Blackhawks

Hawks' defensemen flourishing on offense

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Hawks' defensemen flourishing on offense

Steve Montador didnt draw it up like this, but hes not complaining.

One of the Blackhawks newest defensemen has been on a scoring streak lately, accumulating three goals and an assist in his past two games. Its something he enjoys being a part of, as a player but especially as a defenseman.

I just want to take advantage of opportunities Im getting, he said. And lately its just been that.

And hes not alone.

After a quiet start, at least offensively, the Blackhawks defensemen are making themselves known in the scoring category. In the past three games, they have tallied 16 points; compare that to the 24 points they had in the first 14 games.

Nick Leddy was the only blue-liner putting up points early; now they all are. Montadors ignited his scoring, an aspect that the Blackhawks hoped he would provide when they signed him to a four-year deal this past summer. Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook scored their first goals this week. And its made a difference in the Blackhawks games and, naturally, the outcomes.

The defense is a big part of the attack on offense and their results have been showing on the score sheet, coach Joel Quenneville said. We need that for our overall team game.

Its helped improve the power play, too. The Blackhawks obviously have the talent for that to thrive, but they were struggling to get shots through from the blue line. Those shots, and the chances of their being tipped, deflected or rebounded, are big. Now, perhaps thanks to the boost of confidence in back, the shots are reaching down front.

Weve talked about it long before it was happening on the score sheet, Montador said of the defensive scoring. A lot of goals start from point shots for tips and rebounds. It was just a matter of time.

Now it may also be a matter of stepping up even more. Seabrook suffered a leg injury Sunday against the Edmonton Oilers, and his status for Wednesdays game against Vancouver, let alone the rest of this trip, is uncertain. The Blackhawks have depth back there and will have to utilize it if Seabrook is out for any length of time.

The defense is finding its niche right now. Every one of them is contributing with or without the puck especially with it. If they have a gap with Seabrooks absence, theyll have to find a way to fill it. The confidence among the whole group right now could also help get them through.

Snake-bitten Blackhawks light the lamp Saturday

Snake-bitten Blackhawks light the lamp Saturday

Three unlikely heroes emerged in Calgary on Saturday night to help the Blackhawks find some footing near the end of their five-game road trip (currently 1-3-0) that wraps up Sunday in Winnipeg.

Blackhawks rookie center Kirby Dach hadn't scored a goal in six games; Alex DeBrincat had one marker in his last nine after finishing last season with 41; Alex Nylander had one goal in his past 17 contests.

The trio bounced back against the Flames to help the Hawks to an 8-4 victory.

Nylander scored twice, and DeBrincat and Dach each had a goal.

"It’s a learning process for us that [haven't] been through this," Nylander said after the game. "And we are lucky that we have these vets that are on our team that can help us and see that something like this in the season happens."

Related: Blackhawks' offense explodes in Calgary

Of all the Hawks who have gone cold this season, the most surprising was DeBrincat, who posted 41 goals last season and 28 as a rookie the year prior.

"I've been fighting with the puck a little bit too much," he said. "Even today, I didn't really play that well, but finally got rewarded."

Six points out of a playoff spot, having the three forwards off the schneid could be a big factor in the Hawks putting a streak together to keep their playoff hopes alive.

"Those guys, they have the ability to chip in for us offensively and if they can do that it's going to make a big difference for us," Blackhawks head coach Jeremy Colliton said of the three. "Ultimately, it comes down to their work ethic away from the puck."

Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews felt Dach, DeBrincat and Nylander gave the Hawks a much-needed lift on Saturday.

"For guys like that and the way they think, the way they play the game, their skillset, scoring goals gives you a ton of energy, it gives you a lift," Toews said. "It's nice to see them get a few and see a few pucks go in.

"I think even if you're just on the ice, you have nothing to do with the play, just to be around goals is infectious. So it's nice to see those guys make those plays as a result of their hard work and it's an incentive to keep doing the same thing."

Hopefully the goal infection spreads for the Hawks. Despite being six points out of the playoffs, Chicago has three games in hand on the Arizona Coyotes, who occupy the second wild card spot in the Western Conference.

With 24 games remaining, scoring contributions will have to come from across the board for the Blackhawks to go on a successful run to secure a playoff spot.

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Andrew Ladd joins Blackhawks All-Decade Team

Andrew Ladd joins Blackhawks All-Decade Team

The Blackhawks got a big lift out of skilled and scrappy forward Andrew Ladd during his first three seasons with the Blackhawks. 

Ladd was selected at No. 4 overall in the 2004 NHL Draft by the Carolina Hurricanes.

The Maple Ridge, British Columbia native won a Stanley Cup with the Hurricanes in 2006 before coming to Chicago in a trade for Tuomo Ruutu on Feb. 26, 2008. 

In four seasons with the Blackhawks, Ladd displayed strength on both sides of the puck, recording 111 points and a +/- rating of +29 in 203 games.

In 19 games during the 2010 Stanley Cup playoffs, Ladd had six points (three goals, three assists) and a +/- rating of +4.

Related: Versteeg joins Blackhawks All-Decade Team

After the Hawks won the Stanley Cup in 2010, Ladd was traded to the Atlanta Thrashers for Ivan Vishnevskiy and a 2011 second-round draft pick in a salary cap move. 

Ladd was traded back to Chicago with Matt Fraser and Jay Harrison for Marko Dano and two draft picks on Feb. 25, 2016. He had 12 points (eight goals, four assists) in 19 games in his final season with the Hawks. 

Following the 2015-16 season, he became a free agent and signed a seven-year contract with the New York Islanders.

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