Blackhawks

Blackhawks power play continues to thrive on the road

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Blackhawks power play continues to thrive on the road

By Michael Kelly

Special contributor for CSNChicago.com

DENVER – The Chicago Blackhawks have had struggles scoring 5-on-5 this season but their power play has been one of the best in the league.

When they hit the road, they’re even better with the man advantage.

That trend continued Thursday with two big power-play goals against Colorado, including one from Jonathan Toews at 3:29 of overtime to give the Blackhawks a 4-3 win.

“The power play’s been big for us lately,” Toews said. “Nice to see that continue because it’s obviously making a difference in some of these tight games, especially against division teams like Colorado. Nice to see the power play have a little success again tonight.”

Chicago came into Thursday fourth overall in the NHL with a 23.3 power-play percentage after finishing 19th last season at 17.6 percent. They’re getting production from both power-play units, which has contributed to the overall success.

“I think the balance of the two units have been the most consistent part about it, game in and game out,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “Both lines can start, both lines are capable of offense. You don’t have to basically ride one unit most of the time.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

The power play struggled a little for six games, going 2-for-13, but broke out against Arizona on Tuesday night. The Blackhawks were 3-for-4 with the man advantage, the first time this season they had three power-play goals.

That continued a run of success on the road. Chicago leads the NHL in road power-play percentage at 27.4 and has at least one power-play goal in 13 of their 19 road games.

Their first opportunity against Colorado on Thursday generated more chances for the Avalanche. Goalie Scott Darling misplayed a puck between the circles and left the net open but a bouncing pass by Carl Soderberg bailed him out. Later, Colorado center John Mitchell hit the crossbar.

The Blackhawks scored on their second chance when Patrick Kane easily beat Semyon Varlamov off a crossing pass from Artemi Panarin 4:20 into the second period.

[MORE: Toews, Blackhawks end 2015 on a high note in win over Avalanche]

“Our No. 1 unit’s really been firing and the rest, when we get the opportunity, are trying to make something happen,” Toews said. “There’s not as much pressure on the second unit.”

Both units have shown they can score, and it has helped Chicago keep pace in the Central Division.

“Hopefully the power play can always be there,” Quenneville said. “That’s key, especially in today’s game.”

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.