Blackhawks: Marian Hossa relieved to snap scoring slump


Blackhawks: Marian Hossa relieved to snap scoring slump

The chances have been there, be it breakaways, odd-man rushes or just solid scoring opportunities.

Game after game, however, those great chances weren’t going in for Marian Hossa. His goal-less streak reached 14 games, the longest of his career. It was understandable if he was feeling aggravated.

“Well, maybe not as much as when I was younger,” Hossa said. “It probably would’ve been tougher.”

Perhaps the goal-scoring drought would have affected him more during his early career. That doesn’t mean Hossa, who turns 37 on Tuesday, still wasn’t frustrated. But for Hossa it was about keeping his focus, keeping that defensive game going in the midst of the offense going quiet, and figuring it was only a matter of time before goals went in again.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

On Sunday he finally got rewarded, scoring two goals in the Blackhawks’ 6-3 victory over the Colorado Avalanche. Hossa’s happiness and relief were evident when that first one went in 1:39 into the second period. His second came with 1:18 remaining in that period. Playing an all-around game has long been Hossa’s trademark. Still, given the quality chances he was getting, Hossa couldn’t help but feel snake-bitten.

“At my age, it’s not about me just scoring goals. But [with] so many good opportunities it was bugging me that I couldn’t put the puck in. If I wouldn’t have the chances that would be different but I had so many opportunities and the puck didn’t go in,” Hossa said. “I tried to stay positive and keep working hard.”

The Blackhawks’ top line felt the brunt of offseason losses more than anyone. With Patrick Sharp and Brandon Saad gone, Hossa and Jonathan Toews have gone through a myriad of left wingers this season. At the same time, Toews and Hossa were looking for consistent scoring in their own games. While Toews was finding more goals lately – seven in his last 13 games – Hossa was being thwarted until Sunday’s breakthrough game.

“I don’t know how many breakaways he’s missed this year but nice to see a couple go in for him,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “He was strong in the puck area several times with the positioning, strength and down with the stick, coming up with three or four pucks and sustaining some plays. The finished product was there for him too tonight, so good to see him scoring.”

[MORE: Blackhawks blast Avalanche for seventh straight win]

And the jump Hossa had after he got that first goal was evident the rest of Sunday night.

“He’s a goal-scorer; he wants to score goals. You could see after he scored he made some really nice plays, just holding onto the puck, got a few more chances,” Patrick Kane said. “He was fun to watch [Sunday].”

Whatever Hossa was feeling on the inside about his scoring drought, he didn’t let affect his all-around game. He got back in the goal-scoring column on Sunday. And with 500 goals so close, could that be the outing that leads to a goal-scoring streak?

“That would be nice but every year’s different,” he said. “Obviously this one felt good. I’ll just try to keep working hard and get more opportunities.”

A recap of Kirby Dach’s AHL debut and Blackhawks explanation for conditioning stint

A recap of Kirby Dach’s AHL debut and Blackhawks explanation for conditioning stint

Kirby Dach made his pro debut on Saturday, but it wasn't with the Blackhawks.

The No. 3 overall pick from this past June was activated from his injured/non-roster designation and assigned to the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League for conditioning purposes and jumped right into the lineup. He didn't appear in any NHL preseason games because he was under the league's concussion protocol during training camp.

In his season debut, Dach recorded two shots on goal and had a minus-1 rating in a 4-2 loss to the Grand Rapids Griffins. He centered the fourth line with Brandon Hagel and Nick Moutrey.

Blackhawks coach Jeremy Colliton discussed the decision to send Dach to Rockford after Saturday's game against the Winnipeg Jets, and it sounds like the organization remains committed to giving him a look at the NHL level whenever his conditioning stint is over.

"He hasn't played in a long time," Colliton said. "Missed training camp, missed the exhibition season. We think he can help us so we're trying to set him up, give him the best opportunity so when he does get the chance here he'll be as ready as he can be. It's a good league down there and a chance for him to get his feet wet against men. And I think he's been getting better and better in his practice time here with us. So I'm excited. Hopefully, he can gain confidence down there and then be ready to help us."

Because he's not eligible to play in the AHL full-time this season due to Canadian Hockey League rules, Dach's conditioning stint in Rockford can last up to 14 days, according to the Collective Bargaining Agreement, before the Blackhawks are forced to either recall him or send him back to the Saskatoon Blades in the Western Hockey League.

Rockford has four more games over that span, with its next one on Monday against the Laval Rocket at BMO Harris Bank Center.

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Four takeaways: Blackhawks squander two-goal lead in overtime loss to Jets

Four takeaways: Blackhawks squander two-goal lead in overtime loss to Jets

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 3-2 overtime loss to the Winnipeg Jets at the United Center on Saturday:

1. Squandering a two-goal lead

For the second straight home game, the Blackhawks jumped out in front and even built an early cushion by scoring the first two goals in the opening frame. But they allowed the Jets to score three unanswered, including the overtime winner by Mark Scheifele, to remain winless on the season (0-2-1).

"We did a good job in the first and they took it to us in the second," said Brandon Saad, who scored a shorthanded goal. "Lehnny made some big saves and the third was kind of even. But we definitely had chances to close it out and we didn’t. At least we got a point and we have to move on from it."

2. Another lackluster second period

If there's one thing you can point to that's been a trend in all three games so far, it's that the Blackhawks have been lackluster in the second period. And it's difficult to pinpoint why.

In the middle frame, the Blackhawks have 10 scoring chances for and 35 against at 5-on-5, two high-danger chances for and 10 against at 5-on-5 and a minus-19 shot differential, according to Natural Stat Trick. That's an area of the game they're trying to clean up and has been the downfall to their attempts of putting together a full 60-minute effort.

"Obviously it's been three in a row where we haven't been very good in the second period and to me that's where you show how good you are," coach Jeremy Colliton said. "The best teams, they dominate the second period, so it's a point of emphasis for us. We'd like to control the tempo of the game and control the territory, out-chance the other team. That's where you show how good you are, so we're not close to where we want to be in that area."

3. Robin Lehner's debut

After going two weeks without game action, the Blackhawks gave the nod to Lehner, who went into Saturday with a 4-0-0 record, 2.76 goals-against average and .922 save percentage in five career games against the Jets. He took the loss, but certainly did his part to deserve a win.

In regulation, Lehner stopped 30 of 32 shots for a save percentage of .938. The first goal was on the power play, the second came at 5-on-5 when Andrew Copp found himself all alone in front and the third was in overtime during 3-on-3 action. His 5-on-5 save percentage was .962, which will definitely work.

"I felt good," Lehner said. "I felt like I saw the puck well. I thought rebound control was good. Again, the first one is unfortunate, it squeaks through. But I was where I wanted to be in position and somehow it goes in. Gotta try to clean that up. And the third goal, it just dove on me. He missed his shot. It’s unfortunate. But I thought I made some good saves and felt comfortable. We got a point, which is something, but should’ve got a win today."

4. Penalty kill shows improvement

The Blackhawks gave up a power-play goal for the third consecutive contest, but this was close to being a perfect night for the penalty kill. They went 3-for-4 and gave up only four shots on goal in the 7:38 of shorthanded time.

On the first Jets power play of the night, Saad scored a shorthanded goal for his first of the season and the Blackhawks later generated two more scoring chances before the two minutes expired.

The power-play goal against should've been stopped by Lehner but he did everything right and had the shortside sealed, the puck just found a mini hole. The Blackhawks responded with a big kill and had one late in the third period also. No complaints.

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