Blackhawks

Blackhawks rally for third straight win

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Blackhawks rally for third straight win

All the excuses were in place for the Blackhawks.

Back from a nine-game road trip. Second game in 24 hours. Third game in four days. And, oh, yeah, they were playing the league's best defensive team that was coming off its 12th shutout the day before.

But the Hawks rallied from a 1-0 deficit after two periods to score three in the third for their third straight win, 3-1 over St. Louis.

Theyre a great team, a patient team, said Bryan Bickell, who earned an assist on Dave Bollands game-winning goal. Theyve been having an outstanding year, and for the stuff weve been through, its important to move on and get this ball rolling again.

They dont give up much. Ya gotta stay with it. Against them, its not a high-quality-chance game, explained Head Coach Joel Quenneville. Youve gotta go through high traffic, you have to score ugly goals and we got a few breaks in that area today. But the guys hung with it. I know sometimes the guys looked a little tired on shifts, but we shortened them in the third, and we got a little more energy off of it.

Duncan Keiths equalizer just under five minutes into the third was just his second goal in three months, but he was on his way to a plus-3 after being a plus-4 in Columbus 24 hours earlier.

It was only one goal (deficit). We knew we were right there. I think we learned a lot there in that losing streak. I think weve brought some of those lessons learned in tonights game. Its only one game, but weve got to keep playing the right way, and use those things weve been learning.

They're now 2-0 this season against Blues All-Star goalie Brian Elliott, who has just four other losses in 29 games this season. It also was a reward for Corey Crawford, who's now quieting the "let's trade for a goaltender" talk as the man in net for this three-game win streak's that followed the nine-game nightmare. When the Hawks were being dominated, and outshot 15-4 in the opening period, the only shot that got past him was on a goalmouth pileup in which Jamie Langenbrunner kicked the puck to Andy McDonald, whose stick provided enough push to get it over the goal line. Crawford stopped the other 29 shots he faced, including a breakaway by Chris Stewart midway through the second to keep it 1-0. There were a couple of other big ones along the way, too.

Ive been able to be in more control, not sliding around as much, Crawford explained after his 21st victory of the season earned him No. 1 Star of the Game honors. Ive been pretty focused. As a team were doing the little things right, not forcing anything. And thats the perfect game to show it, down most of the game and not trying to do too much to try and get one. We were just putting the puck in the right places and waiting for our chance.

I was always comfortable with our goalies, Quenneville said. It was only a matter of time where we needed a goalie win and I thought today was. Hes proven to us that hes capable of doing it.

He was great tonight, said Patrick Kane. I think hes changed up his game a little bit. Hes working really hard in practice, and just talking to him, it sounds like hes really excited about where hes at. Its good to have confidence in him. Wed seen it all last year with how good he was in that stretch. E know what a great goaltender he can be.

Dave Bolland's winning goal was actually a centering pass that went off of Blues captain David Backes, who was parked in front of the net. Those are the kind of goals that had been going against the Blackhawks recently. Marian Hossa then wristed in an empty-netter from his own blue line in the final minute to cap off Hossa Bobblehead Day.
Wicked Wristers

- The Hawks power play is now 0-for-its-last-29 with Sunday's 0-for-3. Bolland scored the last one in the third period of the last home game, January 24th against Nashville.

- Joel Quenneville said before the game defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson skated once again and could be ready for Tuesday's game against Detroit. He's missed the last five with an upper body injury. Steve Montador's also missed the last five with an upper body, but the Head Coach says there's been no progress toward his return.

Evaluating Blackhawks options after Anton Forsberg is placed on waivers

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AP

Evaluating Blackhawks options after Anton Forsberg is placed on waivers

The Blackhawks have said all along that they don't plan on carrying three goaltenders, but wanted to do so during the three games in four days stretch just in case, with Corey Crawford coming back from a 10-month layoff because of a concussion.

After being encouraged by how Crawford has responded to his return, the Blackhawks placed goaltender Anton Forsberg on waivers Monday morning. Teams have 24 hours to put in a claim for the 25-year-old goaltender and would have to keep him on their NHL roster for 10 games and/or 30 days before he's eligible to go through the waiver process again.

His chances of getting claimed by any of the other 30 teams essentially depends on which teams believe Forsberg would be an immediate upgrade over their current backup — or starter, for that matter — or whether there's an injury to one of the team's two goaltenders that requires a placeholder, like we saw the Carolina Hurricanes do by claiming Curtis McElhinney from the Toronto Maple Leafs after Scott Darling's injury in the preseason.

If Forsberg goes unclaimed, the Blackhawks can assign him to the American Hockey League with the Rockford IceHogs. With Collin Delia and Kevin Lankinen sharing the goaltending duties in Rockford, it's possible Lankinen gets sent to the Indy Fuel in the ECHL to get consistent starts under his belt.

A third option, one that isn't very common but we've seen in the past as recently as last October with Maple Leafs goaltender Kasimir Kaskisuo, is that Forsberg can be loaned to any AHL team while still being a part of the Blackhawks organization. This would allow the Blackhawks to keep Delia and Lankinen in Rockford while Forsberg gets his starts in the AHL, too.

Or, the Blackhawks could simply trade Forsberg to another NHL team that could stash him in the AHL, as long as he clears waivers. They did it last season with Chris DiDomenico, who cleared waivers as a member of the Ottawa Senators but was then traded to Chicago for Ville Pokka days later. Had DiDomenico been claimed by the Blackhawks, he would have had to stay on the NHL roster as noted above.

Forsberg was 10-16-4 with a 2.97 goals against average and .908 save percentage in 35 appearances last season but has not appeared in a game yet this year. He was acquired as part of the Brandon Saad package for Artemi Panarin in June 2017.

Blackhawks looking for defensive improvement from everyone, not just defensemen

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks looking for defensive improvement from everyone, not just defensemen

The Blackhawks were able to get away with their defensive lapses in the past solely because of Corey Crawford. When he went down with a concussion last December, those issues were magnified because he wasn't there to mask the flaws.

But it's reached the point where they can't rely on their goaltender to bail them out on a nightly basis, which is becoming another trend. Cam Ward allowed six goals to Tampa Bay on Sunday night, but made 49 saves — including 30 in the second period alone. He did everything he could to keep his team withing some sort of reaching distance and without his timely stops, the scoreboard could've looked much worse for the Blackhawks.

Something's got to change. 

When the Blackhawks talk about tightening things up defensively, they're not just putting it all on the defensemen. All five guys on the ice need to do their part and they're not doing it right now.

"I think we're trying to do too much and running around trying to do each other's job," Jonathan Toews said. "Sometimes we just need to simply and finish our checks and support each other."

No team has given up more even-strength high-danger chances through eight games than the Blackhawks at 110. That's 15.77 per 60 minutes. For reference, the New York Islanders finished worst in the league in that category last season and their number was at 12.96.

It didn't help that the Blackhawks spent nearly the entire second period in their own end on Sunday.

"We just couldn’t get it out of our zone, couldn’t get our stick on it, didn’t see pressure, didn’t feel pressure when we had it, were stripped," coach Joel Quenneville said. "Hence, we didn’t advance it. Kept looking like we were going up the ice and there were going to be some odd-man situations and then we’re the ones who were facing it."

That's one way to eliminate those high quality scoring chances, is getting the puck out of their own zone effectively or else it opens the door for Grade-A opportunities because of self-inflicted wounds. And it usually happens at the end of shifts when guys are tired, which often leads to goals.

"We have to learn how to play without the puck better and learn how to keep it," Quenneville said. "Whether it was our execution going up the ice, first pass poor and then we couldn’t change. A lot of things that happened yesterday were there tonight."

The Blackhawks weren't using three games in four nights as an excuse because Tampa Bay was in the same situation. It was an even playing field in that respect.

It's all about execution from everyone involved, forwards and defensemen. And the Blackhawks feel they're correctable issues.

"Of course," Toews said. "We've had some good periods this season so far. The first three, four, five games, everyone was excited and you guys are all talking to us much differently than you are right now. It's just getting back to playing that smart defensive game and playing with effort and letting our offense do the work. We know what's got to improve. It's right there in front of us."