Blackhawks

Five Things from Blackhawks-Avalanche: Great night for the rookies

Five Things from Blackhawks-Avalanche: Great night for the rookies

DENVER – Well, that was a wild one, wasn’t it?

We’ll spare you the gory-to-glorious details (most of which are in the game story, anyway). So instead, let’s just get to the Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ 6-4 victory over Colorado.

1. Great night for the rookies. The Blackhawks’ newest players were their most prolific players on Tuesday night. Vinnie Hinostroza had two goals. Tanner Kero did too, and added an assist. Nick Schmaltz had a goal and an assist. All of these experiences are great learning curves for the Blackhawks’ youth, and coach Joel Quenneville likes how they’re progressing, not just with scoring but with their overall games. “That’s the part that’ll make them better players and us a better team is playing the right way defensively, being responsible, putting the puck in good areas and going hard to the net.”

2. Top line still too quiet. Line changes were made but the results remained the same, especially for the Blackhawks’ top trio. Ryan Hartman and Richard Panik were up there with Jonathan Toews in this one, but still nada. The three had a combined three shots for the game. Many of you have asked if Toews is still dealing with that back injury. On Tuesday morning he said, “no, it’s been really good, actually.” Still, there’s something up with a top line that, regardless of combination, just can’t get anything going.

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3. Terrible second period. The Blackhawks came out of the first in great shape and with a 2-1 lead. But things got messy in the second period. Be it the inability to clear or get the puck deep in the Avs’ zone, the Blackhawks made mistakes. The Avs capitalized, scoring three goals in the second including two in a 63-second span. Outside of Tanner Kero’s goal, the Blackhawks had a forgettable second period. The Avalanche outscored them 3-1 and outshot them 8-4 in the second.

4. Faceoffs lost. The Blackhawks did not do well in this department, winning just 23 percent of their faceoffs. It didn’t cost them the game but they certainly need better nights than they got on Tuesday.

5. Corey Crawford gets through it. Crawford was stellar prior to his appendectomy but hasn’t been at that level since. Quenneville said he considered pulling Crawford during this one but decided to keep him in. Quenneville’s still happy with his goaltending – again, the Blackhawks aren’t where they are right now without it this season. But he said Crawford could be better than he was on Tuesday.

How Blackhawks are staying positive and adapting to Jeremy Colliton’s system

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USA TODAY

How Blackhawks are staying positive and adapting to Jeremy Colliton’s system

It's been a challenging week for Jeremy Colliton. He's winless in his first three games (0-2-1) as an NHL head coach, but has taken over behind the bench for a Blackhawks team that hasn't won since Oct. 25.

There hasn't been a winning feeling in the locker room in almost three weeks, which has certainly been difficult for a rookie coach as he tries to reestablish a winning culture while implementing details of his system on the fly. But they're seeing some progress.

"I had a really good feeling after the game," Colliton said on Tuesday regarding the 3-2 overtime loss to the Carolina Hurricanes. "I thought we played pretty well. Of course, disappointed we didn't get rewarded. This team needs some positive reinforcement with points. We can tell them, 'Hey, we're getting better guys,' and showing them the positive progression, but in the end, it's about results and we want to get them. That's going to be the final reminder that we're on the right track.

"When you're in a losing streak, it's hard to get out of it. You need to play really, really well. You need a couple breaks, but you often don't get them. You've got to make your own breaks. And we're close. Once we break through, that tide will turn and we can go on a run."

It's easy to squeeze the sticks a little harder when a losing streak is nearing the double digits, but the Blackhawks haven't shown any signs of that. There isn't any boiling frustration because they know they're close and can give more.

"I know we've got a couple losses, but just trying to get better every day," Brandon Saad said. "He's our new coach. We want to commit to his system and buy into his play. Once we get that going, we're going to have some success. Early on we had a few losses, but it's about keeping that confidence and staying positive. We've got good things going forward.

"It's fun coming to the rink learning every day, talking with him. He's got his knacks and every coach wants you to play a certain way and play within a certain system. For us it's just getting familiarized with that and buying into the system. It's always more fun winning. I think everyone has that hunger and compete level every day, trying to get back on the winning side of things."

A week into Colliton's tenure in Chicago, the Blackhawks are getting more and more comfortable with how he wants them to play the more reps they get. But it's still an adjustment.

"There's definitely some differences and some things we're trying to change and you're trying to do it on the fly," Patrick Kane said. "It's not the easiest thing when you're doing it in the NHL, but we played pretty well [on Monday] and probably could've had a better result, could've had some more goals, had some chances that we didn't really capitalize on. Hopefully it's all coming together here.

"I know we're in a little bit of a skid, but it's one of those things where we want to end it, we want to get some momentum on our side and then I think everyone will start feeling comfortable with where we're at. But he's implemented some things that I think are really going to help us."

It's difficult to make up ground in the Central Division and Western Conference as a whole, but there's still more than 75 percent of the season to go. That doesn't mean they can afford to take their time in snapping out of this eight-game losing streak (0-6-2), but there is time to get it right and go on a run to climb back into the playoff race.

They're not focused on the bigger picture right now though. It starts with winning one game, and as long as the Blackhawks continue to have the right mindset, it will get turned around sooner than later.

"We've got to keep the belief," Colliton said. "In my view, the only thing that gets in the way from us turning the ship around and having a lot of success is if there's doubt in what we're doing, if guys stop believing we're on the right track. So that's our job of the staff and leadership group to make sure we continue to believe we're on the right path. All we've got to do is show them the clips, show them the video. It's pretty clear. We will get it going here."

What Jeremy Colliton has learned about the Blackhawks after one week

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USA TODAY

What Jeremy Colliton has learned about the Blackhawks after one week

It’s been a week since Jeremy Colliton took over as head coach of the Blackhawks. In some ways, it feels longer than that. In reality, he's just getting started.

Coming into a situation where the team had lost five straight games didn't help make the transition easy for Colliton, and dropping his first three contests as an NHL coach hasn't been ideal, either.

But he's been around long enough to get a feel for what he has in the locker room and how his players are responding to the adversity. 

Asked what he's learned from this group so far, Colliton didn't hesitate.

"I've learned that they want to win," he said. "They're extremely open to feedback. They want to get better. They want the video. They want the meetings. They want to talk. They want these ideas. They want to know how we can win. What's the plan? And it's right on down the line. The youngest guys I knew that because I had them in Rockford. But the oldest guys, they're almost the most excited about talking hockey and how we're going to turn this around. So that's been a pleasant surprise and makes me very excited about the future."

There are nine players on this Blackhawks roster with at least two Stanley Cups on their resume. Yet, none of them are satisfied with where they're at right now, which isn't surprising to anybody in Chicago. That’s why they’re winners.

The Blackhawks want to turn this losing skid around as quickly as possible and it's the veterans who are leading the charge in that respect, both on the ice and in the film room. That's the kind of leadership they have and need to have in the locker room, especially as a 33-year-old rookie NHL coach looks to gain respect of the group on the fly.