Blackhawks

Blackhawks take away positives despite fourth straight loss to Flyers

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Blackhawks take away positives despite fourth straight loss to Flyers

There were positives this time, things that coach Joel Quenneville liked that he couldn’t say in some of the Blackhawks’ previous few games.

“It’s been going against us,” he said. “But I look back over the last four games, this was our best of the four.”

Still, for any good things that came out of Wednesday night’s game against the Philadelphia Flyers, one bad thing was the same: another loss.

Marian Hossa scored the 497th goal of his career but Radko Gudas had the winner as the Flyers beat the Blackhawks 3-2 at the United Center. The Blackhawks lost their fourth consecutive game and remain in third place in the Central Division. The Dallas Stars remain in first at the moment with 91 points while the St. Louis Blues also remain in second with 91 points following their loss to the Edmonton Oilers late Wednesday night.

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Michal Neuvirth stopped 24 of 26 shots in the victory. Patrick Kane hit the 90-point mark for the first time in his career.

The Blackhawks looked better in some instances – they certainly looked better in this one than they did in the Los Angeles Kings’ 5-0 drubbing of them on Monday. But the bottom line is, the Blackhawks are still giving away critical points.

“It’s tough,” Brent Seabrook said. “We had our chances. We had some looks, we gave up some chances, but I think for the most part we played better than we did the other night, that’s for sure. It’s something we can build off, but we’ve got to start getting points here."

The Blackhawks got off to the desired start, with Hossa’s short-handed goal giving the Blackhawks a 1-0 lead about eight minutes into this one. Then they got a big break when, seven seconds after Pierre-Edouard Bellemare’s high-sticking penalty, Chris VandeVelde was called for delay of game. The Blackhawks had 1:53 of 5-on-3. But that ended much like their night did: with nothing. 

[MORE: Five Things from Blackhawks-Flyers: A failed 5-on-3]

“It’s an area that’s been good for us this year. We had a couple of chances but nothing like we’d like to create with a full two minutes,” Kane said. “We had to chase the puck a couple of times and didn’t really get set up the way we wanted. So disappointed not to cash in.”

The Flyers scored on their late first-period power play to tie it. Still, the Blackhawks took another lead, this time on Jonathan Toews’ 25th goal of the season. But it wouldn’t last as Brayden Schenn, off a great pass from Claude Giroux on an odd-man rush, helped the Flyers tie it 2-2. Gudas had the winner midway through the third.

The Blackhawks can take more positives out of this one than in their previous games. The end result, however, isn’t changing. Neither is their place in the Central.

“We’re headed into a stretch here where we’ve got 11 games left and we’ve lost four in a row. Obviously not the stretch we want,” Kane said. “I don’t want to say it’s panic time but at the same time, we have shore things up before playoffs come into play here. We have 11 games to do that. We need to start playing the right way now. You could say tonight was a step in the right direction to do that. Still didn’t find a way to win, so not good enough.”

With Connor Murphy set to return, Blackhawks reassign Adam Boqvist to Rockford

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USA TODAY

With Connor Murphy set to return, Blackhawks reassign Adam Boqvist to Rockford

The Blackhawks announced Thursday morning that they have reassigned top defenseman prospect Adam Boqvist to the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League.

The 19-year-old Swedish defenseman appeared in six games for the Blackhawks and averaged 14:27 of ice time. He scored his first career NHL goal in his second appearance in a 3-2 win over the Anaheim Ducks on Nov. 2.

But with Connor Murphy (groin) eligible to come off long-term injured reserve on Saturday, the Blackhawks had to make a corresponding move to become cap compliant and Boqvist was the obvious candidate to be sent back down.

He’s still in the early stages of his development, but Boqvist certainly held his own at the NHL level during his brief stint. The Blackhawks want him to continue playing top pairing minutes and in all situations, and it would’ve been difficult for him to do that in Chicago with Murphy returning to the lineup.

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Corey Crawford and Robin Lehner tandem proving to be exactly what Blackhawks envisioned

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AP

Corey Crawford and Robin Lehner tandem proving to be exactly what Blackhawks envisioned

LAS VEGAS — The first day of NHL free agency is always exciting for hockey fans, particularly the first hour when most of the moves are announced at a rapid rate. Last offseason, the Blackhawks had a quiet few hours before dropping the hammer on the most surprising signing of the day, Robin Lehner, to a one-year deal.

“I think we have the best 1-2 punch in the league is the way I look at it right now,” GM Stan Bowman said on July 1. “I certainly feel really comfortable going into next season, whether Corey Crawford’s in net or Robin Lehner’s in net.”

So does the entire city of Chicago.

More than one month into the 2019-20 season, the goaltending tandem between Crawford and Lehner is exactly what the Blackhawks envisioned it would be. That’s what happens when you pair a Vezina Trophy finalist with a two-time Stanley Cup winner.

"We got two guys who are outstanding," head coach Jeremy Colliton said. "I think they're both going real well now and that's a huge advantage for us no matter who's in the net, we're getting a chance to win. It gives our guys a chance to come through offensively, so they've been big for us."

After starting the season 1-4-0 with a 3.67 goals-against average and .888 percentage, Crawford has been lights out since the calendar flipped to November. He’s 2-0-2 with a 2.72 goals-against average and .929 save percentage in his last four starts, which includes a 39-save performance in a 5-3 win over the Golden Knights on Wednesday.

Lehner has been one of the league’s best from the beginning. His .934 save percentage ranks second among goaltenders with at least six appearances and his goals saved above average at 5-on-5 ranks fourth-best, according to Natural Stat Trick. Crawford's goals saved above average of 4.21 puts him at ninth.

And this is despite the fact the Blackhawks are giving up the most shots on goal per game (37.1), second-most high danger chances per 60 minutes at even strength (13.1) and third-most scoring chances per 60 minutes at even strength (29.2).

While the dynamic may have been awkward at first, both goaltenders appear to be making the best of the circumstances and view it as healthy competition.

"I mean, he's doing a great job," Crawford said of Lehner. "Definitely keeping us in games or being a big factor in some wins. I think both of us are just trying to be at our best when we get the chance."

The challenging part of the situation is getting both guys a fair amount of starts. Crawford has been vocal about preferring to start regularly — “it’s a little bit easier when you keep playing games in a row” — and Lehner no doubt feels the same.

"They both want to play 60 games, 80 games maybe,” Colliton said. “That's part of the team. [Patrick Kane] wants to play 60 minutes. It's how it is. Ultimately, we want to make decisions that help the team win and part of that is keeping both guys fresh, keeping both guys playing at a high level and I think that's going to be a benefit for us as the season goes on."

It’s a good problem to have if you’re the Blackhawks, especially if Crawford and Lehner are at the top of their games at the same time like they are right now.

"It's great," Calvin de Haan said. "I think goaltending's the most important position. If you're not keeping the puck out of the net, you're not going to win a lot of games. But those guys are giving us a chance every night and it's really evident the past few weeks here."

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