Blackhawks

Five Things from Blackhawks-Stars: Power play goes quiet

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Five Things from Blackhawks-Stars: Power play goes quiet

The Blackhawks were looking pretty good for two periods. They were holding a very offensive-minded Dallas Stars team in check and they were getting some decent scoring opportunities themselves.

And then it all went bye-bye in the third period, when the Stars, led by Patrick Sharp, went on a three-goal tear for a 4-0 victory. The Blackhawks weren’t too happy with the way this one ended, whether it was the score or just the way the played – or didn’t play – that third period.

But sometimes, that’s the way the cookie-left-for-Santa crumbles. So before we call it a break – Christmas, that is – let’s look at the Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ loss to the Stars.

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1. The power play goes quiet. The Blackhawks have found much success with their advantage this season. But when they got two early power plays against the Stars on Tuesday, they didn’t get a shot. On either power play. Against a team like Dallas, you have to take advantage of every opportunity you get. The Blackhawks didn’t on those.

2. Dallas can score in bunches. That was evident last year and it’s looking that way against this season. And on Tuesday, the Stars made the third period their own highlight reel. The Stars got two quick goals in the first three minutes of the third and then added another late in the period. Speaking of that…

3. Sharp with the finish. Sharp wasn’t making much noise for the Stars through the first two periods (we’ll get to that below) but he certainly did to start the third. His 12th goal of the season came just 11 seconds into the third period and fellow former Blackhawk Johnny Oduya was one of the first to come over and help celebrate the goal with him. The night overall, however, was bittersweet for Sharp. “It really wasn't that fun of a game,” he said. “It's tough to play against your friends. Hockey's a game you play with a lot of intensity, and that's hard to do against your buddies.”

[MORE: Patrick Sharp leads Stars to shutout victory over Blackhawks]

4. Fourth line has the tough job. Andrew Desjardins, Phillip Danault and former Stars forward Ryan Garbutt went up against the Stars’ top line of Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin and Sharp. They did a good job on the evening, holding the trio off the score sheet through the first two periods. Patrick Sharp – whose assist earlier in the game came on the power play – finally broke through in the third, but that wasn’t against the fourth line.

5. The Blackhawks enter the break at 20-12-4. You know, that’s really not a bad record for a team that entered this season with a lot of uncertainty. Obviously their recent outings helped better that record; they’ve gone 7-4-1 so far this month. It was going to take time for the Blackhawks to get some chemistry and balance. It looks like they may be getting that now.

Wake-up call? Brandon Saad 'surprised' about possibility of being a healthy scratch

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AP

Wake-up call? Brandon Saad 'surprised' about possibility of being a healthy scratch

Brandon Saad played a majority of last season on the first line, started this season on the second to change things up, got demoted to the fourth by the fifth game, and could find himself out of the lineup in the sixth.

Before the Blackhawks hit the ice for practice on Monday, the 25-year-old winger found a white jersey hanging in his stall. That's usually reserved for players who are injured — Andreas Martinsen (back) was the only other player wearing one — or players who are on the outside looking in, which appears to be Saad right now considering he was not part of the four-line rotation.

"I don't think anyone wants to be wearing white around here," he said. "But it is what it is and there's nothing you can do but keep trying to improve. It's their job to make the call to put the best team out there to win hockey games."

Known for being even-keeled through the ups and downs, Saad expressed disappointment about the possibility of being a healthy scratch on Thursday against the Arizona Coyotes. He didn't exactly show that emotion following his demotion to the fourth line, perhaps out of respect to the players he was playing with by noting how it brings balance.

But he did on Monday, and it was the first time we've really seen some sort of emotion out of him.

"Everyone makes mistakes and things aren't always going to go your way but to be out of the lineup, a little surprised today," Saad said. "But it is what it is. ... No one wants to be out of the lineup. That's never fun regardless of who you are."

When asked to pinpoint what's gone wrong, Saad said he wasn't the right person to ask.

"I think you got to ask him that," he said, referring to Joel Quenneville and the coaching staff. "It's his calls. For me, you can talk pros and cons as much as you want but just trying to go out there and compete and win hockey games. We've won a few here, I know every game has gone to overtime so they've been close. Nothing was said to me about lineup change or anything like that. You just come in and you see your jersey and you go out there and you play."

So Quenneville was asked.

"Just expect more," he said. "That's the situation."

Is his mindset in the right place?

"I think he's fine," Quenneville said. "His mindset is what it is. Whether it's urgency or passion, coming up with loose pucks in those areas is going to be the difference."

The Blackhawks sending a message shouldn't only be directed at Saad. It also serves as a reminder to his teammates and is important to note for the younger guys about earning your ice time.

"I don't really know where the coaches are coming from so I'm not going to comment on that," Jonathan Toews said respectfully. "But [Saad] has been doing some good things and I think it's good for all of us to know what's going on there because if [Saad] can get his ice time taken away, then so can a lot of guys, myself included. So we all want to play well and have team success."

The Blackhawks need Saad to return to form quickly because he's crucial to their overall success. There's no debate about that. It's why the thought of Saad, who played in all 82 games last season, serving as the 13th forward is frustrating for everyone involved.

It hasn't been a problem in the past, but now it's becoming one because of the Blackhawks' aspirations of getting back to the playoffs and their dependence on their top players.

"I don’t think it’s an issue," Quenneville said. "We just expect more out of him."

Blackhawks make sports history with fifth straight overtime game to start season

Blackhawks make sports history with fifth straight overtime game to start season

The Blackhawks made sports history on Saturday after they appeared in their fifth straight overtime game to start the season.

No NHL team has done that since the league introduced a regular-season overtime period in 1983-84, per the Elias Sports Bureau. It also has never happened in the history of MLB, NBA or NFL, showing just how crazy this early season run has been for the Blackhawks, who have rallied from all five games and have come away with wins in three of them.

"We’ve had five games, every one of them have been extremely intense and the game’s been on the line from start to finish," coach Joel Quenneville said following a 4-3 overtime win over the St. Louis Blues. "Our group’s been competitive this year, the guys have been working hard for one another. I don’t know how many games we’ve been down in the third period, and coming back to win is special."

The Blackhawks appeared in 17 overtime/shootout games last season and won seven of them. They are one of six teams this season that have yet to pick up a regulation win.

On a separate note, Saturday marked the eighth time in Blackhawks history that one player scored a tying goal in the third period and scored in overtime (Alex DeBrincat), according to the NHL's PR department. It's the second time it's happened this year for the Blackhawks, with Jonathan Toews the other on Oct. 6 against St. Louis.