Blackhawks

Five Things: Jonathan Toews with his fifth overtime winner

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Five Things: Jonathan Toews with his fifth overtime winner

GLENDALE, Ariz. — There are times when calls don’t go your way. The Blackhawks were reminded of that on Thursday night with a disallowed goal early.

How you deal with those calls, however, is what ultimately matters. And after fuming, seething and cursing — lots of cursing — the Blackhawks got it together enough to eke out an overtime victory over the Arizona Coyotes. It was a fun one to watch, if you like a lot of goals and a little bit of drama.

Anyway, you all saw it. So before we call it a night, let’s look at Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ 5-4 victory over the Coyotes.

1. An angry Marian Hossa is a great Marian Hossa. Seriously, it takes a lot to tick off Hossa. He’s one of the most affable guys you’ll meet in this business. But he was still angry about his disallowed goal following the game. But during the game Hossa channeled that energy the right way with a great performance. As coach Joel Quenneville said, “We like Hoss, whether he’s scoring or not. But he had a real presence in tonight’s game.”

2. Jonathan Toews with the OT winner. Thursday marked the fifth time that’s been written this season. There’s just something about Toews in overtime. Sure, he gets great opportunities with the open ice. But Toews, in his first game since prior to the All-Star break, has also built up confidence from what he’s done in previous overtimes. Toews’ 3-on-3 goal-scoring prowess had Quenneville joking, “I would’ve liked to have seen him in the All-Star game.”

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3. Michal Rozsival’s first goal was almost the game winner. Seriously, how great of a story would it have been if Rozsival’s goal were the difference? The veteran defenseman had a big smile on his face after scoring his first goal of the season, a 4-on-4 goal off a pass from Artem Anisimov. Alas, it wasn’t the winner, but it was a nice goal for Rozsival nonetheless.

4. Patrick Kane scores his 31st of the season. I used the word kerfuffle to describe the second period, because it was. And lost in the midst of penalties, a redemption goal and other fun, Kane set a new career mark for goals in a season. Who knows with what number he could finish, considering the Blackhawks have 27 regular-season games remaining.

5. An entertaining regular-season game. We’re at that point of the season where games can be a bit draggy, even if teams are just out of the All-Star break. If you wanted to watch some fun hockey, this one didn’t disappoint. Plenty of drama and penalties and goals and ties and angst: You usually have to wait for the postseason for all of that. On Thursday, you saw it in game No. 55 for the Blackhawks.

Evaluating Blackhawks options after Anton Forsberg is placed on waivers

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AP

Evaluating Blackhawks options after Anton Forsberg is placed on waivers

The Blackhawks have said all along that they don't plan on carrying three goaltenders, but wanted to do so during the three games in four days stretch just in case, with Corey Crawford coming back from a 10-month layoff because of a concussion.

After being encouraged by how Crawford has responded to his return, the Blackhawks placed goaltender Anton Forsberg on waivers Monday morning. Teams have 24 hours to put in a claim for the 25-year-old goaltender and would have to keep him on their NHL roster for 10 games and/or 30 days before he's eligible to go through the waiver process again.

His chances of getting claimed by any of the other 30 teams essentially depends on which teams believe Forsberg would be an immediate upgrade over their current backup — or starter, for that matter — or whether there's an injury to one of the team's two goaltenders that requires a placeholder, like we saw the Carolina Hurricanes do by claiming Curtis McElhinney from the Toronto Maple Leafs after Scott Darling's injury in the preseason.

If Forsberg goes unclaimed, the Blackhawks can assign him to the American Hockey League with the Rockford IceHogs. With Collin Delia and Kevin Lankinen sharing the goaltending duties in Rockford, it's possible Lankinen gets sent to the Indy Fuel in the East Coast Hockey League to get consistent starts under his belt.

The third option, one that isn't very common but we've seen in the past as recently as last October with Maple Leafs goaltender Kasimir Kaskisuo, is that Forsberg can be loaned to any AHL team while still being a part of the Blackhawks organization. This would allow the Blackhawks to keep Delia and Lankinen in Rockford while Forsberg gets his starts in the AHL, too.

Forsberg was 10-16-4 with a 2.97 goals against average and .908 save percentage in 35 appearances last season but has not appeared in a game yet this year. He was acquired as part of the Brandon Saad package for Artemi Panarin in June 2017.

Blackhawks looking for defensive improvement from everyone, not just defensemen

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks looking for defensive improvement from everyone, not just defensemen

The Blackhawks were able to get away with their defensive lapses in the past solely because of Corey Crawford. When he went down with a concussion last December, those issues were magnified because he wasn't there to mask the flaws.

But it's reached the point where they can't rely on their goaltender to bail them out on a nightly basis, which is becoming another trend. Cam Ward allowed six goals to Tampa Bay on Sunday night, but made 49 saves — including 30 in the second period alone. He did everything he could to keep his team withing some sort of reaching distance and without his timely stops, the scoreboard could've looked much worse for the Blackhawks.

Something's got to change. 

When the Blackhawks talk about tightening things up defensively, they're not just putting it all on the defensemen. All five guys on the ice need to do their part and they're not doing it right now.

"I think we're trying to do too much and running around trying to do each other's job," Jonathan Toews said. "Sometimes we just need to simply and finish our checks and support each other."

No team has given up more even-strength high-danger chances through eight games than the Blackhawks at 110. That's 15.77 per 60 minutes. For reference, the New York Islanders finished worst in the league in that category last season and their number was at 12.96.

It didn't help that the Blackhawks spent nearly the entire second period in their own end on Sunday.

"We just couldn’t get it out of our zone, couldn’t get our stick on it, didn’t see pressure, didn’t feel pressure when we had it, were stripped," coach Joel Quenneville said. "Hence, we didn’t advance it. Kept looking like we were going up the ice and there were going to be some odd-man situations and then we’re the ones who were facing it."

That's one way to eliminate those high quality scoring chances, is getting the puck out of their own zone effectively or else it opens the door for Grade-A opportunities because of self-inflicted wounds. And it usually happens at the end of shifts when guys are tired, which often leads to goals.

"We have to learn how to play without the puck better and learn how to keep it," Quenneville said. "Whether it was our execution going up the ice, first pass poor and then we couldn’t change. A lot of things that happened yesterday were there tonight."

The Blackhawks weren't using three games in four nights as an excuse because Tampa Bay was in the same situation. It was an even playing field in that respect.

It's all about execution from everyone involved, forwards and defensemen. And the Blackhawks feel they're correctable issues.

"Of course," Toews said. "We've had some good periods this season so far. The first three, four, five games, everyone was excited and you guys are all talking to us much differently than you are right now. It's just getting back to playing that smart defensive game and playing with effort and letting our offense do the work. We know what's got to improve. It's right there in front of us."