Five Things: Blackhawks' penalty kill struggles in loss to Blues


Five Things: Blackhawks' penalty kill struggles in loss to Blues

ST. LOUIS – Sometimes it’s about what you gain. The Blackhawks will take that part from Wednesday. But they’re certainly not thrilled with what they lost, which is another critical point at this juncture.

But they’ll still head to Dallas in first place in the Central Division despite their 3-2 shootout loss to the St. Louis Blues. So before we head that way, let’s look at Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ shootout loss.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans]

1. The penalty kill struggles again. The Blackhawks liked what they did on the kill against Detroit on Sunday. They didn’t like it at all on Wednesday. The Blackhawks didn’t give up their first power play until the third period; then they gave up two goals on three Blues advantages. It was an outing that had coach Joel Quenneville angry. Understandably so, since the Blackhawks had a 1-0 lead entering the third period.

2. Jonathan Toews is OK. It wasn’t the hit that hurt Toews so much as him running into a partially open door on the Blues bench. Toews went out for a quick shift before going to the locker room, but he returned a few minutes later. Toews said it was just a hip flexor. “Just had to try and keep it warm and make sure I could keep moving with it,” Toews said. “Didn’t feel good at first, but as the game went on, it got better and better.”

3. The Blues’ penalty kill withstands damage. Yes, the Blackhawks did score one power-play goal on Ryan Reaves’ five-minute charging call. But the Blackhawks were thwarted on two previous power plays. And even after Andrew Ladd’s power-play goal, the Blackhawks had ninety seconds remaining on Reaves’ penalty. The Blues and Jake Allen, however, kept the Blackhawks’ power play – No. 1 overall and No. 2 on the road – from scoring more. The Blues’ penalty kill is the best in the league for a reason.

[MORE: Penalties haunt Blackhawks in shootout loss to Blues]

4. Artemi Panarin just keeps going. The rookie had a timely goal on Wednesday, scoring with just 1:17 remaining in regulation to tie the game and keep the Blackhawks’ leading-after-two-periods record without a regulation loss (they’re now 32-0-3 this season). Panarin leads all NHL rookies in goals (25) assists (37) and points (62).

5. Prepping for Dallas. The Blackhawks will get past this one quick because they don’t have another choice. They’re headed back to Dallas for another first-place tussle. Will Marian Hossa return for this one? The forward said he’ll see day-by-day on his lower-body injury. Considering how close he was to starting tonight, it won’t be surprising if he suits up on Friday.

Sports Talk Live Podcast: Is Crawford ready to go?


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.”