Blackhawks

Blackhawks need goals from everybody, but especially from Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane

Blackhawks need goals from everybody, but especially from Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Coach Joel Quenneville was asked about seeing more out of Jonathan Toews this postseason. Same with Patrick Kane. In each instance, the response was pretty much the same: The Blackhawks needed more out of everyone, not just those two.

"We look across the board," he said. "We always find that when we're in some tough spots our top guys always find a way to lead the charge and find a way to overcome all obstacles. And we're going to need (Toews and Kane), but we're going to need everybody else too. It's a tough challenge. You can't just rely on one guy to get it done."

Well, that's true to a point. The Blackhawks certainly need more across the board in a series that has been very lopsided in the Nashville Predators' favor. But if they want to continue past tomorrow, let alone pull off the comeback to get to the second round, they really need their top players to get going.

The Blackhawks are on the brink of elimination when they face the Nashville Predators in Game 4 of their first-round series on Thursday night. It's been an all-too quiet series overall for the Blackhawks, whose two second-period goals in Game 3 are their only ones of the first three games. The silence from their top players has been at the forefront of that.

Kane's goal on Monday was only his second in his last 10 playoff games. Toews has gone goal-less in the postseason since Game 4 against the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2015 Stanley Cup final (12 games).

"That's something I'm obviously well aware of and no better moment than a game like (Game 4). I've waited long enough," Toews said of his goal drought. "You've got to go out there feeling lucky like you're going to work for that bounce. I'm just trying to stay patient and smart and do the right things. Obviously no more waiting. [Thursday] is a big game and a great time for it to come through and make a big play, and contribute…"

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With two goals in three games, clearly Toews and Kane aren't the only ones who are too quiet on the scoresheet. But Toews and Kane have been the offensive backbone of this team for many postseasons now. They've come up with the clutch games and goals over and over again.

"You need your best players this time of year to step up and be your best players. Throughout the playoffs, as time goes on, you kind of see some depth guys step up and have big games," Kane said. "but at times like this, I think it's the top guys who probably need to lead the charge."

The Blackhawks look to their top players for leadership, be it their words or their play. The latter is especially needed now. And the faster they get going the more there's a ripple effect throughout the lineup, with confidence and offense.  

The last time the Blackhawks were swept in a postseason series most of the players on their current roster were kids (1993 division semifinals against St. Louis). They still believe they can come back in this series. To do that they'll need contributions from everybody but they'll really need it from the guys who have done it so often in the past.

"We know what we have to do. It just comes down to what we haven't accomplished yet," Toews said. "We're getting closer and closer to getting that win. So [Thursday] we've just got to go out there and find a way to win that game."

Sports Talk Live Podcast: Is Crawford ready to go?

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USA TODAY

Sports Talk Live Podcast: Is Crawford ready to go?

Jimmy Greenfield, Connor McKnight, and Matt Spiegel join Kap on the panel to discuss Corey Crawford back on the ice for the first time in 10 months. The Bears have good news when it comes to Khalil Mack, who injured his ankle against the Dolphins.

Plus, Fred Hoiberg announces that Jabari Parker is coming off the bench for the season opener.

Listen to the full episode here or via the embedded player below:

Niklas Hjalmarsson 'wasn't happy' about trade, but remembers time with Blackhawks fondly

Niklas Hjalmarsson 'wasn't happy' about trade, but remembers time with Blackhawks fondly

Apparently time doesn’t heal all wounds. 

Nearly a year and a half since being traded to the Coyotes, Niklas Hjalmarsson will return to the United Center ice on Thursday playing for the visiting team.  

“It’s going to be strange coming in as the away team and being in the other locker room,” said Hjalmarsson on Wednesday. “I bet it’s going to be a lot of emotions and mixed feelings.” 

This is also the first time Hjalmarsson has been back to the city of Chicago since he was traded, a city he called his “second home.” A home where he spent parts of 10 seasons, and never really planned on leaving.

“I wasn’t happy, to be honest with you,” said Hjalmarsson of the trade to Arizona. “I was shocked. It took me a couple days to actually realize I wasn’t going to play for the Hawks anymore.”

Including the playoffs, Hjalmarsson played 751 games in the Indian head sweater. Despite that and the team’s three Stanley Cup victories, the Blackhawks shipped him off to Arizona for Connor Murphy and Laurent Dauphin in June of 2017.

“You kind of let it go after a while,” he said. “Now I’m just hoping all the success for the guys over here too.”

Hjalmarsson was known for his toughness, repeatedly blocking shot after shot, giving up his body, while never missing a shift. He credits his long-time teammates — Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook — for a lot of his success and identity on the blue line.

“I couldn’t have had better role models coming into a team,” he said. “I’m very thankful to have played on the same team as those guys and created a lot of success together. We’re always going to be connected with the Cups that we’ve had.”

The third championship won by that defense-trio was on United Center ice against the Lightning in 2015, but that isn’t the memory that stands out most for Hjalmarsson.

“The first Cup is always going to be pretty special,” said the 31-year old. “Even just going to the conference final (in 2009), even when we lost against Detroit that year, the year before was great memories too. The first time for me going into the playoffs and playing deep.”

The tables have turned now for both Hjalmarsson and the Blackhawks. 

The Coyotes have yet to score an even-strength goal this season, while the Blackhawks have claimed eight of a possible 10 points thus far through five games and expect to have their starting goaltender back between the pipes. 

But you won’t hear any ill-will from Hjalmarsson, he’s still rooting for the Hawks.

“I always think that Chicago deserves to have a team in the playoffs,” he said. “It’s not that I wish them not to do well. It’s the total opposite. I want them to have continued success.”