Blackhawks

Brouwer's net presence effective for Blackhawks

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Brouwer's net presence effective for Blackhawks

Monday, Feb. 14, 2011
Posted 2:58 p.m.

By Tracey Myers
CSNChicago.com

Troy Brouwer was making a pest of himself in front of Phoenix goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov on Saturday night. Down 2-0 at the time, the Blackhawks needed equalizers and a presence there.

Brouwer supplied both, getting the Blackhawks first power-play goal and providing the perfect screen for Duncan Keiths tying one.

Screener, deflector, target, whatever the label, Brouwer has been effective when hes been a net presence. And the Blackhawks will need that nuisance factor during this stretch run where every goal, every point, every game is so critical.

Hes a target that we know is going to be in front of the net and hopefully we dont hit him and we hit the mesh, defenseman Brian Campbell said. He causes traffic down low and finds an open area. Thats what good goal-scorers do and he can do that in a lot of ways. Hes just great at deflecting pucks and works hard.

Brouwer has 16 goals this season, six shy of his career-high of 22 last season, and a good chunk of those have come from right in front. Brouwer said the net work comes from a message he got as a kid.

I had a coach when I was younger who said, if you dont play in front of the net, youre not going to play. Since a young age Ive always been one of the bigger guys, Brouwer said. Its just a job you get accustomed to.

And its a job thats reaped he and the Blackhawks rewards when its been there. Coach Joel Quenneville said it is imperative it continues, especially on the advantage.

I thought (Brouwers) positioning was great (on Saturday). That was the reason why we scored the tying goal was his presence in front of the net, he said. Whether its him or (Tomas Kopecky), its the difference in how effective we are on the power play.
Desperate times
The Blackhawks have 26 games remaining to make waves and get back into the Wests top eight. And the critical label has been slapped on every one of these games.

We really havent given ourselves any room for anything right now. We have to win and we have to win in a good amount here, Brouwer said. If we dont put together a couple of wins here, its going to be almost impossible for us to get back into the playoffs.

READ: Former Hawk Versteeg traded to Philly

The Blackhawks need to be especially diligent at home, where theyll play their next three games. But right now, winning anywhere would be good.

Its critical to win as many games as possible, whether home on the road, Campbell said. We probably need a near-perfect home schedule. Theres no time to have any lapses at this point. We have to come out strong.

Hossa healing

Marian Hossa said hes feeling better after suffering the flu during the Blackhawks victory over Edmonton on Wednesday.

It wasnt fun, said Hossa. I threw up through the second and third periods. I had two days rest (before playing in Phoenix) and they gave me an IV and the next day I felt pretty good. Im feeling much better.

Updates

Patrick Kane and Jake Dowell were out with the flu and defenseman Duncan Keith took a maintenance day on Monday. Quenneville expects all three of them to be back for Tuesdays practice.

Fernando Pisani (upper body) is still day to day and Ryan Johnson (upper body) is on injured reserve.

Line change

Dave Bolland centered a line with Michael Frolik and Marian Hossa on Monday. Quenneville said theyll give that line a try on Wednesday night against the Minnesota Wild.

Theyll get quality ice time and were going to need that line to be effective for us, said Quenneville. Hopefully that line can have the puck a little bit more. I thought the last game (Hossa) played he did have the puck a lot more and was more of a factor.

Frolik, who was acquired on Wednesday from Florida, was working with assistant coach Mike Kitchen long after his Blackhawks teammates were done on Monday.

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

Blackhawks 2018-19 season grades: Coaching

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AP

Blackhawks 2018-19 season grades: Coaching

Jeremy Colliton had difficult shoes to fill. That's an understatement.

He replaced a three-time Stanley Cup winner and the second-winningest NHL coach of all-time in Joel Quenneville. And Colliton jumped in at the age of 33 just days after he and his wife welcomed their third child.

To make things even more complicated, Colliton took over as Blackhawks head coach just one month into the season and had to implement some new components of his system on the fly. That took a while for the veterans who had been playing one way for the last 10-plus years to adjust.

Colliton's No. 1 priority when he came to Chicago was to help fix a power-play unit that ranked third-worst during the 2017-18 campaign with a 16.0 percent success rate and 26th through the first 15 games of the 2018-19 season with a 14.0 percentage. It wasn't getting any better.

But from the day he got hired and on, the Blackhawks finished with the seventh-best power play (21.8 percent). It dried up down the stretch, but that was after a two-month span where it was converting at nearly a 40 percent clip. It was bound for regression.

The penalty kill, however, is something that stayed in the basement of the NHL all season long. They were 23rd under Quenneville through the first 15 games (76.6 percent) and finished last with a 71.7 percent kill rate under Colliton in the remaining 67 games. You can overcome a struggling power play, but it's almost impossible to overcome a bad penalty kill.

At 5-on-5 play under Quenneville this season, the Blackhawks had an expected goals for percentage of 45.8, a scoring chances for percentage of 49.2 and high-danger chances for percentage of 43.6, according to naturalstattrick.com. Under Colliton, they had an expected GF percentage of 45.8, SCF percentage of 46.9 and HDCF percentage of 42.6.

The sample sizes obviously aren't the same (15 games vs. 67) and, as we mentioned above, it took a couple of months for the Blackhawks to really get comfortable with Colliton's defensive structure. They certainly went through growing pains.

But with the Blackhawks expected to be active this summer in free agency and adding players that fit their new head coach's style, coupled with the fact that Colliton will have a full training camp to iron out the kinks and incorporate even more elements into his system, and the team could hit the ground running for the 2019-20 campaign rather than playing catch-up all season long. 

"I think as you go you get more comfortable, you gain confidence, you go through experiences and deal with situations that come up and they're challenging at times," Colliton said. "You get through it. And then the next time stuff comes up, you feel more confident, you feel better about what you're doing. I had confidence when I came in November that I had a plan and we as a staff could make some progress. It took longer than we all would have liked, but I think I'm a better coach now than when I walked in, and I'm going to use that going forward. 

"There's going to be challenging circumstances next year too where maybe doesn't come easy. But I think all the best coaches get better all the time. Every day they're bringing new ideas and new energy and looking outside for inspiration. That's what I expect to."

Coaching: B-

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What Ian Mitchell returning to college means for Blackhawks

What Ian Mitchell returning to college means for Blackhawks

After falling short of a Frozen Four championship with Denver, the attention in Chicago turned to defenseman prospect Ian Mitchell and whether he'd sign an entry-level deal with the Blackhawks. It felt like it was only a matter of time before he would do so, but as the days passed, there seemed to be growing speculation that that may not be the case.

On Wednesday, Mitchell made it official and announced his decision to return to college for his junior season by releasing this statement on Denver's website:

"In the past few days since our season ended, I have had the chance to reflect on the year and the season our team had. It became clear to me during that time that I did not feel ready mentally or physically to leave Denver. I believe this is the best place for me to become a better hockey player and as a team we have an opportunity to do something very special next year. I would like to thank the Chicago Blackhawks organization for being so supportive and respectful of my decision to remain in school and continue my development. I am looking forward to next season."

So what does this mean for the Blackhawks?

For one, it immediately eliminates Mitchell from the equation of making the 2019-20 Opening Day roster even though he might be the most pro-ready of the three top Blackhawks defensemen prospects that haven't appeared in an NHL game yet (Nicolas Beaudin and Adam Boqvist). It's probably a wise move for his long-term development.

But with Beaudin and Boqvist also in the same boat as far as maybe needing some more time to develop, it's entirely possible all three won't be in the NHL next season. Which is fine. The Blackhawks have always preached patience when it comes to prospects developing at their own pace.

But it puts the Blackhawks in a position the following season where they could be breaking in several young defensemen at once depending on where they're at in their timelines. Maybe that's a good problem to have. It also depends on the number of roster spots available, which is a conversation for a different day.

In going back to college, Mitchell, a second-round pick (No. 57 overall) in 2017, pushes back his eligibility to sign with the Blackhawks to the spring of 2020. And yes, it's too early to start wondering whether the Blackhawks could lose his signing rights if he returns to college for a senior season and elects to go to free agency. 

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