Blackhawks

Blackhawks: Phillip Danault adjusting well to NHL game

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Blackhawks: Phillip Danault adjusting well to NHL game

Phillip Danault figured it was going to take a little time.

The Blackhawks center was brought up for the first time last season but was in Chicago briefly. Recalled again in December, Danault had a better chance to get acclimated.

“I told my dad I needed five-to-10 games to get used to the NHL,” Danault said. “The execution is way different and details are so different. It’s been a great chance for me. I’m glad to take it.”

It’s not a surprise that Danault has been up the entire time since he was recalled on Dec. 18, the day after the Blackhawks learned they’d be without Marcus Kruger (wrist) until the start of the postseason. Now, 24 games into this season, Danault has adjusted to the NHL and to his checking-line center role with the Blackhawks.

[MORE HAWKS: Joel Quenneville storms out of press conference]

“He’s done a great job for us,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “He handled a big responsibility, takes a lot of defensive responsibilities and D-zone face-offs and sometimes you’re out there against top lines, a lot of starts in your own end and you’re expected to defend against top guys. We trusted him in that role right off the bat and that line has done a great job for us and everyone’s contributed in their own ways.”

It’s well known that the Blackhawks told Danault, when they drafted him, that they wanted him to be another Kruger. That wouldn’t be a problem for Danault, who said he’s been playing that two-way game since he was with the Victoriaville Tigres of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. The adjustments, however, had to come as he advanced through the ranks.

“All the small details, execution, moving your feet; you can’t stand in the corner without moving your feet and protecting the puck here. That’s the big difference,” Danault said. “I kept my game from juniors but to be good here, as much as you have juniors, you have to take a couple of more steps and then you’re ready. You also need a coach who trusts you in all situations and I’m lucky to have that.”

[MORE HAWKS: Blackhawks upset with overturned call in shutout loss to Sharks]

Quenneville trusts Danault and his linemates. He, Andrew Desjardins and Teuvo Teravainen have been together quite a while now (outside of a game or two in which Teravainen has played elsewhere when teammates have been out). Being part of the same trio has helped Danault’s NHL transition as well.

“It always takes time to get used to new linemates but we’ve been lucky to stay together and I think we’re playing great together and are very good defensively,” Danault said. “We bring offensive chances. The points aren’t coming but I don’t think that’s our job right now. [We have to] stay tight defensively and try to buzz in their zone as much as possible.”

Danault has a goal and four assists in his 24 games this season; a good part of that came in late December/early January, when that line was on a hot streak. In the 33 games he played before his injury, Kruger had one assist. Supplementary scoring isn’t the top priority for the checkers but it’s always welcome.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!

Points aside, Danault has done the job the Blackhawks needed him to do in Kruger’s absence. He knew it was going to take some time to adjust to the NHL game. This season, he’s gotten the chance to do so.

“I’m modeling my game after Kruger because he’s obviously the best defensively and on the PK. So when I came here I just wanted to prove I could play two-way and bring some offense at the same time,” Danault said. “I think it’s part of my game right now.”

Hawks Talk Podcast: Crawford's return, Saad's demotion and power play concerns

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USA TODAY

Hawks Talk Podcast: Crawford's return, Saad's demotion and power play concerns

In the latest Hawks Talk Podcast, Pat Boyle, Charlie Roumeliotis and Slavko Bekovic provide their thoughts on the Blackhawks’ 3-0-2 start.

They also discuss Brandon Saad’s demotion and whether it could serve as a wake-up call, Corey Crawford’s potential return on Thursday vs. Arizona and what could happen with Anton Forsberg because of it, and address the power play concerns.

The guys wrap up the podcast by making a few bold predictions going forward.

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below, and be sure to subscribe, rate us and write a review!

10 years with 'Coach Q' anything but ordinary

10 years with 'Coach Q' anything but ordinary

Over the last 10 years, the words “ordinary” and "OK" have taken on a new meaning to Blackhawks players and fans alike. 

That’s “Coach Q” speak. 

A language where “ordinary” means awful and “just OK” means you were a non-factor. The good news is the last 10 seasons under Joel Quenneville have been anything but ordinary at the United Center. 

On Oct. 16th, 2008, the Blackhawks let go of fan-favorite Denis Savard after a 1-2-1 start to the season and named Quenneville as head coach in his place. Quenneville coached the Colorado Avalanche the previous season, but after another disappointing exit in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the two mutually parted ways. He had originally planned to stay away from the bench for at least a season, but the Blackhawks triumvirate of Rocky Wirtz, John McDonough and then-GM Dale Tallon brought Quenneville on as a scout and then handed him the keys to the car shortly after.

“Dale’s obligation is to put together a winning team,” said McDonough at Quenneville’s introductory press conference. “At this point, Joel is the coach of that team.”

It was an emotional day at the Blackhawks offices. Savard – a Blackhawks legend on the ice and a coach the players held in high regard – was let go just as things started to turn upwards for the organization. The end of the 2007-2008 season saw the Blackhawks once again miss out on the playoffs, but the fans began to flock to the United Center once more, and the hype train around the young team built around Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane was gaining steam.

“Moving forward, if we want to be a championship-caliber organization, we have to make tough decisions,” said Tallon. “This was the toughest decision I’ve ever had to make.” 

Savard was 65-66-16 in parts of three seasons as head coach of the Blackhawks. Meanwhile, Quenneville had compiled eight 95+ point seasons behind the bench for the Blues and Avalanche in his 11 years as a head coach.

“We felt the experience and the track record of Joel would be a balance that we needed with a young, inexperienced team,” said Tallon. "Joel brings us a wealth of experience and a winning track record that will have an immediate and lasting impact."

The gamble paid off for the Blackhawks in a major way. Once Quenneville took over, the team got to the sought-after next level. 

They finished the 08-09 season with 104 points, third-most in the NHL’s Western Conference, had a franchise-record setting 9-game win streak in the month of December and returned to the playoffs for the first time since the 2001-2002 season. The “young and inexperienced” Blackhawks took the league by storm, dropping the Calgary Flames in the first round of the playoffs in six games before taking down the rival Canucks in the next round.

They ultimately lost out to the Detroit Red Wings in the Western Conference Finals, but the bar was now set for the organization. From then on, the Blackhawks were Stanley Cup contenders. 

Quenneville currently ranks 2nd in franchise history with 449 wins, trailing only Billy Reay’s 516. 

But most importantly, Quenneville’s 76 playoff wins rank at the top in the organization’s long and storied history, and those three Stanley Cups that he’s raised over his head were anything but “ordinary.”