Blackhawks

Chelios hopes to be welcomed back in Chicago

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Chelios hopes to be welcomed back in Chicago

Chris Chelios heard the cheers when he stood with his fellow U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame inductees at the Blackhawks game on Sunday night. But he figured it was a collaborative one and not so much for him.

Yeah, it was good. They set it up so it was bullet-proof, putting all of us together at the same time, Chelios said with a laugh.

Maybe, but it certainly sounded like that last rousing cheer, the one that came right after Chelios name was announced, was for him. It should have been, anyway. Because regardless of Chelios time with the Detroit Red Wings, he is still Chicagos own.

Chelios was inducted into the US Hockey Hall of Fame on Monday night, one night after he and the fellow inductees watched the Blackhawks beat the San Jose Sharks in overtime at the United Center. The last time Chelios was there, on his own Heritage Night, there were boos.

He hopes eventually hes welcomed back completely.

I hope everyone can forgive me for the Detroit thing. I just wanted to play hockey and that was the best situation for me, he said. Im one of their own. I hope theyre proud of me for what I accomplished as a Chicago kid.

The Evergreen Park product should be remembered for the entire body of work: the Stanley Cups, the All-Star and Olympic appearances and the 1996 World Cup of Hockey. Oh, and that longevity that has fellow inductee Keith Tkachuk calling him the godfather of U.S. hockey.

But Chelios said he deserves only so much credit.

I dont kid myself. People always ask, How did you last so long? I was on great teams, he said. We won those Cups in Montreal then to come to Chicago when things were going great, went to the finals and then Detroit, that was unreal to be traded to a team that won two (more) Cups. I wouldnt have lasted that long if not for the skill level and success our teams had.

And last night, at least, those cheers seem to have been for him.

Last night saw about 30 friends I hadnt seen in 35 years, he said of his homecoming. Its amazing. They kept track of my career and how proud they were that one of their own had made it.

Chelios vs. Tkachuk

Chelios and Tkachuk have been long-time friends, but that didnt mean they didnt have their on-ice skirmishes. Tkachuk remembered one at the old Chicago Stadium in which Chelios just about choked the life out of him.

He got me in a headlock and I couldnt breathe, Tkachuk said. I thought I was going to croak there, I was down to my last breath. He was strong for a little guy. We battled all the time but were really good friends.

Chelios remembers that night, too.

I had him; he jumped in a scrum late and I got him. I saw his face turning colors and I let him go right at the last second, Chelios said. I couldve let him pass out if I wanted to and he knew it.

A compliment to Toews

Chelios talked of the comparisons made between his former teammate Steve Yzerman and Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews. And he sees plenty.

He could be (Yzermans) little brother or his kid, said Chelios, who has trained with Toews in some summers. Hes got that look. Hes great to watch. For a kid of his age, to wear the C and what hes done and how hes handled it, I love it. Hes going to be a great player for a long time.

How Blackhawks physicality is adding new dimension to style of play

How Blackhawks physicality is adding new dimension to style of play

The Blackhawks turned in their best 60-minute effort of the young season in Monday’s 3-1 win over the Edmonton Oilers. They controlled the pace of play, got terrific goaltending from Corey Crawford and tightened up defensively.

But they also showed that they added a new layer to their team game this season.

The Blackhawks registered 36 hits against the Oilers, one of which was thunderously delivered by Andrew Shaw, sparking a scrum. Brent Seabrook led the team with six hits, Calvin de Haan had five and Drake Caggiula and Olli Maatta each had four. Heck, even Alex DeBrincat (three) and Patrick Kane (one) got in on the action.

It’s an element of their game that’s been missing the last few seasons and something they feel is important to their overall team success because it keeps other teams honest.

"I don't know if it's because of the personnel we have or the way we want to be strong and competitive and win battles, but obviously the other night we had a lot of finished hits and a lot of physicality that brings up the morale on the bench, which is a good thing," Kane said. "You look at Shawzy's hit, the stuff he's been doing early in the season — whether it's scoring big goals or sticking up for guys after they get hit — it's been awesome for the team. That's something that can really help us. We also need to play a little bit more with the puck, but it's a way we can get the puck back."

The Blackhawks don’t necessarily want to lead the NHL in the hits category, but they do want to establish an identity centered around being a difficult team to play against and adding that dimension is part of it. So is team unity.

"I don't think it's going to be our go-to in the way we're going to beat teams," Jonathan Toews said. "There's no doubt we've got guys that can mix it in. We saw last game with Shawzy and Murph, and [Ryan Carpenter] and [Zack Smith] and go down the list of guys. Even [Caggiula] and [DeBrincat] were throwing the weight around a couple days ago. It's definitely part of our game — we can play with energy and I think it's going to be there when we're ready to go. But our game is puck possession and keeping teams in their end and outplaying them in that sense.”

Through four games this season, the Blackhawks are averaging 33.0 hits per game. The previous two seasons they averaged 16.5 and 16.8, respectively, which ranked 30th.

While it's still early, there's clearly an uptick in the physicality department and it's exactly what the organization was hoping for after bringing in players like Shaw and Smith to add some bite to the roster. The Blackhawks are focused on becoming a team that can win in several different ways and play any kind of style.

"There’s a difference between running around just trying to get a tick on the stat sheet," coach Jeremy Colliton said. "But we definitely want to be physical when we have the chance and force the opposition to make plays before they're ready, and we can create turnovers and transition and offense and get out of D zone. We have some guys who like to play that way and I think it helps our team." 

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Behind the Numbers: Blackhawks third line driving possession against top competition

Behind the Numbers: Blackhawks third line driving possession against top competition

During the Blackhawks' training camp festival on Sept. 15, coach Jeremy Colliton discovered a combination he's grown to like in David Kampf, Dominik Kubalik and Brandon Saad. And it's the only trio that's stuck together through training camp and into the regular season.

On paper, it's not a sexy line. But they all bring different elements and it's translating to on-ice success.

When the three of them are on the ice together at even strength, the Blackhawks are controlling 59.7 percent of the shot attempts, 68.6 of the scoring chances and 76.9 percent of the high-danger chances, according to Natural Stat Trick. 

When they aren't on the ice at even strength? The Blackhawks are controlling 47.6 percent of the shot attempts, 46.2 percent of the scoring chances and 41.7 percent of the high-danger chances. 

Those are ridiculous numbers for a third line, and they're doing it against top competition, too.

On Saturday against Winnipeg, the Saad-Kampf-Kubalik line was tasked with going up against the Jets' Big Three of Patrik Laine, Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler and held them to three shots on goal for and three against in 14:06 of 5-on-5 ice time together. And on Monday against Edmonton, it kept one of the best lines in hockey in check, with Leon Draisaitl, Zack Kassian and Connor McDavid recording a minus-6 shot attempt differential in 15:25 of 5-on-5 ice time together.

The biggest mistake Colliton has made this season was separating the trio in the home opener after Kubalik scored a goal and recorded five shots on goal in the first period. He wanted to get the first line going and provide a spark by rewarding Kubalik, but the third line was dominant in the opening 20 minutes — it generated 10 scoring chances at 5-on-5 in only 4:30 together — and moving Kubalik away from Kampf and Saad really affected both lines in a negative way.

But don't expect Colliton to make that same mistake anytime soon. He learned his lesson and that's the last line he's going to touch if he's looking for a shakeup.

"They all just got real big motors, big engine," Colliton said. "They work and compete and they all bring a little bit different ingredient. Obviously like Saad is an accomplished, proven performer. He takes the puck to the net. He's a horse there. He's really hard to get the puck off, he transports it from D zone to the offensive zone, he can make those plays.

"I think Kampy is a workhorse. He takes a lot of responsibility defensively and can transport the puck from one end to another. Then you got Kubby, he's got a bomb. I've been very impressed with his play away from the puck. That's been a surprise for me. So now he can play on that line because he does so many responsible things. He wins a lot of races, he's a great forechecker. So, pleased with that line."

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