Five Things from Blackhawks-Devils: From a sluggish start to a Marian Hossa finish

Five Things from Blackhawks-Devils: From a sluggish start to a Marian Hossa finish

Getting points any way possible: that’s pretty much any team’s mantra at any point of a season but when missing a top player, it’s even more so. The Blackhawks are in that boat right now, trying to gather as may points as they can while Jonathan Toews heals from his upper-body injury.

For the fourth consecutive game, the Blackhawks found a way. Yes, that start was dismal. We’ll get to that in a second. But the end result was a positive again as the Blackhawks beat the New Jersey Devils 4-3 in overtime. So before we call it a night, here are Five Things to take away from the Blackhawks’ victory.

1. Another awful start. Yeah, let’s just get this one out of the way. This was actually to a new level of lousy compared to the Blackhawks’ previous bad starts. For the first few minutes the Blackhawks couldn’t even get the puck to the red line. Credit the Devils for some of that – they were playing the type of road period that’s necessary – but the Blackhawks couldn’t get out of their own way. It was a surprise they finished the first 20 minutes down by just one goal. Well, actually not so much when you consider what Corey Crawford’s done this season, and did again on Thursday.

2. The Kruger line strikes again. While the top two lines struggle to find offense, the Dennis Rasmussen-Kruger-Richard Panik line found it again. This time it was Kruger, with a slick snipe that beat Cory Schneider and tied the game 1-1 just 1:02 into the second period. Rasmussen had his second assist in as many nights; this pass wasn’t the lengthy one he threw Panik on Tuesday, but was just as effective. And for Kruger, getting his second of the season was pleasant. “You never know what role you're going to play and if you're healthy and stuff like that, you want to score as many as you can. But it feels nice to chip in,” Kruger said.

3. Shooting isn’t so bad. From the second period on, the Blackhawks were buying more into the shoot-whenever-you-can mentality. It worked. First it was Anisimov shooting and then following his own shot for a goal. Hjalmarsson had a quick shot off a loose puck and also scored. The Blackhawks, who had just nine shots in the first period, had 15 in the second. They also had three goals. Who woulda thunk it?

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

4. Power play progress? Coach Joel Quenneville didn’t mind it, despite it going 0-for-4 against the Devils. The Blackhawks have just one power-play goal since Nov. 19 but Quenneville was encouraged by the zone time the Blackhawks got on Thursday night. That was evident on their fourth one, although they didn’t get a shot on it. Still, Quenneville said, “if we get that zone time, we’ll find a way to hit the back of the net.”

5. Marian Hossa finishes. Again. We shouldn’t be shocked anymore, should we? Hossa sliced through the middle and just tried to shoot through bodies. It worked, as he netted his fourth game-winning goal of the season. Niklas Hjalmarsson summed up Hossa best: “He seems to have found the fountain of youth. He’s looking better and stronger than ever. Whatever he’s doing, I’m just going to follow and do the same thing.”

Blackhawks not going to 'freak out' about 0-2-1 start

Blackhawks not going to 'freak out' about 0-2-1 start

The Blackhawks wanted to get off to a strong start this season because they know how hard it is to climb out of a hole in the Central Division. Last season was proof of that.

Well, they've picked up only one out of a possible six points through three games and are one of three teams still searching for their first victory of the season. But they're not going into panic mode just yet.

"We know there's things we have to improve upon," Jonathan Toews said. "Jeremy [Colliton] always talks about doing the right thing and over time eventually you're going to get results. I don't know if we can say we're doing things the right things that we want to and we're playing complete games right now, so even having said that, midway through the San Jose game and even against Winnipeg we were in a position to take control of the game going into the third period and we let teams back in. So I think there's a lot of ways we can play better.

"But having said that we're in those games and giving ourselves a chance to win. Obviously that's not good enough, but we're not going to freak out and say, 'we've got to start winning games.' Of course that's the goal, we wanted to get two points the other night."

The quest to pick up their first two points of the season doesn't get any easier for the Blackhawks on Monday night. The Edmonton Oilers are coming to town with a 5-0-0 record, and they're clicking on all cylinders. They have the second-best power play unit (41.2 percent), second-best penalty kill percentage (94.1), the NHL's leading point-getter in Connor McDavid (12) and leading goal scorer in James Neal (seven).

The Blackhawks know at some point they have to start stringing together some wins, but they're not living and dying by the standings right now because everything looks out of proportion. They're focused on the process and putting together a full 60-minute effort.

"It's always magnified at the start of the year," Colliton said. "Your special teams, you got [teams] with 100 percent PK, you got [teams] with 40 percent power play, and all the little things they look way bigger than they are. Would be nice for us to get a win, get some positive feelings but any three-game window among the 82, it's not going to be looked upon as closely as this one.

"So again, we've just got to focus on playing hard, playing the game the right way, do the right thing time and time again and we'll get the results." 

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Corey Crawford to start in goal for Blackhawks vs. Oilers

USA Today

Corey Crawford to start in goal for Blackhawks vs. Oilers

Corey Crawford will start in goal for the Blackhawks when they take on the Edmonton Oilers on Monday night. He's 0-2-0 with a 4.63 goals-against average and .875 save percentage this season.

In 18 career appearances against the Oilers, Crawford is 9-7-0 with a 2.53 goals-against average, .909 save percentage and one shutout. 

The decision is a little surprising, given how well Lehner performed on Saturday against the Winnipeg Jets and what his career numbers are against the Oilers. In eight starts vs. Edmonton, Lehner is 5-1-2 with a 1.86 goals-against average, .943 save percentage and one shutout.

"We're going to continue to ... both guys are going to get in," coach Jeremy Colliton said after Monday's morning skate. "They're both going to play. I'm not going to give you the road map, but today it's Crawford and we'll go from there."

The Blackhawks are seeking their first win of the season (0-2-1) against an Oilers team that's 5-0-0.

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