Blackhawks

Good timing: Blackhawks' complete game returning

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Good timing: Blackhawks' complete game returning

ST. PAUL, Minn. – When the Blackhawks were going through their first-round series against the Nashville Predators, their offense was clicking. Their top players were contributing with goals and assists galore.

The penalty kill, the team defense and the goaltending, however, were more up in the air. The first two were struggling and the third was in carousel mode. And as the second round began, there were questions if the Blackhawks could improve in those three categories, and what would happen if they didn’t?

Well, three games into this series with the Minnesota Wild, those questions have been answered. The Blackhawks have returned to top form in all three, as evidence by their 3-0 series lead and especially their last two games, which they won 4-1 and 1-0, respectively. Corey Crawford has been part of that, too, allowing just one goal over his last two games and recording his fourth career postseason shutout on Tuesday night.

[MORE HAWKS: Goalie wins to power-play goals - Five Things from Game 3]

The Blackhawks are hitting their stride in just about every facet of their game right now, which is great for them and bad for anyone opposing them.

“It’s tough to say when you look back over the six or eight months that we’ve been playing. But I think we can be confident with how we are playing as of late,” Patrick Sharp said. “You mentioned four lines, six or seven [defensemen]. We’ve got some more guys that are ready to step in and we’ve used both goaltenders up to this point, so we feel good about our depth and where we’re sitting in the series right now.”

Coach Joel Quenneville has liked the progress the Blackhawks have made this round.

[MORE HAWKS: Crawford, Blackhawks shut out Wild in Game 3]

“I thought our first round was very close. It was on the line, game in and game out. Our game had good and bad but we’ve a lot more consistency in our game. More of a four-line rotation is coming out. No matter who’s going out there they’re doing the right things. We’re getting pressure, pace and that can make us a good team.”

The Blackhawks were playing a tenuous game through the first round. The offense was there from the start, especially from top forwards Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Sharp. It was what the Blackhawks were giving up that was more concerning. The penalty kill, especially, didn’t look like its typical shutdown self. But players just chalked that up to the ups and downs that come with the game.

“It’s not going to be perfect all the time,” Johnny Oduya said. “At the start of the playoffs there were some goals, a couple of broken plays, that we didn’t like. But we had the confidence. We talked about that the other day, too. In games when we needed to, we could shut them down. Obviously a game like yesterday, Crow was tremendous, too, so that helps a lot.”

[SHOP: Get a Corey Crawford jersey here]

The Blackhawks weren’t perfect in the first round. They had areas in which they wanted – make that needed – to tighten up in if they wanted to be successful against the Wild. They’ve tightened up and are on the verge of eliminating the Wild for the third consecutive postseason. They’re getting scary good at a good time, at least for them.

“We’re playing well as a group,” Brent Seabrook said. “That’s what it takes to win in the playoffs is having 20 guys out there playing the same game.”

2014 Western Conference Final between Blackhawks and Kings named "Series of the Decade"

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AP

2014 Western Conference Final between Blackhawks and Kings named "Series of the Decade"

On Saturday, NHL.com named the 2014 Western Conference Final between the Chicago Blackhawks and LA Kings the "Series of the Decade." 

They hit the nail on the head.

In that seven-game battle, you're talking about the two best teams of the decade each around their prime slugging it out for all of us to enjoy. Oh, and overtime in Game 7 to decide who'd play for the Stanley Cup in the Final... 

The Hawks won Game 1 3-1 at the United Center, then lost Game 2 6-2 in Chicago after the Kings scored six unanswered goals and Jeff Carter had a hat trick. The Blackhawks lost 4-3 in Game 3 and 5-2 in Game 4, both of those contests were at the Staples Center in LA.

Trailing the series 3-1, Michal Handzus scored 2:04 into overtime to help the Hawks to a 5-4 win at the UC. Patrick Kane scored with less than four minutes remaining in the third period in Game 6 in LA to give Chicago a 4-3 win with Game 7 set for the United Center.

The Hawks had an early 2-0 lead in Game 7, but Alec Martinez's wrist shot deflected off Nick Leddy and into Chicago's net past Corey Crawford for a 5-4 Kings' victory.  

LA went on to the Stanley Cup Final and beat the New York Rangers in five games.

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Blackhawks star Patrick Kane’s legacy will live on forever in London after jersey retirement

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Bolt London

Blackhawks star Patrick Kane’s legacy will live on forever in London after jersey retirement

LONDON, Ont. — Patrick Kane will forever be linked to the London Knights after having his No. 88 jersey retired on Friday in a special pregame ceremony. And it was an emotional moment for the Blackhawks superstar, which doesn’t happen often.

“I didn’t really expect that,” Kane told NBC Sports Chicago. “I didn’t know what to expect, to be honest with you. I spent one year here. It was a great year. It felt like more than one year with all the memories I made here and all the friends and relationships I have today.

"The video was pretty special. Obviously with the things that happened in London but even more-so maybe the things that happened in Chicago and everything coming together. You’re just standing there and that’s your career over 13 years, so I think that started hitting me.”



Kane became the ninth player in Knights history to have his number retired, but the first to receive the honor after playing just one season. It’s because it was a historic one.

As a 17-year-old, Kane registered 62 goals and 83 assists for a league-leading 145 points in 58 games during the 2006-07 campaign and was named the Canadian Hockey League’s Rookie of the Year. He went on to post 31 points (10 goals, 21 assists) in 16 playoff games before falling short in the Conference finals.

But before he committed to the Knights, Kane wasn't drawing as much attention as he would've thought. Draft experts projected him to go in the third round and Kane wasn't buying it.

“I couldn't believe it to be honest with you,” Kane said. “I thought I was a lot better than that."

Did he ever prove them wrong.

Kane quickly started to separate himself from the pack in London, and after a strong performance at the 2007 IIHF World Junior Championship, his name was now being discussed for No. 1 overall. And that's exactly what happened.

“Just coming here, not really worrying about that stuff,” Kane said of the draft hype. “I mean, obviously there's outside noise when it's your draft year but I always said the ice rink is my sanctuary out there. That's what I love to do the most and feel the most comfortable, is being on the ice and playing hockey, making plays and trying to score goals.”

Back in London, Kane got a chance to reflect on how far he's come since his days with the Knights. He's a three-time Stanley Cup champion and a former Hart Trophy winner who's still at the top of his game at age 31.

But touring his old locker room — which he said "looks the exact same" — was a reminder for Kane on how quickly his hockey career has flown by.

"It's crazy to think I'm in my 13th year now," Kane said. "We were just looking for our team picture in the room and I was way too far from the recent teams to where I should've been looking. A little bit of time has passed."

A lot of time has passed, but Kane's impact on the organization and community is everlasting.

Screaming young fans in No. 88 Blackhawks jerseys were in awe that Kane was within reaching distance. He signed autographs, took pictures with as many as he could, shook the hand of longtime faculty members and arena workers that he recognized from his playing days in London and smiled his way around the Budweiser Gardens — which Kane knows as The John Labatt Centre.

Kane even gave the Knights a pep talk in the locker room before the game. Even though he didn't play in London very long, it says something about your legacy when aspiring players are choosing to play for the Knights because they look up to No. 88.

“That’s what it’s all about right there,” Kane said. “I remember being a little kid and looking up to certain hockey players too and wanting to be just like them, so if that’s the way this younger generation looks at me, that’s what it’s all about for me. I enjoy that. That excites me, that makes me happy.”

Attention Dish and Sling customers! You have lost your Blackhawks games on NBC Sports Chicago. To switch providers, visit mysportschicago.com.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Blackhawks easily on your device.