Blackhawks

Five Things: Goaltending 'just OK' in Blackhawks' loss

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Five Things: Goaltending 'just OK' in Blackhawks' loss

Considering the turnover the Blackhawks went through this offseason, some stumbling was to be expected.

But right now, the Blackhawks are really struggling. There’s little consistency in their game; some nights the offense works, some nights the defense works, but both haven’t come together very often. So now they sit at 8-7-1, which currently has them sixth in a very competitive Central Division.

There’s plenty of hockey to be played, but the Blackhawks have to start putting things together soon. For now, however, let’s just look at the Five Things to take from their 3-2 loss to the New Jersey Devils on Thursday night.

1. Goaltending “just OK tonight.” That’s the quote from coach Joel Quenneville, and we all know what that means, don’t we? Corey Crawford started off great this season, but he’s allowed a lot lately. Team defense hasn’t been at its best, but Crawford’s not making the big stops, nor is he making enough of them. There were a lot of changes this offseason, and the Blackhawks were going to be leaning on their veteran guys in the early going. Crawford was there at the start; he needs to be there again.

2. Someone other than a second-line guy needs to score. This is becoming a broken record, really. Artemi Panarin, Artem Anisimov and Patrick Kane are supplying plenty of points. Panarin and Kane were at it again on Thursday night — Kane’s now on an 11-game point streak, three shy of his career best set from Nov. 30-Dec. 28, 2013. The Blackhawks need more from everyone. The other three lines have had no consistency and, worse, not a whole lot of scoring. Said Quenneville, “There’s no plays to be made when everybody’s protecting the slot the way they do and blocking shots. That’s what you’ve gotta do and find a way to get some ugly ones.”

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3. Get past the turnover issues. We mean the roster here. Yes, the Blackhawks changed a lot of faces among their personnel. They’re not the first team to go through this — this isn’t even their first time going through this. At some point, the Blackhawks have to jell. That might mean sticking with some line combinations, even if they don’t work immediately. Consistency is needed, pronto.

4. Don’t fall too far behind. Even in past years when the Blackhawks struggled, they were good at forcing overtime, getting at least a point for their efforts. Right now they’re not even doing that, and this could end up hurting them down the line. The Blackhawks were less than three minutes away from getting at least a point on Thursday night. If they get to overtime, perhaps they get that other one. Instead they finished the night with zero. They have to get back to clawing out points whenever they get the chance late in games to do so.

5. Help is on the way. Yes, cheer up, boys and girls: Quenneville reiterated on Thursday night that he expects Duncan Keith and Michal Rozsival to get back into the lineup “at some point this weekend.” That’s great news for a team that could use some help, especially from veterans who have been here, done this before.

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.”