Blackhawks rally to beat Blues in wild game


Blackhawks rally to beat Blues in wild game

The Blackhawks have been looking for elusive road victories this season. Their starts, they’ve said, have usually been their culprit.

On Saturday they got the start and the finish.

Patrick Kane scored his 12th goal of the season and Duncan Keith was his usual self in his first game after knee surgery as the Blackhawks beat the St. Louis Blues 4-2 at Scottrade Center. It was the Blackhawks’ first road victory since Oct. 10, when they beat the New York Islanders in their first road game of the season.

Both Keith and Michal Rozsival, coming off a fractured left ankle, returned for the Blackhawks. Keith was a bundle of energy following Saturday morning’s skate, when coach Joel Quenneville said the Blackhawks would keep an eye on how their defenseman handled minutes.

Keith played 27 minutes, 34 seconds. So apparently, he was fine.

“I think so,” coach Joel Quenneville said with a grin. “I don’t know if we budgeted him for 27 [minutes] but I didn’t see a complaint.”

Corey Crawford stopped 29 of 31 shots in the victory and Artem Anisimov scored an empty-net goal with 47 seconds remaining in regulation. Rozsival, in his first game since fracturing his left ankle last May, played just over 13 minutes. Kane now has a 12-game point streak; his career long is 14 games, from Nov. 30-Dec. 28, 2013.

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

Keith said he felt just fine out there and doesn’t see any reason why he can’t play again on Sunday night, when the Blackhawks host the Calgary Flames.

“I felt good. It’s nice to get back in the swing of things,” Keith said. “Tough game, with a good crowd and good atmosphere. I thought we did a lot of good things and battled through some things and I think we can all do a better job of trying to stay out of the box and not getting caught up in the plays after the whistle.”

The Blackhawks did get caught up in the Blues’ style of play late in the first and early in the second period. They took a few penalties. Quenneville was fine with some, including Jonathan Toews fighting David Backes after Backes’ boarding on Niklas Hjalmarsson. The Blackhawks defenseman went to the locker room after that hit but soon returned.

“It was a dangerous hit,” Quenneville said of Backes’ hit on Hjalmarsson. “[Toews] is a captain, a great leader and it was great sticking up for your teammates.”

The Blackhawks certainly did more right than wrong in this game, which hasn’t been the case in most of their road games so far this season. Once they got out of their frustrating rut early in the second period – Vladimir Tarasenko scored twice in those early minutes for the Blues – they played their brand of hockey again. They got more players on the score sheet – Andrew Shaw had his second goal of the season, as did Trevor van Riemsdyk.

The Blackhawks looked more complete on Saturday night. Certainly it helped to get Keith and Rozsival back, especially Keith’s massive minutes. The Blackhawks needed to start finding consistency, be it home or on the road. Saturday could be a start of that.

“It was a really big win,” Crawford said. “It’s a tough team to play against. Even when you’re playing at home they’re tough to play against. This building is even harder to play against them. I think we needed this sort of game to get back in the swing of things. This was a good test for us.”

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.”  

Anton Forsberg on uncertain future with Blackhawks as Corey Crawford nears return


Anton Forsberg on uncertain future with Blackhawks as Corey Crawford nears return

The Blackhawks are preparing for Corey Crawford to make his season debut this week after recovering from a concussion since Dec. 23, 2017, when he last made his appearance between the pipes.

That means a decision has to be made on Anton Forsberg, who's serving as the backup to Cam Ward but ranks third on the organizational depth chart in goal with a healthy Crawford. The challenging part of the situation is that Forsberg requires waivers if the Blackhawks want to try sending him down to the American Hockey League and keep him within the organization. But it's beyond his control.

"I have no idea and I don't want to think that way either,” Forsberg told NBC Sports Chicago. “I just want to be focused on getting better every day and try to work hard and put in the work, so hopefully when [my chance] comes, I've done everything I can.”

There are several layers to this, mostly questions: Can the Blackhawks find a trade partner for Forsberg? Would he clear waivers if he's put on there? And if he does, what happens to Collin Delia and Kevin Lankinen, both of whom the Blackhawks are looking to take next steps in their development?

One thing is for certain: The Blackhawks do not plan on carrying three goaltenders. But maybe that’s an option for the short term until they see how Crawford handles the load since they have a six games in nine days stretch starting on Thursday.

“Organizationally, he’s one of our group of goaltenders,” coach Joel Quenneville said of Forsberg. “That’s where it’s at. We know the importance of depth in that area is always going to get challenged over the course of a season and we know the importance of the position. We’ll see how that plays out.”

In any profession, it's hard not to think about your future when there's uncertainty regarding your position. But Forsberg is trying to block all that out, no matter how difficult it may be.

"Sometimes it is, but at the same time it's the life of hockey,” he said. “Everybody has been, at some point, in their career probably in that situation. At the end of the day, it's always about yourself and how you can get better and all that. So that's what I'm trying to do.

"I try to come in here every day with a smile on my face. Hockey is the best thing in the world, so I just try to come in here and have fun and do my job. That's it."

If Crawford is ready to return on Thursday, that probably means Forsberg will be placed on waivers Wednesday. If he does get claimed, Forsberg must be on the NHL roster for at least 10 games and/or 30 days before being eligible to go through the waiver process again. So he cannot be stashed in the minors if claimed by another team.

That means his fate really depends on whether an NHL team is in need of an everyday backup goaltender.

"I really have no idea,” Forsberg said of whether or not he believes he would get through waivers. “It all depends on the situations and other teams, where other teams like me, I don't know. I don't want to focus on it. I just want to do my best right now to be prepared for whatever happens."