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.

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Blackhawks show urgency vs. the undefeated

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USA Today

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Blackhawks show urgency vs. the undefeated

The Blackhawks finally got on the board for the season and did so in front of the 500th consecutive capacity crowd at the United Center.

Pat Boyle, Jamal Mayers and Charlie Roumeliotis break down the impressive performance by the Blackhawks against the undefeated Edmonton Oilers and discuss how Jeremy Colliton’s message got through to Alex Nylander and the rest of the team.

Plus, after an impressive performance in net, should Corey Crawford get the next game vs. the Blue Jackets? And what does the future have in store for Kirby Dach? Jamal makes a bold prediction.

0:54 – Blackhawks finally show urgency in 2nd period

2:47 – Penalty kill starting to show some life

5:00 – Thoughts on the Shaw/Strome/Kane line

6:43 – Blackhawks eliminating some defensive breakdowns

9:23 – Big rebound performance from Corey Crawford

11:36 – Colliton’s message to Alex Nylander got through

15:21 – Brandon Saad has been a pleasant surprise early on

17:15 – Dominik Kubalik’s impressive performance

18:31 – Will Kirby Dach be with the Blackhawks all season?

22:42 – Does Crawford or Lehner start vs. the Blue Jackets?

Listen to the entire episode here or in the embedded player below.

Blackhawks Talk Podcast

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Four takeaways: Corey Crawford shines in Blackhawks first win of the season

Four takeaways: Corey Crawford shines in Blackhawks first win of the season

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 3-1 win over the Edmonton Oilers at the United Center on Monday:

1. Blackhawks are in the win column

The Blackhawks said after morning skate that they weren't going to "freak out" about their 0-2-1 start despite talking all training camp long about how they didn't want to dig a hole in October. Still, Monday felt like a game they had to win going into a three-day break because they have to start generating some positive vibes within the locker room.

And they did just that.

The Blackhawks handed the Oilers their first loss of the season (5-1-0), but more importantly, they're finally in the win column for the 2019-20 campaign.

"We played really well," Corey Crawford said. "I think everyone was going. Guys were coming back to help out defensively, and just a good team effort. The PK was strong, even though we gave up that one [late], it was strong early in the game. Just nice to win the first one."

2. Second period? That's more like it

The Blackhawks have been happy with their first periods this season. They've been mostly happy with their thirds. It's the middle frame that's been their downfall.

The team addressed those struggles as a team the morning of the game, and they certainly responded.

According to Natural Stat Trick, the Blackhawks led in shot attempts (32-8), even-strength scoring chances (16-6), even-strength high danger chances (5-4) and, of course, the goal column (1-0) in the second period. That's more like it.

"That was the message today from the coaches was how much better we need to be in the second," Connor Murphy said. "We showed examples of when we've done that in the past and what it takes. I think we were just better at staying on our toes and we drew some penalties and got on the forecheck quick and kept their goalie from being able to make plays and for them to be able to come up ice."

3. Corey Crawford shines

You could've made a good argument that Robin Lehner should've started this game, especially coming off a solid outing on Saturday and his career numbers against the Oilers (5-1-2 with a 1.86 goals-against average and .943 save percentage). But the coaching staff went with Crawford and it proved to be the correct decision.

Crawford stopped 27 of 28 shots for a save percentage of .964 and faced nine high-danger chances at 5-on-5, none of which found the back of the net. His lone goal against came with 2:11 left in regulation and it was on a 6-on-4 power play for the Oilers. Overall, he was fantastic.

"He looked sharp as ever," coach Jeremy Colliton said. "He was really good. He did make some saves for us. That team has some weapons so they had some opportunities and he was there and just he's under control. It's something I've said about him before, he really gives the team confidence. I thought tonight he was really good."

4. Blackhawks shut down Oilers' top guns

The first line of Leon Draisaitl, Zack Kassian and Connor McDavid went into Monday tied for the most goals scored as a trio. When the three of them are on the ice at 5-on-5, they're controlling 57.1 percent of the shot attempts, 61.2 percent of the scoring chances and 68.8 percent of the high danger chances.

The Blackhawks held them in check. That line had 14 shot attempts for and 20 against at 5-on-5 and were on the ice for 11 scoring chances. The third line of David Kampf, Dominik Kubalik and Brandon Saad did a terrific job of shutting them down.

"They all just got real big motors, big engine," Colliton said of the Saad-Kampf-Kubalik line. "They work and compete and they all bring a little bit different ingredient. ... Pleased with that line."

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