Blackhawks

Blackhawks, Pens have different reasons for urgency

Blackhawks, Pens have different reasons for urgency

Friday Feb. 18, 2011
1:56 p.m.

By Tracey Myers
CSNChicago.com

The Chicago Blackhawks and Pittsburgh Penguins head into Sundays matchup with a few things in common. Theyre the two most recent Stanley Cup winners. Theyre both loaded with young talent. Theyve both dealt with significant injuries this season.

Yet while the Penguins are sitting fourth in the Eastern Conference standings while the Blackhawks are 11th in the West and struggling to make up ground.

Who's under the most pressure? The Hawks or Penguins?

So what gives? Well, just take a look at each teams schedule. Specifically, look at what the Penguins did during November and December. With Sidney Crosby on his monster 25-game point run the Penguins followed suit, going 19-6-2 over those two months.

That run proved vital, considering where theyre at now. They could be without Crosby (concussion) a while longer, if not the whole season. Theyre definitely minus Evgeni Malkin (knee) the rest of the season. Theyre treading water in February, sporting a 5-4-0 record this month. And with that type of firepower missing, theyre relying on their other assets.

Kane makes list of Top 5 U.S. born hockey players that will play in Sunday's games

Their strengths, obviously, are in goal and on defense, said Blackhawks analyst and former Penguins coach Eddie Olczyk. You can look at their top four defensemen, (Paul Martin, Zbynek Michalek, Brooks Orpik and Kris Letang), which is a heck of a D as a starting point. When you don't have offense youre defending a lot. Right now, that's where they're going to have success.

The Blackhawks, meanwhile, have been missing that productive run all year long. Theyve had their own injury issues -- Brian Campbell (knee) missed the first month of the season, Patrick Kane (knee) missed three weeks and Marian Hossas (various) been in and out. Then theres the summer turnover, which left the Blackhawks figuring out new teammates for most of the first month or two. It all led to inconsistency.

You can't redo your roster by 50 percent and not expect to have issues, said NBC analyst Mike Milbury recently. There are bound to be bumps. You throw in goaltending issues and its a recipe for an uneven season. But they can still lean on some pretty good guys.

True, but one of the Blackhawks biggest Achilles heel has nothing to do with the remaining talent or roster turnover. Its the Blackhawks lack of finish. Coach Joel Quenneville has kept count of how many times the Blackhawks have led or been tied in the third period, only to come away with no points. By our last count, its around 12 games, and the squandered points have loomed large here late.

The mind, heart and soul is there, Olczyk said. Its about execution. Its whether or not you can find a way to win a game or do you find a way to lose games. I do see the urgency, I do see the want. Sometimes it's the execution and that's all it comes down to.

The Penguins and Blackhawks will have their reasons for urgency on Sunday. The Penguins want to hold on to the top-four spot that gives then home ice in the first round of the playoffs. The Blackhawks just need to get in to the playoffs and cant afford to squander any points, especially at home. With the potential for missing the playoffs, missing a chance to defend that Cup, theres not much more need for motivation.

Tracey Myers is CSNChicago.com's Blackhawks Insider. Follow Tracey on Twitter @TramyersCSN for up-to-the-minute Hawks information.

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

crawford_usatoday.jpg
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.