Blackhawks winning streak snapped with loss to Lightning


Blackhawks winning streak snapped with loss to Lightning

TAMPA — It was bound to end at some point.

The Blackhawks weren’t feeling pressure as they continued their winning streak, which reached a franchise-best 12 games on Tuesday. They were having fun adding to it. But when the Tampa Bay Lightning thwarted the Blackhawks at every opportunity on Thursday, the fun ended.

Corey Crawford stopped 31 of 33 shots, but he had, by far, the Blackhawks’ best performance in their 2-1 loss to the Lightning at Amalie Arena. The loss snapped the Blackhawks’ winning streak at 12. The Lightning, meanwhile, won their seventh consecutive game.

The Blackhawks will remain in first place in the Central Division, three points ahead of Dallas, which beat Edmonton, 3-2, on Thursday.

It wasn’t so much the loss that was disappointing — again, it was going to happen at some point. But after Artem Anisimov’s backhand gave them the lead just 43 seconds into the game, the Blackhawks didn’t put up much of a fight. They finished with just 18 shots, a season low.

“Tonight they were definitely the better team,” coach Joel Quenneville said of the Lightning. “We didn’t generate much, didn’t get much traffic or pucks to the net, didn’t get the offensive zone time we liked. We got a few shifts, but they were few and far between.”

[MORE BLACKHAWKS: PGL: What's the stupidest thing you did as a player?]

The Blackhawks were also doing a bit of line juggling. With Richard Panik benched after he overslept morning skate, Rob Scuderi played wing on the Blackhawks’ fourth line. Patrick Kane played a few shifts there, too.

But regardless of the line, the Blackhawks just couldn’t get much going. It took them until the third period to hit double digits on the shot count. The Lightning, meanwhile, got plenty — and good quality — shots on Crawford, who was stellar once again.

“Crow was our best player today again. At least he gave us a chance to tie the game up,” said Niklas Hjalmarsson, who wasn’t sure why the Blackhawks were so flat. “It’s tough to say. I think we maybe didn’t have our best game out there today. We knew it was going to be a tough game. They’re one of the better ... it’s their seventh (victory) in the row. It’s just a pretty rough game. Could’ve been more goals for them.”

Anton Stralman redirected Victor Hedman’s shot to tie it 1-1 about seven minutes into the first. The Blackhawks killed off two minors, including a Kane high-sticking, midway through the second period. But as Kane’s high-sticking penalty ended and he stepped out of the box to play the puck, he was whistled for interference.

That interference fell under Rule 56.2, which states:

A minor penalty shall be imposed on any identifiable player on the players' bench or penalty bench who, by means of his stick or his body, interferes with the movements of the puck or any opponent on the ice during the progress of the play. In addition, should a player about to come onto the ice, play the puck while one or both skates are still on the players' or penalty bench, a minor penalty for interference shall be assessed.

[SHOP BLACKHAWKS: Get your Blackhawks gear right here]

And the Lightning would capitalize on that power play, with Kucherov scoring his 20th of the season with nine seconds remaining on the advantage.

“Yeah, I’ve been around a long time. For the number of games I’ve seen, I’ve seen one other time it happened,” Quenneville said of the obscure infraction. “I think a lot of people didn’t know the rule.”

The Blackhawks knew it was going to end at some point. They would’ve liked a better all-around performance, even if it resulted in a loss, but they’ll have a quick turnaround and face the Florida Panthers on Friday night. Jiri Sekac, who was acquired on Thursday morning from the Anaheim Ducks, is “likely” to play in that game, according to Quenneville.

The winning streak is over. But it was a heck of a ride, and it changed the complexion for the Blackhawks in the Central Division.

“Yeah, it was definitely a turning point for our season,” Crawford said. “We’re feeling good chemistry throughout the lines. It was definitely important to get on that streak and move up the standings.”

All eyes on Blackhawks defensemen as prospect camp opens


All eyes on Blackhawks defensemen as prospect camp opens

The second wave of Blackhawks defensemen is on the way. That's exactly where all the attention was when prospect camp opened up Monday at MB Ice Arena.

Nicolas Beaudin. Adam Boqvist. Henri Jokiharju. Ian Mitchell. Call it the Big Four. Where are they all at in their development? When will they be ready to make an NHL impact? Who's the most pro ready? 

Lots of questions. Those will slowly start to get answered and it begins now.

While there may not necessarily be an open competition among the group right away, there's certainly a desire to make a strong first impression in front of the upper brass that included Stan Bowman, John McDonough and Joel Quenneville watching on Day 1.

"Every NHL team has a lot of good defensemen prospects, so I mean obviously when you want to go out there you want to showcase yourself as best as you can," Mitchell said. "Obviously you want to be the best defenseman here so that's my goal going into this, I want to prove to everyone that I'm a good defenseman, I deserve to play at the next level. Obviously there's lots of good players here, but you're trying to all succeed."

Said Beaudin: "There's a lot of competition. There's a lot of good, young defensemen. I think you just need to be different when you play when you show what you can do."

Said Boqvist: "I'm trying to be better every day. Of course I will play in the NHL one day and win Stanley Cups, so that's my mindset."

The theme? Focus on your own game, take what you learn out of this week and apply those tools in your game when advancing your development next season. The rest will take care of itself.

Mitchell will go back to Denver for his sophomore campaign to continue his development. Beaudin is expected to return to the QMJHL with the Drummondville Voltigeurs. Boqvist signed with the OHL's London Knights, where he will look to get accustomed to the North American style of play.

For Jokiharju, the goal is different. This is his second development camp. He signed an entry-level contract in June. Making the big club is a real goal and a legitimate possibility for a Blackhawks team looking for young, impact defensemen immediately.

"I think if Henri has a really good summer of training, comes into camp, I certainly thinks he gets a good look," Blackhawks vice president of amateur scouting Mark Kelley told NBC Sports Chicago last month.

Jokiharju showed poise and confidence with and without the puck during drills, like someone who knows this is only the first step towards that ultimate goal.

"Yeah," Jokiharju responded when asked if the expectation is to make it to the NHL this season. "You want to set the bar high, you don't want to set the bar too low. I want to dream big and that's the dream."

That's the dream for everyone. When that happens, it's up to them. This week is a chance to set an early tone.

Former Blackhawks goalie Ray Emery dies in early morning drowning

Former Blackhawks goalie Ray Emery dies in early morning drowning

Former Blackhawks goaltender Ray Emery was identified as the victim in an early morning drowning on Sunday at the Hamilton Harbour, Hamilton Police confirmed. He was 35.

According to the Hamilton Spectator, Emery and his friends jumped in the water around 6:30 a.m., but Emery never resurfaced. His body was recovered later in the afternoon.

Emery played in the NHL for 11 seasons, two of which came with the Blackhawks from 2011-13, where he served as a backup goaltender to Corey Crawford.

In 2013, he teammated up with Crawford to win the William M. Jennings Trophy, awarded to the goaltender(s) with the fewest goals against in a single season, before going on to capture his first Stanley Cup. During that season, Emery went 17-1-0 with a 1.94 goals against average, .922 save percentage and three shutouts.

The Blackhawks issued this statement following the confirmation:

The Chicago Blackhawks organization was deeply saddened to hear of Ray Emery’s passing. We extend our heartfelt condolences to his family and friends. The Blackhawks will fondly remember Ray as a fierce competitor, a good teammate and a Stanley Cup champion.

The hockey community took to Twitter to offer their condolences when news began to spread: