Can Blackhawks build off early success on the road?

Can Blackhawks build off early success on the road?

As long as the Blackhawks have gone on their annual Circus Trip, it’s usually been a chance to bond. For a group that’s had as much turnover as the Blackhawks have had in recent years, that’s a good thing.

But in some seasons, this trip also been a chance for them to find their game. But these Blackhawks seem to be on their way to doing that before they even embark on the trip. So the question is, will they keep it rolling on a trip that’s usually been pretty positive for them?

The Blackhawks wanted to hit the road strong and they did so with a 3-2 victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Sunday night. The Blackhawks have relied plenty on goaltending during their point streak, which they extended to 11 games (9-0-2) on Sunday. But recent games have shown a better trend. The Blackhawks are getting back to their team game, getting back to better puck possession, getting back to what’s made them so successful the past few seasons.

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And just in time to hit the road.

“We put ourselves sin a good spot going into it,” coach Joel Quenneville said following Sunday’s game. “Our play is what we want to be the most important thing. We always say we’re in the process of trying to get better, play the right way. The trend is that. We want to make sure we keep building upon it, knowing we have some tough opponents in their buildings and they’re going to be ready.”

The Blackhawks have passed a few tests lately, from improving a penalty kill that won them games in and against Dallas to beating the St. Louis Blues on their ice to besting the best team in the league (Montreal).

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But a bulk of their schedule has come at home. This is their first true road trip of the season, and it will be a test to see if the Blackhawks can find the same success away from the United Center.

Considering not just the Blackhawks’ offseason turnover but how many rookies they have in their lineup, the team is in a fantastic place heading onto this trip. Entering Monday night’s games, the Blackhawks are atop the Western Conference with 24 points. They’re starting to play more complete games. This trip has long been a good one for them, partially with team bonding but especially with positive results.

The Blackhawks had a home-heavy schedule in which to hone their game. Now they’ll take their show on the road.

Patrick Kane wins Shooting Stars Challenge after receiving boos from St. Louis crowd


Patrick Kane wins Shooting Stars Challenge after receiving boos from St. Louis crowd

Patrick Kane has still got it.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Kane won the Shooting Stars Challenge Friday night in St. Louis. The game was basically Top Golf for hockey with the players shooting at targets on the ice from elevation in the stands.

Kane finished with 22 points in the first round, which tied him for the lead.

He later took the win.

When Kane was introduced he routinely was on the end of some loud boos from the rival St. Louis crowd. Kane had the last laugh.

Why NHL All-Star appearances never get old for Patrick Kane

Why NHL All-Star appearances never get old for Patrick Kane

ST. LOUIS — Patrick Kane is in his 13th NHL season and he's participating in his ninth career All-Star Game this weekend, which is the most of any player that's attending. And both of those numbers will continue to go up.

But don't tell Kane that. He may be 31, but he sure doesn't feel like he's the old guy around here.

"I don’t want to be considered the Old Man," Kane said during Thursday's Media Day session. "I’m still only 31 years old. Obviously there’s a lot of young talent in the NHL and a lot of guys I like to watch playing and that I recognize are really good players, so it’s fun to meet them and talk to them and just talk about your seasons and your team and what’s going on around the league. I feel like I’m just another hockey player."

To Kane, he's just another hockey player. But to others around the league, he's more than that.

Twenty of the 44 All-Stars this season are participating in their first one and many of them have idolized Kane growing up.

Quinn Hughes, who played with Kane for Team USA at the 2019 IIHF World Championship, is one of them. Even as a defenseman, Hughes watched Kane every chance he would get as a kid.

"Yeah, thanks Quinn," Kane said with a smile. "I feel a little bit older now, so thanks."

But even though Kane is one of the older players here, he doesn't take it for granted. He attends every year because it's a good opportunity to represent the Blackhawks and the NHL, and it's also a chance to pay it forward.

“I can remember Joe Thornton being in the locker room, that was pretty cool to see him,” Kane said of who he was excited to meet at his first All-Star appearance. “I remember when I was in Ottawa, I was preparing for that little breakaway challenge ... and I had to go to the rink that morning to practice some of it and see how it’d all come together. And I remember [Pavel] Datsyuk coming to the rink as well and he got on the bike and just worked out. It was just me and him on this big bus and then whoever else we had with us.”

Each All-Star Game stands out for Kane. And now he’s looking to create more memories.

On Friday, Kane will participate in the “Shooting Stars Challenge,” where players will shoot pucks at a variety of targets from the stands. It’s the first time the NHL is incorporating this event into the competition.

On Saturday, Kane hopes to be on the winning side of the 3-on-3 All-Star Game because the Central Division has yet to win it since the format changed in 2016. 

“All of them have their own memories,” Kane said. “You look back on Montreal was my first one, Ottawa had the Superman thing, LA was the top 100, even Columbus we had like five of us there, or six of us. Each of them have their own memory. It’s one of things where, when you’re done playing, you look back and say, ‘I went to this many All-Star Games.’ That’s where my head’s at right there.”

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