Blackhawks

Blackhawks return from holiday break with another busy stretch ahead

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Blackhawks return from holiday break with another busy stretch ahead

Being busy. It can have a bad connotation at times, bringing about a feeling of being overwhelmed or having too much on your plate.

For the Blackhawks, however, being busy usually brings out their best. That’s good, because after competing a busy stretch prior to the Christmas break, they’re going right into another one coming out of it.

The Blackhawks have 17 games – including three back-to-backs – over the next 31 days, beginning with Sunday’s game at the United Center. That means a lot of busy nights and very few practices – if you listen carefully, you can hear the players cheer that last part. It’s going to be an incredibly busy stretch, and the Blackhawks will have to be ready for it.

[SHOP BLACKHAWKS: Get your copy of the One Goal III book]

But busy doesn’t seem to bother the Blackhawks much. No matter the year, they’ve usually taken hectic stretches and gotten into a rhythm. It happened this season. In a 10-game, 17-day stretch heading into Christmas, the Blackhawks went 7-3-0. You could argue they started finding their niche, their chemistry with each other on the lines.

Corey Crawford was also playing at his best, mainly because he was as busy during games as he was starting them. In his last nine starts, of which he won seven, Crawford faced an average of 30.8 shots per game. Crawford has admitted in the past that, when he doesn’t see shots on a consistent basis, he can lose focus. He didn’t have time to lose focus on that latest run, and he wouldn’t.

The Blackhawks will enter Sunday’s game third in the Central Division. Dallas and St. Louis play on Saturday night but no matter who wins or loses, it won’t change where the Stars (first) or the Blues (second) fall in the division. The Blackhawks could be getting Marian Hossa back; Hossa missed the final two games prior to the break with an upper-body injury. It’s unknown whether or not Rob Scuderi, who took a redirected puck to the mouth, will be ready for Sunday’s game.

[MORE: Phillip Danault gets his chance again with Blackhawks]

It took a while for the Blackhawks to find some rhythm and some lines – outside of the second one – that could play together for several games. They should exit this break with confidence, knowing that they no longer have to figure out the four-line puzzle that was an issue for some time early this season.

Right now the Blackhawks just need to keep pace. If they’ve learned anything from these long postseason runs it’s that you get in and go from there. It’s not about catching the Stars right now; it’s about gathering up as many points as possible and keeping pace in a very competitive Central Division.

The Blackhawks are going to be busy again starting on Sunday. A nonstop schedule has usually benefitted them. It has to again now.

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

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USA TODAY

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.”