Blackhawks

Is the Blackhawks’ 'unshakable confidence' shaken?

blackhawksunshakableinsider032316.png

Is the Blackhawks’ 'unshakable confidence' shaken?

Jonathan Toews was addressing another frustrating loss, one that had the Blackhawks aggravated and losing ground in the Central Division.

“We just have to have that unshakable confidence that good teams go through moments like this where, doesn’t matter what you do, things don’t go your way,” Toews said.

The Blackhawks have shown that unshakable confidence plenty the last few seasons. Very few teams have shown the mental toughness they have, especially in the playoffs. But the Blackhawks have struggled mightily lately, and after Tuesday’s 6-2 loss to the Dallas Stars they have just one victory in their last seven games (1-4-2).

Recent results beg the question: Is the Blackhawks’ usually unshakable confidence shaken?

“I don’t know if it’s confidence or whatever, but I think we have to find a way to rectify the way we play and play with more urgency,” coach Joel Quenneville said on Tuesday night. “It’s hard to measure confidence to me. If you play hard you find your way through it.”

[HONDA ROAD AHEAD: Can the Blackhawks get back their confidence?]

The Blackhawks have shown glimpses of that, be it their victory in Winnipeg or their comeback in a shootout loss against Minnesota that earned them a point. But other recent games have been alarming. The Blackhawks have gotten behind more often than not, and once they’ve gone down they’ve usually been out.

When the Blackhawks claimed their 12th consecutive victory on Jan. 19, they were atop the Central Division with a five-point lead over the Stars. Since then the Blackhawks have gone 10-12-3. They’ve given up 74 goals in these last 25 games (2.96 per game) and have been shut out four times. The Blackhawks are now six points out of first place and have a precarious hold on third – please see the Nashville Predators, who are four points back.

It’s been a troubling stretch, but the Blackhawks are trying to look at it in as positive a light as possible.

“It’s a group that’s kind of been down the road before; we’ve seen everything. I think hopefully we can look back on this and say, ‘It’s better it happened now than in a month or so.’ But obviously we have to shake out of it,” Kane said. “We have to work our way into winning some games and, even if we don’t have our best, try to find ways to keep [ourselves] in the games and get points out of them.”

Andrew Desjardins said it’s also about how the team handles adversity, be it a stretch of games or in one – for example, how quickly the Blackhawks let things get away from them on Tuesday.

“It’s unfortunate to get a few bounces like we did last night but that’s part of the game. We have to respond a little bit better. It could have been better last night,” he said. “There are certain things we could’ve done a little bit better.”

The Blackhawks have eight regular-season games remaining, eight games in which they need to gain some points, keep pace in the Central. They also need to regain some self-assurance because right now, the Blackhawks’ usually unshakable confidence looks very shaky.

“We know we’re a good team, we know what we’re capable of,” Toews said. “We’ll remind ourselves of that, look at the big picture and try to take it shift by shift and get out of this funk that we’re in.”

BRIEFLY

-- Corey Crawford (upper body) did not skate on Wednesday. His status remains day-to-day. Quenneville was uncertain if Crawford would go on the Blackhawks’ upcoming trip.

-- Marcus Kruger (wrist) will go on the trip. Quenneville said he’ll know more on Thursday on if Kruger can play vs. Calgary, which is the hope. 

Sports Talk Live Podcast: Is Crawford ready to go?

usatsi_9256612.jpg
USA TODAY

Sports Talk Live Podcast: Is Crawford ready to go?

Jimmy Greenfield, Connor McKnight, and Matt Spiegel join Kap on the panel to discuss Corey Crawford back on the ice for the first time in 10 months. The Bears have good news when it comes to Khalil Mack, who injured his ankle against the Dolphins.

Plus, Fred Hoiberg announces that Jabari Parker is coming off the bench for the season opener.

Listen to the full episode here or via the embedded player below:

Niklas Hjalmarsson 'wasn't happy' about trade, but remembers time with Blackhawks fondly

Niklas Hjalmarsson 'wasn't happy' about trade, but remembers time with Blackhawks fondly

Apparently time doesn’t heal all wounds. 

Nearly a year and a half since being traded to the Coyotes, Niklas Hjalmarsson will return to the United Center ice on Thursday playing for the visiting team.  

“It’s going to be strange coming in as the away team and being in the other locker room,” said Hjalmarsson on Wednesday. “I bet it’s going to be a lot of emotions and mixed feelings.” 

This is also the first time Hjalmarsson has been back to the city of Chicago since he was traded, a city he called his “second home.” A home where he spent parts of 10 seasons, and never really planned on leaving.

“I wasn’t happy, to be honest with you,” said Hjalmarsson of the trade to Arizona. “I was shocked. It took me a couple days to actually realize I wasn’t going to play for the Hawks anymore.”

Including the playoffs, Hjalmarsson played 751 games in the Indian head sweater. Despite that and the team’s three Stanley Cup victories, the Blackhawks shipped him off to Arizona for Connor Murphy and Laurent Dauphin in June of 2017.

“You kind of let it go after a while,” he said. “Now I’m just hoping all the success for the guys over here too.”

Hjalmarsson was known for his toughness, repeatedly blocking shot after shot, giving up his body, while never missing a shift. He credits his long-time teammates — Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook — for a lot of his success and identity on the blue line.

“I couldn’t have had better role models coming into a team,” he said. “I’m very thankful to have played on the same team as those guys and created a lot of success together. We’re always going to be connected with the Cups that we’ve had.”

The third championship won by that defense-trio was on United Center ice against the Lightning in 2015, but that isn’t the memory that stands out most for Hjalmarsson.

“The first Cup is always going to be pretty special,” said the 31-year old. “Even just going to the conference final (in 2009), even when we lost against Detroit that year, the year before was great memories too. The first time for me going into the playoffs and playing deep.”

The tables have turned now for both Hjalmarsson and the Blackhawks. 

The Coyotes have yet to score an even-strength goal this season, while the Blackhawks have claimed eight of a possible 10 points thus far through five games and expect to have their starting goaltender back between the pipes. 

But you won’t hear any ill-will from Hjalmarsson, he’s still rooting for the Hawks.

“I always think that Chicago deserves to have a team in the playoffs,” he said. “It’s not that I wish them not to do well. It’s the total opposite. I want them to have continued success.”