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.

Four takeaways: Blackhawks suffer first regulation loss, but Corey Crawford looks sharp in season debut

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USA TODAY

Four takeaways: Blackhawks suffer first regulation loss, but Corey Crawford looks sharp in season debut

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 4-1 loss to the Arizona Coyotes at the United Center on Thursday:

1. Return of the Crow

The Blackhawks got their man back between the pipes after a 10-month layoff due to a concussion. And he looked like same old "Crow."

Crawford stopped 27 of 30 shots for a save percentage of .900. He faced 12 shots and eight scoring chances in the first period, but nothing too out of the ordinary. The biggest save he made was on a Michael Grabner breakaway in the third period, bailing out a turnover in the neutral zone.

"I think I felt better in the second and third," Crawford said. "But they really didn’t get that many opportunities early. It was nice. I think they flipped one in for the first one, so that was kind of good just to get in it and feel one early. We were close in that one all game and we created a lot. I thought [Antti] Raanta played really well.

"It was a tough, tough break at the end. Still felt I should have stopped that one. We were right there, we were creating a lot and gotta try to come up with that one. Just gotta forget about it and worry about the next game."

2. Alex DeBrincat, Jonathan Toews extend point streaks

The hot start continues for the Blackhawks' two leading scorers, both of whom assisted on Erik Gustafsson's goal in the second period to stretch their point streaks to six games. DeBrincat and Toews each have 10 points this season.

3. Overtime streak ends

The Blackhawks made history by forcing five straight overtime games to start the season, something no team has ever done in the four major sports (NBA, NFL, NHL, MLB). But they didn't have the comeback magic in them this time.

Entering Thursday, the Blackhawks were 1-0-1 when trailing after two periods. They were 5-28-2 last season for a win percentage of .143.

4. Familiar faces, new places

Five former Blackhawks took the ice for the Coyotes: Vinnie Hinostroza, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Jordan Oesterle, Richard Panik and Antti Raanta.

It was Hjalmarsson's first trip back to Chicago since being traded in the 2017 offseason. He received a nice video tribute during the second TV timeout of the first period, which made him very emotional.

"I almost got emotional too seeing his reaction," Toews said. "He's one of those guys you'll never forget what he meant to this locker room. He was a quiet guy in the room but we all know how he played and put everyone else before himself. Pretty cool reaction from the fans too. I think we were all sad to see him leave this locker room, he did a lot of special things and was a massive part of our championship wins. Happy for him to get that reception. It's well-deserved and obviously we miss having him around."

As far as the game, Hjalmarsson logged a team-high 22:18 of ice time and blocked three shots. Oesterle registered a secondary assist on Arizona's first goal, which was its first 5-on-5 of the season.

Hinostroza, who was also part of the Marian Hossa trade over the summer, scored twice in his return to his hometown, beating Crawford with a wrist shot to make it 2-1 in the second period and an empty-netter in the third; his second goal turned out to be the game winner, the fourth of his career and first as a member of the Coyotes.

Panik recorded four shot attempts (three on goal). And Raanta improved to 16-0-3 in his career at the United Center, a remarkable record for any goaltender in any situation.

Niklas Hjalmarsson gets standing ovation from United Center crowd in Chicago return

Niklas Hjalmarsson gets standing ovation from United Center crowd in Chicago return

Niklas Hjalmarsson played for the Blackhawks for 10 years and won three Stanley Cups with the team so his return to the United Center was a big deal.

The defenseman, now with the Arizona Coyotes, made his return to Chicago in Thursday's game. The Blackhawks had a tribute video for him during the game and the crowd gave him a standing ovation after the video.

He was teary-eyed after getting the warm reception.

Hjalmarsson was traded by the Blackhawks to the Coyotes for Connor Murphy and Laurent Dauphin after the 2016-17 season. He played against the Blackhawks on Oct. 21 and again on Feb. 12 last season, but both games were in Arizona.

Injuries limited Hjalmarsson to 48 games last season and he missed Arizona's only trip to the United Center last season, which came in December.

Watch the video above to see Hjalmarsson's tribute and reaction.