Blackhawks

Duncan Keith’s return should boost Blackhawks

Duncan Keith’s return should boost Blackhawks

ST. LOUIS – Duncan Keith watched as the Blackhawks almost came away with the road victory without him.
 
The Blackhawks defenseman was wrapping up his six-game suspension, which included that first postseason game against the St. Louis Blues. Despite missing Keith’s minutes, Keith’s work on the power play and penalty kill, the Blackhawks still got to overtime before losing 1-0.
 
“You want to be out there helping the guys to try and win the hockey game. That in itself is frustrating especially it being as big a game as it was,” Keith said. “But I’m excited to get back and play again and try to do everything I can to help get a win.”
 
The Blackhawks were close to getting that first road playoff victory on Wednesday night. Heading into Friday they’re looking for a split, something they weren’t able to get against the Blues two postseasons ago. Getting Keith back certainly helps that possibility.
 
“It’s huge. Not much has to be said there,” Jonathan Toews said. “We know what Duncs means to our team: power play, penalty kill, all situations we could’ve used him in [Wednesday night]. But he’ll make all those parts of our game better the next one. We can all step it up and feed off that energy he’ll bring.”
 
Coach Joel Quenneville said he will probably pair Keith and Niklas Hjalmarsson together again. Hjalmarsson has played with Trevor van Riemsdyk during Keith’s suspension. The Blackhawks’ defense was strong without Keith in Game 1, holding the Blues to just 18 shots through regulation and nine-plus minutes of overtime. Young guys such as van Riemsdyk and Erik Gustafsson gained more minutes and/or more responsibilities.
 
But at this time of year the experience is critical, so the onus was still on veterans Hjalmarsson and Brent Seabrook. 
 
“Playing 30 minutes, speaking for myself, I’ve done it a lot of times in the playoffs and in big games. I like playing those kinds of minutes and being counted on. But having Duncan back to alleviate that pressure in some areas, whether it’s penalty killing or power play or even strength, he’s such a big part of our team,” Seabrook said. “Getting him back, the way he’s able to eat minutes and still be productive, is big.”
 
Keith knows the Blues will try to throw him off his game. The Blues went with their usual method of attack in Game 1 – hit the Blackhawks as often as possible, and they were credited with 41 hits. With Keith, they may even try to get him to lose his cool. Quenneville said he’s talked with Keith about keeping his composure – “the leash is a little tighter than it’s been. He has to be smarter in that area,” Quenneville said. And Keith knows he can’t let the opposition push his buttons.
 
“Guys have taken runs at me. You deal with it. [Patrick Kane] deals with it very well. Not the biggest guy, but try to find a way to get through that, do what you have to do and play your game. Don’t focus on those type of things. Focus is on the game, competing,” Keith said. “When it comes to the suspension, that’s something I can be in control of and need to do and be smart about that.”
 
The Blackhawks had everything but the finish on Wednesday night. Keith will be back on Friday, playing big minutes, helping on the power play and on the penalty kill. Keith had the Blackhawks’ first game-winning goal of the 2015 Cup run. He had the final game-winning goal, too. Could Keith’s return be the difference in Game 2? The Blackhawks hope it will be.
 
“You want to try to get one on the road. If we would’ve won [Wednesday] we would’ve tried to get two but now we have to look to get the split. Duncs getting back in the lineup and the things we did well we can build off and should give us energy with him returning,” Quenneville said. “Let’s look to get even.”
 
BRIEFLY

  • Andrew Ladd’s wife, Brandy, gave birth to their third child, a boy named Walker Gordon. Quenneville said Ladd is expected to be in the lineup for Game 2 on Friday night.
     
  • The Blackhawks agreed to terms on a three-year contract with defenseman Carl Dahlstrom. The deal for Dahlstrom, who has played in three games with the Rockford IceHogs this season, begins at the start of the 2016-17 season.

Wake-up call? Brandon Saad 'surprised' about possibility of being a healthy scratch

brandon_saad_ap.jpg
AP

Wake-up call? Brandon Saad 'surprised' about possibility of being a healthy scratch

Brandon Saad played a majority of last season on the first line, started this season on the second to change things up, got demoted to the fourth by the fifth game, and could find himself out of the lineup in the sixth.

Before the Blackhawks hit the ice for practice on Monday, the 25-year-old winger found a white jersey hanging in his stall. That's usually reserved for players who are injured — Andreas Martinsen (back) was the only other player wearing one — or players who are on the outside looking in, which appears to be Saad right now considering he was not part of the four-line rotation.

"I don't think anyone wants to be wearing white around here," he said. "But it is what it is and there's nothing you can do but keep trying to improve. It's their job to make the call to put the best team out there to win hockey games."

Known for being even-keeled through the ups and downs, Saad expressed disappointment about the possibility of being a healthy scratch on Thursday against the Arizona Coyotes. He didn't exactly show that emotion following his demotion to the fourth line, perhaps out of respect to the players he was playing with by noting how it brings balance.

But he did on Monday, and it was the first time we've really seen some sort of emotion out of him.

"Everyone makes mistakes and things aren't always going to go your way but to be out of the lineup, a little surprised today," Saad said. "But it is what it is. ... No one wants to be out of the lineup. That's never fun regardless of who you are."

When asked to pinpoint what's gone wrong, Saad said he wasn't the right person to ask.

"I think you got to ask him that," he said, referring to Joel Quenneville and the coaching staff. "It's his calls. For me, you can talk pros and cons as much as you want but just trying to go out there and compete and win hockey games. We've won a few here, I know every game has gone to overtime so they've been close. Nothing was said to me about lineup change or anything like that. You just come in and you see your jersey and you go out there and you play."

So Quenneville was asked.

"Just expect more," he said. "That's the situation."

Is his mindset in the right place?

"I think he's fine," Quenneville said. "His mindset is what it is. Whether it's urgency or passion, coming up with loose pucks in those areas is going to be the difference."

The Blackhawks sending a message shouldn't only be directed at Saad. It also serves as a reminder to his teammates and is important to note for the younger guys about earning your ice time.

"I don't really know where the coaches are coming from so I'm not going to comment on that," Jonathan Toews said respectfully. "But [Saad] has been doing some good things and I think it's good for all of us to know what's going on there because if [Saad] can get his ice time taken away, then so can a lot of guys, myself included. So we all want to play well and have team success."

The Blackhawks need Saad to return to form quickly because he's crucial to their overall success. There's no debate about that. It's why the thought of Saad, who played in all 82 games last season, serving as the 13th forward is frustrating for everyone involved.

It hasn't been a problem in the past, but now it's becoming one because of the Blackhawks' aspirations of getting back to the playoffs and their dependence on their top players.

"I don’t think it’s an issue," Quenneville said. "We just expect more out of him."

Blackhawks make sports history with fifth straight overtime game to start season

Blackhawks make sports history with fifth straight overtime game to start season

The Blackhawks made sports history on Saturday after they appeared in their fifth straight overtime game to start the season.

No NHL team has done that since the league introduced a regular-season overtime period in 1983-84, per the Elias Sports Bureau. It also has never happened in the history of MLB, NBA or NFL, showing just how crazy this early season run has been for the Blackhawks, who have rallied from all five games and have come away with wins in three of them.

"We’ve had five games, every one of them have been extremely intense and the game’s been on the line from start to finish," coach Joel Quenneville said following a 4-3 overtime win over the St. Louis Blues. "Our group’s been competitive this year, the guys have been working hard for one another. I don’t know how many games we’ve been down in the third period, and coming back to win is special."

The Blackhawks appeared in 17 overtime/shootout games last season and won seven of them. They are one of six teams this season that have yet to pick up a regulation win.

On a separate note, Saturday marked the eighth time in Blackhawks history that one player scored a tying goal in the third period and scored in overtime (Alex DeBrincat), according to the NHL's PR department. It's the second time it's happened this year for the Blackhawks, with Jonathan Toews the other on Oct. 6 against St. Louis.