Blackhawks

Hawk Talk: Blackhawks win despite jitters

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Hawk Talk: Blackhawks win despite jitters

Sunday, May 30, 2010
4:45 PM

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

CHICAGO With six days to anticipate their first taste of Stanley Cup action, and five of them spent answering endless questions about their first taste of Stanley Cup action, you can forgive the Chicago Blackhawks if they spent much of Saturdays opener as if playing hopscotch on a minefield.

The excitement, and in most cases, jitters, hit immediately, well before first puck drop.

That was nuts! Blackhawks forward Kris Versteeg said after the game. I couldn't hear national anthem singer Jim Cornelison. I had chills. That was amazing. It beat even the Winter Classic."

We stepped out on the ice and it was the best feeling Ive ever had in my whole life, said Chicago defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson, a week shy of his 23rd birthday and the Blackhawks third-youngest player. My whole body felt shellshocked.

Even the First Star of the game and author of a pair of goals, Troy Brouwer, couldnt escape the jitters.

It was a little nerve-wracking, thats for sure, he said. Some of the guys, its their first time in the Finals. Nerves might have had a little to do with it, Im not going to lie to you.

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville last night called the first period jittery and mentioned that even in the second, we were a little bit more emotional than we normally are. On Sunday, his new term for last nights playing style was scrambly, clearly expecting improvement the next time out: I know we have to be better than we were off of those levels last night.

While no one is making the argument that Chicagos minty fresh experience in the Stanley Cup Finals is an excuse for the mostly sloppy play of Game 1after all, the Blackhawks boast three players whove previously skated over an iced Stanley Cup logo, the Philadelphia Flyers just onebut the inherently-overwhelming nature of the game did throw a number of Hawks off.

Dont count center Dave Bolland, defenseman Brent Seabrook, or forward Marian Hossa among them, however.

Bolland claimed before Game 1 that he would look at the Stanley Cup Finals as just another series of games, and the youngster has just enough of a genial poker face to believe him. And one day later, his tune hadnt changed.

Once that first faceoff was done, that was about it in terms of nerves, Bolland said matter-of-factly. Pretty much when the game started, just getting going was the main thing.

Last night, Hossa was cited for a phenomenal game by most any observer, including teammate Patrick Sharp, who tabbed the veteran as Chicagos best forward of the night. As a veteran of the last two Stanley Cup Finals, with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings, and as one of the most confident skaters on the ice to begin with, it should have come as no surprise.

Ive been in these kinds of games before, so you try to keep your composure, Hossa said. I try to keep on my game, not trying to run around and be somebody else. I tried to play the same way I always do.

Hossas remarks were in direct contrast of the range of emotions a younger and less experienced player, like Hjalmarsson, went through. The Babyfaced Gangster admitted yesterday that for he and his teammates, we have to control our emotions and not just run around, and thats what we were doing tonight.

In a game as crazy as Saturdays, Seabrook might have had the strangest range of experiences. He took nine stitches after falling to the ice in a pileup early on, had his chops busted with a blow to the teeth on a follow-through stick, but somehow survived to make play of the game midway through the third, keeping a puck in the offensive zone by skating backward and falling over, leading eventually to Tomas Kopeckys game-winning goal.

No, it wasnt what I expected, Seabrook said of the game as a whole, and the beginning in particular. I thought Id be a lot more nervous than I was.

I did have some jitters. Getting piled on top of, guys falling on me, and having my head bouncing off of the ice shook away all of my nerves right away, though.

Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.com's Blackhawks Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Hawks information.

What we learned about Blackhawks during five-game road trip

What we learned about Blackhawks during five-game road trip

"Every game now is a playoff game, pretty much. We've got to approach it like it's life or death."

Those were the words of Drake Caggiula and that was the mindset for the Blackhawks going into their five-game road trip in Western Canada, which was easily their most important swing of the season to date, given the circumstances: All five teams were ahead of them in the Western Conference standings, the Blackhawks were knocking on the door of a playoff spot and they had a chance to prove themselves ahead of the Feb. 24 trade deadline.

The Blackhawks finished the trip with a 1-4-0 record, picking up only two out of a possible 10 points. They ended the weekend sitting six points out of the final wildcard spot with two games in hand but four teams to jump. It's not impossible to get back in the race, but the cards are certainly stacked against them.

So what did we learn about this team?

The easy narrative would be to say the Blackhawks shrunk in games that had playoff-type implications, but that‘s just not true. They simply failed to capitalize on their opportunities, and they had plenty of them.

In Game 1 against Winnipeg, the Blackhawks held a 2-0 lead before allowing a shorthanded goal in the second period that was the first of five unanswered for the Jets, who went on to win 5-2. The Blackhawks went 0-for-3 on the power play and were outscored (1-0), outshot (3-2) and out-chanced (4-2) during those three opportunities. That was their downfall.

In Game 2 against Edmonton, the Blackhawks held a pair of one-goal leads — 2-1 in the first period and 3-2 in the second period — but couldn’t close the deal despite the Oilers playing without the NHL's best player in Connor McDavid. Again, a huge missed opportunity that was there for the taking.

In Game 3 against Vancouver, the Blackhawks peppered a season-high 49 shots on goal on Jacob Markstrom, 25 of which came from high-danger areas, but couldn't crack the code. It was one of their most dominating performances of the season from start to finish and yet they weren't rewarded for it. 

In Game 4 against Calgary, the market quickly corrected itself when the Blackhawks scored a season-high eight goals on 28 shots in an 8-4 win over the Flames. It’s the exact response they were looking for, with all four lines contributing on the scoresheet.

In Game 5 against Winnipeg, the Blackhawks scored the first goal, then fell behind 2-1 before evening things up at 2-2 in the final minute of the second period. The game was up for grabs. But the Jets scored 1:36 into the third period after a shot from the point deflected off Alex DeBrincat’s stick and in, and it turned out to be the game-winning goal.

Look, there are no moral victories at this time of year. An ugly win beats the heck out of a pretty loss.

If the power play doesn't go 0-for-14, we might be having a different discussion because it had a chance to change the complexion of each game except the last one — because, well, there were no penalties called on either side, which was the first time that's happened in an NHL game this season.

But the Blackhawks have no margin for error and they're learning that the hard way.

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3 Takeaways: Blackhawks have hole to climb out of after road trip

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USA TODAY

3 Takeaways: Blackhawks have hole to climb out of after road trip

Patrick Kane had a goal and an assist, but the Blackhawks lost 3-2 to the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday to close out their five-game road trip. Here are three takeaways:

Bad trip

After losing in Winnipeg, the Blackhawks finished their five-game road trip with a 1-4-0 record. They began the trip last Sunday in Winnipeg with a 5-2 loss. 

Sunday's game against the Jets had flashes of good, but it was mostly strong plays from the go-to guys like Kane and Jonathan Toews. All three Jets' goals came from deflections off shots from the point. Overall, the effort and productivity paled in comparison to the lone victory of the trip, Saturday's 8-4 win over the Flames in Calgary on Saturday. 

The Blackhawks, six points out of the second wild card spot, will return home and face the New York Rangers at the United Center on Wednesday. They have 23 regular season games remaining. 

Kane keeps climbing 

With a two-point outing in Winnipeg, Kane tied former Blackhawk Steve Larmer for 87th on the NHL all-time points list with 1,012. 

"Showtime" set up Ryan Carpenter for the first goal of the game at 15:44 of the first period by backhanding a pass towards the front of the net for the crashing Carpenter to bury.

Kane scored with less than a minute remaining in the second period to tie it 2-2 off a three-way passing play with Jonathan Toews and Dominik Kubalik. Kane has 27 points (seven goals, 20 assists) in his past 18 games. 

With the primary assist on Kane's goal, Toews earned his sixth point (two goals, four assists) of the road trip. 

0.0

Sunday's Blackhawks-Jets game was the only NHL contest this season to have zero penalties. This was good news for Toews, who had five minor penalties over the prior four games. 

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