Blackhawks reclaim Central Division with win over Capitals


Blackhawks reclaim Central Division with win over Capitals

When the Blackhawks acquired three forwards in two days, they were looking for a boost in several positions.

They wanted a stronger top-line option. They wanted help on the third and fourth lines. And while they’re still missing some personnel, including one of the players they traded for, they liked their first look with those changes.

Patrick Kane scored his 36th goal of the season and Dennis Rasmussen scored the game winner as the Blackhawks held off the Washington Capitals 3-2 on Sunday afternoon. The victory gives the Blackhawks 83 points and puts them back into first in the Central Division. Dallas, which is idle today, is second with 82 points.

Corey Crawford stopped 28 of 30 for the victory. Jonathan Toews scored a power-play goal and Andrew Ladd, in his first game back with the Blackhawks, added the secondary assist on Toews’ goal.

The Blackhawks wanted to bolster their lineup with recent acquisitions Ladd, Tomas Fleischmann and Dale Weise, who has not arrived intown yet (visa issues). Ladd was on the top line with Toews and Andrew Shaw while Fleischmann settled in with Teuvo Teravainen and Andrew Desjardins. The changes did the Blackhawks good: they had as strong a four-line rotation as they have had all season against the league’s best team.

“You could see a couple of lines had a different look. That line with Flash or Fleisch, or whatever you want to call him — I think they call him Flash — and Desi and Teuvo was very effective in a lot of ways," said coach Joel Quenneville. "Laddy gives you some energy and they’ll get better. The second and third periods you could see him getting a little more comfortable and was effective as well. We still have a couple of guys who are missing who can help us, too.”

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Those guys would be Weise, Marian Hossa (lower body) and Marcus Kruger (wrist). But let’s focus on today, which was a good day for the Blackhawks — well, once the first period was over, anyway. The Capitals were stellar in the first period, looking faster and stronger than the Blackhawks, who barely had any time in the Capitals’ zone. Marcus Johnansson gave the Capitals a 1-0 lead on a power-play goal 6:13 into the game. For all the Capitals’ first-period dominance, however, it wouldn’t show on the scoreboard. Just 31 seconds after Johansson’s goal, Kane scored to tie it 1-1.

From the second period on the Blackhawks looked more like themselves. Toews scored his power-play goal to give the Blackhawks a 2-1 lead with 1:45 remaining in the second period. Then Richard Panik’s kick pass, which Quenneville called, “one of the best passes we’ve seen all year,” went in the slot to a wide-open Rasmussen, who scored to make it 3-1. It was Rasmussen’s first goal since Dec. 19.

“Yeah, it’s been a while. I try to work hard and create chances but it was really nice to get that goal,” said Rasmussen. “It was a really nice pass. I saw [Panik] had the puck under his skate and I kind of realized he was going to make that play. I’ve seen it done before in practice.”

The Blackhawks were looking for more balance and more of a scoring threat among all four of their lines. Some of their recent acquisitions have already helped in that department. Sure, it was just one game. But it was one game against the league’s best team.

“It felt like a playoff game right from the start,” Crawford said. “I thought we got better as the game went on. They were pretty quick. They got some momentum early but I think with the new guys in the lineup, it seemed like the chemistry kept building throughout the game on the lines they were on.”

Hawks Talk Podcast: Crawford's return, Saad's demotion and power play concerns


Hawks Talk Podcast: Crawford's return, Saad's demotion and power play concerns

In the latest Hawks Talk Podcast, Pat Boyle, Charlie Roumeliotis and Slavko Bekovic provide their thoughts on the Blackhawks’ 3-0-2 start.

They also discuss Brandon Saad’s demotion and whether it could serve as a wake-up call, Corey Crawford’s potential return on Thursday vs. Arizona and what could happen with Anton Forsberg because of it, and address the power play concerns.

The guys wrap up the podcast by making a few bold predictions going forward.

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below, and be sure to subscribe, rate us and write a review!

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.”