Blackhawks

Blackhawks power play finds a cure in Columbus

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Blackhawks power play finds a cure in Columbus

COLUMBUS, Ohio Ugly losses against Vancouver and St. Louis had the Blackhawks stewing, and they needed to put that angst back in their game.

So on Thursday they took their frustrations out on the Blue Jackets.

Jonathan Toews scored two goals and Steve Montador recorded a Gordie Howe hat trick in the Blackhawks 6-3 victory over Columbus at Nationwide Arena. The Blackhawks, who were without center Dave Bolland, stopped their two-game losing streak clicking twice on the power play and re-igniting their offense.

And it started and sometimes ended with the Blackhawks defensemen, who combined for eight points on Thursday night. Brent Seabrook and Nick Leddy each had two assists.

I think that makes a big difference when were part of the attack, said Duncan Keith. It alleviates some of the pressure on our forwards, as far as giving them some room. All of the defensemen were better at that tonight.

That includes Montador, who got his goal his first of the season and his assist on his first night on the Blackhawks power play. As Toews said, he made a good argument to be out there. That, coupled with his first-period fight with former Blackhawks defenseman James Wisniewski, earned him the Howe trick.

Hes the first Blackhawks player to have one since March 27, 2009, when Seabrook did it in a 3-2 overtime victory over the New Jersey Devils.

I wanted to have success. I didnt picture this exactly but its definitely exciting to be part of contributing to the success, he said. Sometimes you get on the score sheet, sometimes you dont. Its just about being in front of the net, so its pretty familiar. You have to be an outlet for someone.

Andrew Brunette scored his third power-play goal of the season. Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa also scored; Corey Crawford stopped 27 of 30 for the victory.

The Blackhawks wanted to get going quick on Thursday night and, for the most part, did that. Scoring five straight goals from Toews late first-period score to Hossas early third-period one didnt hurt their cause, either.

Neither did scoring on that much-maligned power play.

Were not talking about (power-play) rank this or that; were just going to stick with it, Toews said with a grin. It doesnt matter who scores the goals or how. Its just the fact that one of our units can go out there and make something happen. Thats what youre looking for.

The Blackhawks defensive core is deep and experienced. On Thursday, they were also the teams biggest catalysts for breaking out of the mini-slump.

I thought our D was very noticeable tonight, coach Joel Quenneville said. We create so much off that and our team game really picks up. It seemed like we had better rotation (on the forward lines), but I thought the D was spearheading the attack.

Kane-like goal?
Jonathan Toews second goal on Blue Jackets goaltender Steve Mason was from a deep angle, one very similar to the one Patrick Kane had on his Stanley Cup-winning goal two seasons ago.

I dont think Kaner would admit he was shooting for a rebound there, said Toews, who added thats what he was trying to do. I think it just fooled him. It was a tricky shot and it happened to sneak through. I dont think youre going to get that same statement out of (Kane).

Bolland out

Dave Bolland was out of Thursday nights game. Bolland, who blocked a shot off his right foot against the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday, was seen wearing a walking boot on Thursday. His status for Fridays game against the Calgary Flames is unknown.

Briefly

Daniel Carcillo took an unknown number of stitches in his upper and bottom lip after taking a puck to the mouth. He returned to finish the game, assisting on Kanes breakaway goal.

In honor of Veterans Day, the Blackhawks will sport their camouflage jerseys in warmups when they host the Flames on Friday night.

Nick Leddys eight assists are the most among Blackhawks defenseman.

Marian Hossas goal was his team-leading eighth. Jonathan Toews is next with seven.

Was Dennis Gilbert's Sunday scrap the right move for Blackhawks?

Was Dennis Gilbert's Sunday scrap the right move for Blackhawks?

When Blackhawks defenseman Dennis Gilbert skated after Jason Demers, hitting him into the boards, challenging him to fight and beating the doors off him in the second period with Chicago leading 3-2, he was sticking up for a teammate and trying to give the Hawks some life, but it cost them a puck in their own net.

So was it the right move?

"It is if we kill it," Blackhawks head coach Jeremy Colliton said of the Hawks being forced to kill Gilbert's instigator penalty. "And I think it sends a good message to the rest of the players that we're in this together and we're going to take care of each other. 

"But I would have liked us to react better the rest of the game after that and that's what we should do to protect each other. I thought that the penalty kill, we were looking for goals at times and when we had the chance to get the puck 200 feet down the ice, we didn't always do that. And I'm not against scoring goals, but let's be smart about it. It cost us."

Gilbert was responding to Demers' hit on Alex DeBrincat in front of the Coyotes' bench near center ice that caused DeBrincat to fall hard into the wall.

"Well, I think it was [a] pretty blatant [penalty] that was missed," Hawks defenseman Calvin de Haan said. "Alex's head went right off the boards. I don't know how they didn't call that one. But good on Dennis to step up and sometimes it takes a big set of cajones to do that. 

"He tried to get a spark for us and I think trying to stick up for your teammates is still part of the game, especially on a hit like that. Kudos to him and I think it was a key time in the game for us and he tried to turn the tables for us."

Gilbert received the instigator for going after Demers, which resulted in a Coyotes' power-play goal from Carl Soderberg. It was Gilbert's second fight in two games. 

"I think it fires us up," DeBrincat said. "I think he’s protecting me. I think he obviously thought it was a dirty hit and takes control of the play. 

"I think it makes a good play for me. I like that he does that. Obviously, at the same time we get a penalty out of it which is not always the best. 

"I think our bench can roll with that and try to kill that off. Unfortunately, we didn’t. Any other penalty we can probably kill off from that one."

Sticking up for a teammate in that fashion goes a long way. The Hawks have been missing a player that makes the opposition answer for their sins the way Gilbert does. You'd like to avoid taking an instigator, but the Blackhawks had an issue with a dangerous hit not being penalized.

It's up to the penalty kill to make that a good penalty. Unfortunately for Gilbert and company, they didn't get the job done. 

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Blackhawks are who we think they are: 'We're inconsistent'

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AP

Blackhawks are who we think they are: 'We're inconsistent'

Blackhawks head coach Jeremy Colliton has always preached focusing on the performance and letting the results take care of itself. Over time, water eventually finds its level.

The Blackhawks are a hard team to figure out.

When they're clicking, the Blackhawks look like a group that can compete with anyone because they can outscore any opponent and win the goaltending battle with either Corey Crawford or Robin Lehner between the pipes. When they're not, they look like a team that's closer to the basement of the NHL than the playoff bubble.

Take the past four games as an example.

The Blackhawks outshot the defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues 38-30 but lost 4-0 in a game that didn't feel very close. Then they went to Boston, where they knocked off the NHL's best team 4-3 in overtime despite squandering a three-goal lead in the third period.

Next up was New Jersey, where the Blackhawks and lowly Devils looked to be on the same playing field before the visiting team won 2-1 in a shootout. And on Sunday, the Blackhawks led 30-24 in even-strength scoring chances but racked up 27 penalty minutes and it proved to be the difference in a 4-3 shootout loss to the Arizona Coyotes, who are now tied for the Pacific Division lead.

It's challenging to evaluate who the Blackhawks are as a team because it changes on a nightly basis. So who are they?

"Well for now that is what we are," Colliton said. "We're inconsistent. And it's up to us to commit to doing the things shift-to-shift that will allow us to turn into something more. Simple as that." 

The good news for the Blackhawks is only six points separate themselves from the second wildcard spot and last place in the Western Conference. The bad news is the numbers show they're exactly where they should be.

As of Sunday, the Blackhawks have a PDO — a metric that combines on-ice shooting percentage and save percentage — of 100.7 during 5-on-5 play, according to Natural Stat Trick. The league average is 100, which suggests this is who the Blackhawks are through 30 games.

"We've just got to keep building on it," Robin Lehner said. "We got a point today, this time we've just got to respond. Next game is the most important game of our season because we've got to keep getting points here now."

Sunday marked the start of another tough stretch where the Blackhawks play seven of the next eight games against teams currently sitting in a playoff spot, all of whom are in the Western Conference, which only heightens the importance of these games.

The Blackhawks will take it one game at a time, but which team shows up for each of them is anybody's guess.

"They're all big," Colliton said of the next game. "It is important how we respond. Because we've had this up and down with our game and we can't expect to get where we want to go if that continues. ... You can have off nights, but then it's how you respond. So we got to respond."

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