Blackhawks

Blackhawks playing strong team defense again

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Blackhawks playing strong team defense again

ST. PAUL, Minn. — It all goes back to what Marian Hossa said following the Blackhawks’ first-round series victory over the Nashville Predators.

Many of the questions involved the team’s goaltending situation, which flip-flopped between Corey Crawford and Scott Darling, with Crawford winning the job back at the end of the series. Regardless of who was in net, however, the Blackhawks had a problem: as Hossa said, when it came to team defense, they were not helping their goaltenders.

They’re helping out plenty now.

The Blackhawks’ team defense has done an about face against the Minnesota Wild, limiting shots and limiting great scoring chances en route to taking a 3-0 second-round series edge.

In their first three games against Nashville, the Blackhawks allowed 11 goals. In these first three games against the Wild, the Blackhawks have allowed just four goals. Even that number is a bit skewed: the Blackhawks have allowed just one Wild goal since the halfway point of Game 2, a scoreless streak of seven-and-a-half periods.

[MORE HAWKS: Crawford, Blackhawks shut out Wild in Game 3]

“We did a lot of good things, obviously, to limit their opportunities tight,” Duncan Keith said. “When they did get chances, Crow was big for us.”

So what’s changed from Round 1 to Round 2? The Blackhawks have talked about how pushing for plays can lead to mistakes, and they may have been doing that too much against the Predators. Ultimately, they’re also supporting each other more, defensemen helping forwards and vice-versa.

“I think it starts with an awareness of being above pucks and keeping yourself in plays, putting the pucks in good areas late in shifts,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “I think trying to be creative on the offensive side of things sometimes can lead to exposing ourselves defensively and that’s something against this team that can lead you in the wrong way. We’ve done a pretty good job of knowing the difference between making a play and making a simple play and when we’re simpler I think we’re more effective.”

Crawford got plenty of accolades following his shutout on Tuesday night, but the defense in front of him deserved credit, too. Some great opportunities got through, but not nearly as many as against Nashville. If there were rebounds, the Blackhawks cleared them out of harm’s way. As Brent Seabrook said, the team couldn’t keep putting the onus on one guy.

[SHOP: Get a Corey Crawford jersey here]

“It’s a team effort,” he said. “We love Crow; it was a tough couple of games for him but that being said, we didn’t do much to help him, either. We have to be better in front of him and he’ll make the saves we need to stay in games. We have to tighten up in front of him and I think wehave. We have to keep getting better at that.”

It was going to take a team effort to combat the Wild. The Blackhawks are getting that again, especially on defense.

“I feel like we’re better on the back check, we’re forcing them to make plays that aren’t there,” Andrew Shaw said. “We’ve just tightened everything up defensively. Corey’s standing on his head and we’re getting those rebounds out of there as best as we can.”

Sports Talk Live Podcast: What will be Stan Bowman's next move?

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Sports Talk Live Podcast: What will be Stan Bowman's next move?

Gabe Ramirez, Vinnie Duber, and Jay Cohen join Kap on the panel to discuss game two of Cubs vs. Braves and the battle of the Soxes.

Plus with the start of free agency coming up, what will be Stan Bowman's next move?

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Calvin de Haan on unexpected trade to Blackhawks and what he brings to the table

Calvin de Haan on unexpected trade to Blackhawks and what he brings to the table

Calvin de Haan knew that the Carolina Hurricanes had a logjam on defense going into this summer and that somebody was going to be dealt to create a spot. The move was also driven by financial reasons as the Hurricanes look to re-sign a handful of players, most notably Sebastian Aho.

He just wasn't expecting it to be his name on the move.

"I'm still kind of in shock, to be honest," de Haan said on Tuesday's conference call. "I didn’t think it was going to be me. After Carolina signed me last summer my fiancée and I thought we were going to have some roots there, but I get it, it’s a business. Looking back on it now, it’s only been 16 hours or whatever, but it’s been a whirlwind. I’m really looking forward to it now. Obviously Stan [Bowman] and the Blackhawks made a deal for me and I feel like I’m wanted and I’m really looking forward to this opportunity with this organization."

De Haan, who signed a four-year, $18.2 million contract with Carolina last offseason, admitted that the Blackhawks didn't show any interest in him when he was an unrestricted free agent. But he's excited about being in an organization that values his services, and the feeling is mutual because he's filling an immediate need on the back end for the Blackhawks: a player who can log big minutes, is a sound stay-at-home defenseman and can play an effective role on the penalty kill.

Jeremy Colliton, who was the captain for the AHL's Bridgeport Sound Tigers during de Haan's rookie season in the pros from 2011-12, will certainly appreciate what his former teammate brings to the table.

"I just like to think my position’s good," de Haan said of his game. "I like to think I move well on the ice. I’ve always tried to play a simple game. I saw some tweets yesterday that I might be the next best thing to Nik Hjalmarsson that the Blackhawks have had in a while, so that’s a compliment. That guy’s had a great career and that’s a player I like to play like. Nothing flashy, just kind of get the job done and I hope Blackhawk fans will really appreciate my game. It’s something I’m really looking forward to this season."  

De Haan underwent season-ending shoulder surgery in May — exactly five weeks from Tuesday — and was given a four-to-six month timeline, putting his availability for training camp and the season opener in jeopardy. But he's hoping to be cleared by the time training camp rolls around in September and be ready to go for the season opener on Oct. 4 in Prague.

"Things are progressing well," de Haan said. "I like to think I’m ahead of schedule. I’ve had shoulder surgeries in the past as well where I know how this goes and I’m gonna make sure I’m ready for camp. Then it’s going to be up to the training staff and the doctors whether they want me to play or take a few weeks here and there and just progress slowly. But my main goal is to be ready for camp. I don’t want to sit on the sidelines. I want to be on the ice with the guys and out there grinding away and try to get the team back in the playoffs."

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