Blackhawks

Five Things: Blackhawks hit the wall vs. Panthers

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Five Things: Blackhawks hit the wall vs. Panthers

SUNRISE, Fla. — That proverbial wall that’s spoken of sometimes? The Blackhawks might be close to hitting it.

After a tremendous 12-game winning streak, the Blackhawks have lost two in a row, including Friday night’s quiet 4-0 loss to the Florida Panthers. Well, that’s the way it goes sometimes. So before we all head home, let’s look at Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ loss to the Panthers.

1. It’s catching up to the Blackhawks. Since Dec. 27, the Blackhawks have played 14 games. That schedule has pretty much been a game every other day, and outside of these last two, those games all ended with victories. But as coach Joel Quenneville pointed out, the Blackhawks “lost a little enthusiasm” when the Lightning ended their 12-game winning streak on Thursday. Couple that with fatigue, which the Blackhawks have to be feeling whether they want to admit it or not, and the All-Star break can’t come soon enough.

2. Florida was better. There’s no getting around it tonight: the Panthers were strong at the start and never really let up against the Blackhawks. The Panthers, who had a 12-game winning streak of their own not too long ago, had energy and were swarming the Blackhawks from the start. It was just too much for the visiting team.

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3. Late goals hurt. It’s doubtful the Blackhawks were going to come back in this one, even if they trailed 1-0 or 2-0 at the end of the first — again, they were listless from the start. But Quinton Howden scoring with just 2.1 seconds remaining in the first period didn’t help. As Marian Hossa said, “usually goals at the end of the periods, whoever scores (them) gets the momentum.”

4. Pulling Scott Darling with eight minutes remaining. Yes, it looked bizarre, more so than any Patrick Roy pull ever has. But the Blackhawks were down 4-0, so why the heck not? Quenneville said, “you never know. You get one and then all of a sudden you get excited. It’s usually not my go-to move but you never know. It could happen one day where it works.”

5. Time to go home. The Blackhawks haven’t lost two consecutive games since December. But coming off a disappointing visit to Florida the Blackhawks head home, where they’ve worked plenty of magic this season. Couple that with a visit from their Central Division rivals, the St. Louis Blues, and the Blackhawks have everything they need to dredge up some pre-break energy. “We know it’s a big one. We know what to expect against that team, and we’re looking for a bounce-back from these two games,” Jonathan Toews said. “The motivation’s right there.”

Sports Talk Live Podcast: Is Crawford ready to go?

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USA TODAY

Sports Talk Live Podcast: Is Crawford ready to go?

Jimmy Greenfield, Connor McKnight, and Matt Spiegel join Kap on the panel to discuss Corey Crawford back on the ice for the first time in 10 months. The Bears have good news when it comes to Khalil Mack, who injured his ankle against the Dolphins.

Plus, Fred Hoiberg announces that Jabari Parker is coming off the bench for the season opener.

Listen to the full episode here or via the embedded player below:

Niklas Hjalmarsson 'wasn't happy' about trade, but remembers time with Blackhawks fondly

Niklas Hjalmarsson 'wasn't happy' about trade, but remembers time with Blackhawks fondly

Apparently time doesn’t heal all wounds. 

Nearly a year and a half since being traded to the Coyotes, Niklas Hjalmarsson will return to the United Center ice on Thursday playing for the visiting team.  

“It’s going to be strange coming in as the away team and being in the other locker room,” said Hjalmarsson on Wednesday. “I bet it’s going to be a lot of emotions and mixed feelings.” 

This is also the first time Hjalmarsson has been back to the city of Chicago since he was traded, a city he called his “second home.” A home where he spent parts of 10 seasons, and never really planned on leaving.

“I wasn’t happy, to be honest with you,” said Hjalmarsson of the trade to Arizona. “I was shocked. It took me a couple days to actually realize I wasn’t going to play for the Hawks anymore.”

Including the playoffs, Hjalmarsson played 751 games in the Indian head sweater. Despite that and the team’s three Stanley Cup victories, the Blackhawks shipped him off to Arizona for Connor Murphy and Laurent Dauphin in June of 2017.

“You kind of let it go after a while,” he said. “Now I’m just hoping all the success for the guys over here too.”

Hjalmarsson was known for his toughness, repeatedly blocking shot after shot, giving up his body, while never missing a shift. He credits his long-time teammates — Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook — for a lot of his success and identity on the blue line.

“I couldn’t have had better role models coming into a team,” he said. “I’m very thankful to have played on the same team as those guys and created a lot of success together. We’re always going to be connected with the Cups that we’ve had.”

The third championship won by that defense-trio was on United Center ice against the Lightning in 2015, but that isn’t the memory that stands out most for Hjalmarsson.

“The first Cup is always going to be pretty special,” said the 31-year old. “Even just going to the conference final (in 2009), even when we lost against Detroit that year, the year before was great memories too. The first time for me going into the playoffs and playing deep.”

The tables have turned now for both Hjalmarsson and the Blackhawks. 

The Coyotes have yet to score an even-strength goal this season, while the Blackhawks have claimed eight of a possible 10 points thus far through five games and expect to have their starting goaltender back between the pipes. 

But you won’t hear any ill-will from Hjalmarsson, he’s still rooting for the Hawks.

“I always think that Chicago deserves to have a team in the playoffs,” he said. “It’s not that I wish them not to do well. It’s the total opposite. I want them to have continued success.”