Blackhawks

Blackhawks' Patrick Kane: 'We haven’t done anything yet'

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Blackhawks' Patrick Kane: 'We haven’t done anything yet'

The Blackhawks’ recognition of their Western Conference Final victory was jovial but not overly celebratory.

It wasn’t so much a case of been here, done that. The appreciation was certainly there. At the same time, there was a realization: another Western Conference title, this one claimed with their 5-3 victory over the Anaheim Ducks in Game 7 on Saturday night, is great. But the Blackhawks aren’t here for conference crowns.

“We haven’t done anything yet,” said Patrick Kane of the Blackhawks, who will head to their third Stanley Cup Final in the past six seasons. “It’s a great step, especially from where we were last year. We were in this position last year, we didn’t get the job done and then we have another opportunity a year later. For that to come about, I think everyone just wanted to take advantage of the opportunity and not have the same feeling we had last year. We put ourselves in a position to start a new series. It’s going to be a fun one.”

[MORE: Jonathan Toews continues to lead by example for Blackhawks]

That series, against the Tampa Bay Lightning, begins on Wednesday at Amalie Arena. The Blackhawks exit a very physical series against the Ducks and will likely enter a very speedy one against the Lightning, who eliminated in the New York Rangers in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final on Friday night.

But right now back to the Blackhawks, many of whom talked of the bitter taste they had when they lost to the Los Angeles Kings in last year’s conference final. It left them wanting more and that mindset was evident against the Ducks, especially in the final two-plus games.

“It was a tough thing to visit, a real negative moment and a real hard thing to accomplish,” coach Joel Quenneville said of last spring. “Getting that far, it’s an amazing journey, a tough battle; there’s a lot of tough ones. Then you have to get ready in training camp and think, ‘Wow, you know how long it is to get to where we got?’ It’s an eternity. Commend the guys’ perseverance, finding different ways [through] different challenges.”

Some of those challenges happened during the regular season. Down the stretch, the Blackhawks weren’t playing their best hockey. They lost four in a row and were struggling to score. But as Toews said on Saturday night, the Blackhawks didn’t have to be the best team in the Western Conference. They needed to get into the postseason and go from there.

[NBC SPORTS SHOP: Get your Western Conference Champs gear here]

“We never really stopped believing in ourselves,” Patrick Sharp added. “We were hearing a lot of things about our team in the regular season. Seems like we put things back together at the right time and we're back in the finals with this group. We know what we have in this room, we believe in each other, webelieve in the organization and it really doesn’t matter what other people say.”

The Blackhawks weren’t happy with how things ended last year. They cleared that conference-final hurdle but they’re not satisfied with just that, either. They appreciate what they’ve done thus far but they won’t be completely content until they get another Cup.

“It’s a great feeling to close out a series against a team like that and give ourselves a chance to go back to the Stanley Cup Final,” Toews said. “We’ll enjoy that [Saturday night], enjoy this win. But it won’t be long before we move on and be ready for the next task.”

Wake-up call? Brandon Saad 'surprised' about possibility of being a healthy scratch

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AP

Wake-up call? Brandon Saad 'surprised' about possibility of being a healthy scratch

Brandon Saad played a majority of last season on the first line, started this season on the second to change things up, got demoted to the fourth by the fifth game, and could find himself out of the lineup in the sixth.

Before the Blackhawks hit the ice for practice on Monday, the 25-year-old winger found a white jersey hanging in his stall. That's usually reserved for players who are injured — Andreas Martinsen (back) was the only other player wearing one — or players who are on the outside looking in, which appears to be Saad right now considering he was not part of the four-line rotation.

"I don't think anyone wants to be wearing white around here," he said. "But it is what it is and there's nothing you can do but keep trying to improve. It's their job to make the call to put the best team out there to win hockey games."

Known for being even-keeled through the ups and downs, Saad expressed disappointment about the possibility of being a healthy scratch on Thursday against the Arizona Coyotes. He didn't exactly show that emotion following his demotion to the fourth line, perhaps out of respect to the players he was playing with by noting how it brings balance.

But he did on Monday, and it was the first time we've really seen some sort of emotion out of him.

"Everyone makes mistakes and things aren't always going to go your way but to be out of the lineup, a little surprised today," Saad said. "But it is what it is. ... No one wants to be out of the lineup. That's never fun regardless of who you are."

When asked to pinpoint what's gone wrong, Saad said he wasn't the right person to ask.

"I think you got to ask him that," he said, referring to Joel Quenneville and the coaching staff. "It's his calls. For me, you can talk pros and cons as much as you want but just trying to go out there and compete and win hockey games. We've won a few here, I know every game has gone to overtime so they've been close. Nothing was said to me about lineup change or anything like that. You just come in and you see your jersey and you go out there and you play."

So Quenneville was asked.

"Just expect more," he said. "That's the situation."

Is his mindset in the right place?

"I think he's fine," Quenneville said. "His mindset is what it is. Whether it's urgency or passion, coming up with loose pucks in those areas is going to be the difference."

The Blackhawks sending a message shouldn't only be directed at Saad. It also serves as a reminder to his teammates and is important to note for the younger guys about earning your ice time.

"I don't really know where the coaches are coming from so I'm not going to comment on that," Jonathan Toews said respectfully. "But [Saad] has been doing some good things and I think it's good for all of us to know what's going on there because if [Saad] can get his ice time taken away, then so can a lot of guys, myself included. So we all want to play well and have team success."

The Blackhawks need Saad to return to form quickly because he's crucial to their overall success. There's no debate about that. It's why the thought of Saad, who played in all 82 games last season, serving as the 13th forward is frustrating for everyone involved.

It hasn't been a problem in the past, but now it's becoming one because of the Blackhawks' aspirations of getting back to the playoffs and their dependence on their top players.

"I don’t think it’s an issue," Quenneville said. "We just expect more out of him."

Blackhawks make sports history with fifth straight overtime game to start season

Blackhawks make sports history with fifth straight overtime game to start season

The Blackhawks made sports history on Saturday after they appeared in their fifth straight overtime game to start the season.

No NHL team has done that since the league introduced a regular-season overtime period in 1983-84, per the Elias Sports Bureau. It also has never happened in the history of MLB, NBA or NFL, showing just how crazy this early season run has been for the Blackhawks, who have rallied from all five games and have come away with wins in three of them.

"We’ve had five games, every one of them have been extremely intense and the game’s been on the line from start to finish," coach Joel Quenneville said following a 4-3 overtime win over the St. Louis Blues. "Our group’s been competitive this year, the guys have been working hard for one another. I don’t know how many games we’ve been down in the third period, and coming back to win is special."

The Blackhawks appeared in 17 overtime/shootout games last season and won seven of them. They are one of six teams this season that have yet to pick up a regulation win.

On a separate note, Saturday marked the eighth time in Blackhawks history that one player scored a tying goal in the third period and scored in overtime (Alex DeBrincat), according to the NHL's PR department. It's the second time it's happened this year for the Blackhawks, with Jonathan Toews the other on Oct. 6 against St. Louis.