others, with "One More Shift."

Four takeaways: Blackhawks can't solve rookie Cal Petersen in shootout loss

Four takeaways: Blackhawks can't solve rookie Cal Petersen in shootout loss

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 2-1 shootout loss to the Los Angeles Kings at the United Center on Friday:

1. Blackhawks can't solve Cal Petersen

With Jonathan Quick (knee), Jack Campbell (knee) and Peter Budaj (sick) out, the Kings trotted out former Notre Dame standout Petersen to make his first career NHL start between the pipes. And he didn't disappoint.

The 24-year-old stopped 34 of 35 shots (.971 save percentage) in 65 minutes of play and denied Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane in the shootout to earn his first victory in the big leagues.

"He was good, yeah," coach Jeremy Colliton said. "The third period was more like it. If we’d had 60 minutes [like that] maybe we break him down eventually. He did well, he did a good job. I thought we had a little more traffic, got some more pucks to the net. That was better. But you can’t help but think if we’d have had that push earlier, then we’d get paid off for it."

2. Line changes serve as third-period spark

After failing to generate many scoring chances in the first two periods, Jeremy Colliton spruced up his top-six by putting Brandon Saad with Kane and Toews and Nick Schmaltz with Alex DeBrincat and Artem Anisimov. They saw the benefits almost immediately.

Saad scored 2:39 into the final frame after burying a feed at the doorstep by Toews for his third goal in six games, tying the game at 1-1.

'We showed some resiliency battling in the third," Saad said. "It was definitely a slow start. We've got to play a full 60 minutes to win hockey games, but I think it shows some character how we can battle back in the third. And then overtime we had some chances and some puck possession, and when it comes down to a shootout it can be anyone's game. But the message for us is to play a full 60, because when we play well you can see that we have opportunities and a better chance to win the hockey game."

3. Power play comes up empty

Special teams was the deciding factor in the Blackhawks' last two games. They gave up two power-play goals in 66 seconds against Carolina on Monday and then beat St. Louis 1-0 on Wednesday thanks to a power-play goal of their own.

The Blackhawks had three power-play opportunities against the Kings, and all three of them came in the second period. They recorded a combined six shots on goal during them, but reverted back to some old habits by waiting for the open shot and lacking net-front presence.

"You get three in the second, it would be nice to get one," Kane said. "Even if you're not getting anything on it, it's nice to get momentum off of it. I thought we did a decent job of getting momentum, getting some chances and some looks. Sometimes you've just got to converge on the net and hopefully get those rebounds and try to find a way to get one a little bit dirtier."

The Blackhawks also allowed a breakaway chance towards the end of the third power play, but Corey Crawford saved the day. Tyler Toffoli scored 19 seconds after the Blackhawks' first power play to make it 1-0 Kings.

4. Meet your newest Blackhawk

The Blackhawks had a visitor at morning skate in Carter Holmes, an 11-year-old from Wisconsin, who is battling Hodgkin's Lymphoma. As part of the Make-A-Wish Experience, Holmes became a Blackhawk for a day and practiced with the team, including his favorite player Patrick Kane.

"I might have to change my number," Kane joked about Holmes, who wears No. 88 because of Kane. "I think he was a little bit better than me out there today."

It was the first time Holmes skated since being diagnosed on June 30, four days after his team took first place at a tournament. Holmes feared that he would never be able to play hockey again, but that won't be the close. He's expected to re-join his teammates soon, even if it may take a while to get back into game shape.

"It's pretty special," Kane said of Holmes, who will drop the ceremonial first puck on Sunday for "Hockey Fights Cancer" Night at the United Center. "Sometimes you're just playing hockey and worried about the business aspect of it, but days like today you can take a step back and realize there's more important things out there."