Despite strong finishes, Blackhawks still lacking early jump

Despite strong finishes, Blackhawks still lacking early jump

The United Center was raucous after the goal by Artem Anisimov, the second one the Blackhawks scored in a 56-second span and the one that gave them a 3-2 lead on the Dallas Stars.

It was another great third period for the Blackhawks, who have had several of them this early season. It was also necessary. Because once again, the Blackhawks got off to a slow start.

When you’re on a six-game winning streak, as the Blackhawks are right now, obviously there are plenty of things going right. We’ll get to that later. But the slow starts have continued, and the Blackhawks still would like to get out of the gate quicker.

“We’ve been sloppy in certain areas, whether it’s clears, whether it’s in the puck area in our own zone, and it leads to chances and the momentum going their own way,” coach Joel Quenneville said prior to their weekend series against Dallas. “We have to find a way to get through it.”

Now when we talk about the slow starts it doesn’t necessarily mean the Blackhawks have trailed after one period. Usually, they’ve just looked off the first few minutes — a good example of that is against Colorado, who outshot the Blackhawks 11-1 in the first 12:47 last week. The Blackhawks have been outshot in the first period in 11 of their 13 games this season. That usually doesn’t always mean much, but the Blackhawks have given up some quality opportunities in those shots. Credit the Blackhawks’ goaltending for keeping most of those chances from becoming goals.

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Now for the flip side of this: Despite those lousy initial minutes, the Blackhawks have finished the first period with the lead six times (they’re 5-1-0 in those games). Even when they have trailed after one, they’ve found a way to get points (3-1-1). And they’ve been outstanding in third periods, outscoring opponents 19-10 this season.

“I think when the game goes on, we are in a better rhythm and we’re playing better than the start,” Marian Hossa said. “But I think we have to keep improving and have better starts, because that’s as important as finishing.”

Quenneville, when asked about the Blackhawks’ great third-period production following Sunday’s game, went back to the starts.

“We had 4-on-4 and guys made a great play on both plays and we got ourselves back in the game. But it’s the same recipe we’ve talked about game in, game out,” Quenneville said. “We have trouble clearing pucks or we put it in tough areas and sustain zone time for them and don’t have enough puck time and possession in their end.”

The Blackhawks are playing better all-around hockey. They’re finding better chemistry in their lines, which haven’t changed much the last few games. Penalty killing has improved, and goaltending has been great from the start. Still, those first few minutes of every game have been an issue. They’ve usually overcome it, but the Blackhawks would like to have as much energy and all-around play at the start of their games as they have at the end.

“Maybe the teams we play, they come out so hot at the start of the game and we need to just be prepared for that kind of start,” Artem Anisimov said. “We have to play our way. From the first drop of the puck, play how we play late in the game.”


— Jonathan Toews did score the Blackhawks’ first goal in their 3-2 victory over Dallas on Saturday night, the NHL announced today. The goal, which came 11 seconds into the game, was originally given to Richard Panik. Toews now has four goals in his last five games.

— Corey Crawford was named the NHL’s second star for last week. Crawford went 3-0-0 with a 1.00 goals-against average and a .971 save percentage.

All eyes on Blackhawks defensemen as prospect camp opens


All eyes on Blackhawks defensemen as prospect camp opens

The second wave of Blackhawks defensemen is on the way. That's exactly where all the attention was when prospect camp opened up Monday at MB Ice Arena.

Nicolas Beaudin. Adam Boqvist. Henri Jokiharju. Ian Mitchell. Call it the Big Four. Where are they all at in their development? When will they be ready to make an NHL impact? Who's the most pro ready? 

Lots of questions. Those will slowly start to get answered and it begins now.

While there may not necessarily be an open competition among the group right away, there's certainly a desire to make a strong first impression in front of the upper brass that included Stan Bowman, John McDonough and Joel Quenneville watching on Day 1.

"Every NHL team has a lot of good defensemen prospects, so I mean obviously when you want to go out there you want to showcase yourself as best as you can," Mitchell said. "Obviously you want to be the best defenseman here so that's my goal going into this, I want to prove to everyone that I'm a good defenseman, I deserve to play at the next level. Obviously there's lots of good players here, but you're trying to all succeed."

Said Beaudin: "There's a lot of competition. There's a lot of good, young defensemen. I think you just need to be different when you play when you show what you can do."

Said Boqvist: "I'm trying to be better every day. Of course I will play in the NHL one day and win Stanley Cups, so that's my mindset."

The theme? Focus on your own game, take what you learn out of this week and apply those tools in your game when advancing your development next season. The rest will take care of itself.

Mitchell will go back to Denver for his sophomore campaign to continue his development. Beaudin is expected to return to the QMJHL with the Drummondville Voltigeurs. Boqvist signed with the OHL's London Knights, where he will look to get accustomed to the North American style of play.

For Jokiharju, the goal is different. This is his second development camp. He signed an entry-level contract in June. Making the big club is a real goal and a legitimate possibility for a Blackhawks team looking for young, impact defensemen immediately.

"I think if Henri has a really good summer of training, comes into camp, I certainly thinks he gets a good look," Blackhawks vice president of amateur scouting Mark Kelley told NBC Sports Chicago last month.

Jokiharju showed poise and confidence with and without the puck during drills, like someone who knows this is only the first step towards that ultimate goal.

"Yeah," Jokiharju responded when asked if the expectation is to make it to the NHL this season. "You want to set the bar high, you don't want to set the bar too low. I want to dream big and that's the dream."

That's the dream for everyone. When that happens, it's up to them. This week is a chance to set an early tone.

Former Blackhawks goalie Ray Emery dies in early morning drowning

Former Blackhawks goalie Ray Emery dies in early morning drowning

Former Blackhawks goaltender Ray Emery was identified as the victim in an early morning drowning on Sunday at the Hamilton Harbour, Hamilton Police confirmed. He was 35.

According to the Hamilton Spectator, Emery and his friends jumped in the water around 6:30 a.m., but Emery never resurfaced. His body was recovered later in the afternoon.

Emery played in the NHL for 11 seasons, two of which came with the Blackhawks from 2011-13, where he served as a backup goaltender to Corey Crawford.

In 2013, he teammated up with Crawford to win the William M. Jennings Trophy, awarded to the goaltender(s) with the fewest goals against in a single season, before going on to capture his first Stanley Cup. During that season, Emery went 17-1-0 with a 1.94 goals against average, .922 save percentage and three shutouts.

The Blackhawks issued this statement following the confirmation:

The Chicago Blackhawks organization was deeply saddened to hear of Ray Emery’s passing. We extend our heartfelt condolences to his family and friends. The Blackhawks will fondly remember Ray as a fierce competitor, a good teammate and a Stanley Cup champion.

The hockey community took to Twitter to offer their condolences when news began to spread: