Blackhawks

Bolland's return lifts Hawks to victory

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Bolland's return lifts Hawks to victory

Box score Highlights
VIDEO: Coach Q on Bolland's impact
Bolland: Everyone knows their role

Dave Bolland isn't too thrilled about all the injuries he's had to deal with these past few seasons.

But when the Chicago Blackhawks center comes back from whatever injury he has, he certainly makes an impact.

Bolland was at it again on Saturday night, scoring two goals in his first regular-season game as the Blackhawks beat the Dallas Stars 5-2 in their home opener. For Bolland, the injury issues have been frustrating. The latest was an undisclosed upper-body injury that kept him out for more than a week.

But the returns suit him just fine.

"I wouldn't mind that, take a week off and just come back and play," Bolland said with a laugh. "No, it's never fun getting injured but coming back and playing tonight was great. As a team we all played great."

Andrew Brunette scored his first goal in a Blackhawks uniform. Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp also scored. Corey Crawford stopped 19 of 21 for his first victory of the season.

The Blackhawks, as a team, are better with Bolland in the lineup. Just remember back to the spring, when Bolland's return with the Blackhawks down 3-0 to the Vancouver Canucks sparked a comeback and forced a Game 7. Bolland was once again with his spring linemates, Bryan Bickell and Michael Frolik, against the Stars.

And as Bolland's group stymied the Stars' top line on Saturday, Bolland was finding his offense again. His first goal seemed like a harmless shot but it found the top left corner behind Andrew Raycroft.

"Yes, I meant to do that," Bolland joked. "I just saw (Stars defenseman Stephane) Robidas coming at me and I think two (Blackhawks) were going to the net. I just tried to get it through and to the net and was hoping for a rebound and got top corner instead."

The return of Bolland, who coach Joel Quenneville had pronounced "100 percent and ready to go" prior to this one, also gives the Blackhawks balance in their lineup again.

"Any player can feel a difference when Bolley's in," Toews said. "He's always doing a great job against the other team's top line. I think you realize how tough it is, especially when you lose a center man. (His return) just gives your team so much more depth up front. When you can play with energy and roll four lines, 5 on 5, you're going to keep your legs fresh."

The Blackhawks looked like they had more energy in front of their home crowd on Saturday. They were once again peppering a Stars goaltender (30 shots), this time Raycroft. They were quicker and pounced on opportunities more often than the night before.

"We found the back of the net a few more times but we just did some smarter things," Toews said. "We still had opportunities. We took smart shots and were chasing down rebounds. The more time you can keep the puck in your zone the more chances you're going to get."

Bolland will once again try to avoid the injuries. This one was a short one, considering his concussion and back problems of the past. The better he feels, the better the Blackhawks are.

"You wish you could go 82 games with no injury but it's a grind and it's a tough game and injuries are going to come," he said. "To battle back from the little ones and get back quick is key."

Briefly

Quenneville said Viktor Stalberg (left knee) is getting better fast. "I think we're close to getting him back out on the ice and we'll get a better indication (of his status) when he's back on the ice."

Jamal Mayers had his second tussle in a Blackhawks uniform, this time with former Blackhawks forward Jake Dowell.

Daniel Carcillo will be eligible to play in the Blackhawks' next game Thursday against Winnipeg.

Sami Lepisto and Rostislav Olesz were healthy scratches on Saturday night.

Tracey Myers is CSNChicago.com's Blackhawks Insider. Follow Tracey on Twitter @TramyersCSN for up-to-the-minute Hawks information

Evaluating Blackhawks options after Anton Forsberg is placed on waivers

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AP

Evaluating Blackhawks options after Anton Forsberg is placed on waivers

The Blackhawks have said all along that they don't plan on carrying three goaltenders, but wanted to do so during the three games in four days stretch just in case, with Corey Crawford coming back from a 10-month layoff because of a concussion.

After being encouraged by how Crawford has responded to his return, the Blackhawks placed goaltender Anton Forsberg on waivers Monday morning. Teams have 24 hours to put in a claim for the 25-year-old goaltender and would have to keep him on their NHL roster for 10 games and/or 30 days before he's eligible to go through the waiver process again.

His chances of getting claimed by any of the other 30 teams essentially depends on which teams believe Forsberg would be an immediate upgrade over their current backup — or starter, for that matter — or whether there's an injury to one of the team's two goaltenders that requires a placeholder, like we saw the Carolina Hurricanes do by claiming Curtis McElhinney from the Toronto Maple Leafs after Scott Darling's injury in the preseason.

If Forsberg goes unclaimed, the Blackhawks can assign him to the American Hockey League with the Rockford IceHogs. With Collin Delia and Kevin Lankinen sharing the goaltending duties in Rockford, it's possible Lankinen gets sent to the Indy Fuel in the ECHL to get consistent starts under his belt.

A third option, one that isn't very common but we've seen in the past as recently as last October with Maple Leafs goaltender Kasimir Kaskisuo, is that Forsberg can be loaned to any AHL team while still being a part of the Blackhawks organization. This would allow the Blackhawks to keep Delia and Lankinen in Rockford while Forsberg gets his starts in the AHL, too.

Or, the Blackhawks could simply trade Forsberg to another NHL team that could stash him in the AHL, as long as he clears waivers. They did it last season with Chris DiDomenico, who cleared waivers as a member of the Ottawa Senators but was then traded to Chicago for Ville Pokka days later. Had DiDomenico been claimed by the Blackhawks, he would have had to stay on the NHL roster as noted above.

Forsberg was 10-16-4 with a 2.97 goals against average and .908 save percentage in 35 appearances last season but has not appeared in a game yet this year. He was acquired as part of the Brandon Saad package for Artemi Panarin in June 2017.

Blackhawks looking for defensive improvement from everyone, not just defensemen

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks looking for defensive improvement from everyone, not just defensemen

The Blackhawks were able to get away with their defensive lapses in the past solely because of Corey Crawford. When he went down with a concussion last December, those issues were magnified because he wasn't there to mask the flaws.

But it's reached the point where they can't rely on their goaltender to bail them out on a nightly basis, which is becoming another trend. Cam Ward allowed six goals to Tampa Bay on Sunday night, but made 49 saves — including 30 in the second period alone. He did everything he could to keep his team withing some sort of reaching distance and without his timely stops, the scoreboard could've looked much worse for the Blackhawks.

Something's got to change. 

When the Blackhawks talk about tightening things up defensively, they're not just putting it all on the defensemen. All five guys on the ice need to do their part and they're not doing it right now.

"I think we're trying to do too much and running around trying to do each other's job," Jonathan Toews said. "Sometimes we just need to simply and finish our checks and support each other."

No team has given up more even-strength high-danger chances through eight games than the Blackhawks at 110. That's 15.77 per 60 minutes. For reference, the New York Islanders finished worst in the league in that category last season and their number was at 12.96.

It didn't help that the Blackhawks spent nearly the entire second period in their own end on Sunday.

"We just couldn’t get it out of our zone, couldn’t get our stick on it, didn’t see pressure, didn’t feel pressure when we had it, were stripped," coach Joel Quenneville said. "Hence, we didn’t advance it. Kept looking like we were going up the ice and there were going to be some odd-man situations and then we’re the ones who were facing it."

That's one way to eliminate those high quality scoring chances, is getting the puck out of their own zone effectively or else it opens the door for Grade-A opportunities because of self-inflicted wounds. And it usually happens at the end of shifts when guys are tired, which often leads to goals.

"We have to learn how to play without the puck better and learn how to keep it," Quenneville said. "Whether it was our execution going up the ice, first pass poor and then we couldn’t change. A lot of things that happened yesterday were there tonight."

The Blackhawks weren't using three games in four nights as an excuse because Tampa Bay was in the same situation. It was an even playing field in that respect.

It's all about execution from everyone involved, forwards and defensemen. And the Blackhawks feel they're correctable issues.

"Of course," Toews said. "We've had some good periods this season so far. The first three, four, five games, everyone was excited and you guys are all talking to us much differently than you are right now. It's just getting back to playing that smart defensive game and playing with effort and letting our offense do the work. We know what's got to improve. It's right there in front of us."