Blackhawks

Brian Elliott playing big role in Blues' success

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Brian Elliott playing big role in Blues' success

The Blues have been searching for a No. 1 goaltender for years.

Now they may have two.

Brian Elliott was sensational once again for the Blues in a 2-1 overtime victory over the Blackhawks on Thursday, and a majority of his 24 saves were on quality chances.

Elliott stopped multiple 2-on-1 opportunities that easily could have changed the complexion of the game.

Instead, the momentum tilted toward the Blues after every save, none bigger than the penalty shot he stopped on Andrew Ladd in the third period, even if Elliott disagreed with the call.

“I just kind of tried to get my shoulder into it and take away that top corner. He got a good shot off on that first opportunity,” Elliott said after the game. “I really didn’t think I was going to take a penalty shot there, but we got a good response after that. The guys kind of picked it up a little bit and really pressured.”

[MORE: Blues want home-ice advantage, but Stanley Cup is ultimate goal]

When the pressure picked up, Vladimir Tarasenko netted the equalizer with 1:16 left in the third period to force overtime, giving them a chance to stay in the hunt for first place in the Central Division and Western Conference.

They can thank Elliott for that.

“He played good. Boy, he played really good,” Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. “Both goalies played real good. Both goalies were really competitive. There was a lot of garbage around both nets and they had to make some big saves. (Elliott’s) save on the penalty shot was big for us. Play and move on.”

He made one more key save in overtime that allowed his team to pick up the extra point when Elliott stopped Hart Trophy-favorite Patrick Kane on a breakaway.

It's the kind of goaltending the Blues have been relying on all year long and a big reason why they’re tied with the Dallas Stars for the division-lead with 107 points.

“They’ve been great all year,” Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. “Listen, we can sit here all day and talk about how great they are. They deserve every little bit of success that we have for a reason. We’re extremely lucky to have two guys that can play the way they do. We’re going to need them this postseason.”

[SHOP: Get your Blackhawks gear right here]

The Blues' postseason path could involve a first round meeting with these same Blackhawks.

“We’ve played these guys in the playoffs before,” Pietrangelo said. “We’ve played here a lot of times. There’s been a lot of games here. I think every time we play here it feels like a playoff game. The atmosphere is always great. Certainly a little bit of a prep here but we don’t have to worry about now, we clinched that extra point.”

Whether or not they do clinch home-ice advantage throughout the Western Conference, the Blues will enter the postseason as one of the hottest teams, in large part because of their goaltending.

When Jake Allen, who suffered a lower-body injury and will be re-evaluated before the playoffs, gets healthy, the Blues will have a decision to make in goal.

But either way, they can’t go wrong.

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.”