Blackhawks

Jonathan Toews scores OT winner as Blackhawks top Lightning

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Jonathan Toews scores OT winner as Blackhawks top Lightning

Coach Joel Quenneville liked how the Blackhawks kept the Florida Panthers’ shot total low on Thursday, although he added, “we don’t expect too many nights like [Thursday] night.”

But on Saturday against the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Blackhawks kind of had another night like that. And it helped them gain a point before their captain helped them gain another.

Corey Crawford stopped all 21 shots he faced and Jonathan Toews scored the winner in overtime as the Blackhawks beat the Lightning 1-0 on Saturday night. The Blackhawks have won three in a row heading into Monday night’s game against Anaheim, the team they eliminated in the Western Conference Final last spring.

In their second game without Duncan Keith, the Blackhawks once again put defense first. As Quenneville said, the Blackhawks didn’t want to change their approach in Keith’s absence, and defense has always been a priority. It may be even more so now, and the Blackhawks have played accordingly.

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

The Lightning, who were averaging 3.4 goals per game entering this one, finished this night the same way they did Game 6 in June: held scoreless.

“I think we caught a couple breaks, too, tonight,” said Crawford, who recorded his first shutout of this season and 13th of his career. “They made a few good plays where it was off the post. A couple good bounces, fortunate bounces, but you get those some nights. Some nights they go our way. The other night they didn’t go our way on a goal. We played pretty solid against them. Both teams match up with their speed and skill game.”

Kristers Gudlevskis, the man who stopped 55 of 57 shots for Latvia against Team Canada in the 2014 Winter Olympics, stopped 31 of 32 against the Blackhawks. Gudlevskis, recalled by Tampa on Friday, denied the Blackhawks on several great scoring opportunities.

Still, it was another 17-seconds moment for the Blackhawks when Toews scored at that point of the overtime.

“Yeah, it could go either way. Sometimes you just need one chance and that’s what happens,” Toews said. “Against a team like that, knowing the skill they have, you’re trying to get the puck as quick as you can. After that, if not, you’re trying to be on the prudent side, making sure you don’t give up anything too crazy against because we all know what they can do with the puck. It ended up going our way there.”

The Blackhawks are still putting defense first, even while their top defenseman recuperates from right-knee surgery. It’s worked for them for several seasons now. It worked for them in Game 6 against the Lightning. It worked again vs. Tampa Bay on Saturday.

“I don’t think the pace was quite Stanley Cup Final worthy but we knew what we had to do against that team,” Toews said. “They played last night, we wanted to wear them down, find our chances late in the game. We showed the type of game we’re looking for, given our new look, new group this year. That was a patient game we were looking for against a skilled team and we waited for our bounces. If it takes one goal, we’ll win that way. But I think we worked hard on the offensive side of the puck and finally got one that made the difference.”

Hawks Talk Podcast: Crawford's return, Saad's demotion and power play concerns

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USA TODAY

Hawks Talk Podcast: Crawford's return, Saad's demotion and power play concerns

In the latest Hawks Talk Podcast, Pat Boyle, Charlie Roumeliotis and Slavko Bekovic provide their thoughts on the Blackhawks’ 3-0-2 start.

They also discuss Brandon Saad’s demotion and whether it could serve as a wake-up call, Corey Crawford’s potential return on Thursday vs. Arizona and what could happen with Anton Forsberg because of it, and address the power play concerns.

The guys wrap up the podcast by making a few bold predictions going forward.

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below, and be sure to subscribe, rate us and write a review!

10 years with 'Coach Q' anything but ordinary

10 years with 'Coach Q' anything but ordinary

Over the last 10 years, the words “ordinary” and "OK" have taken on a new meaning to Blackhawks players and fans alike. 

That’s “Coach Q” speak. 

A language where “ordinary” means awful and “just OK” means you were a non-factor. The good news is the last 10 seasons under Joel Quenneville have been anything but ordinary at the United Center. 

On Oct. 16th, 2008, the Blackhawks let go of fan-favorite Denis Savard after a 1-2-1 start to the season and named Quenneville as head coach in his place. Quenneville coached the Colorado Avalanche the previous season, but after another disappointing exit in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the two mutually parted ways. He had originally planned to stay away from the bench for at least a season, but the Blackhawks triumvirate of Rocky Wirtz, John McDonough and then-GM Dale Tallon brought Quenneville on as a scout and then handed him the keys to the car shortly after.

“Dale’s obligation is to put together a winning team,” said McDonough at Quenneville’s introductory press conference. “At this point, Joel is the coach of that team.”

It was an emotional day at the Blackhawks offices. Savard – a Blackhawks legend on the ice and a coach the players held in high regard – was let go just as things started to turn upwards for the organization. The end of the 2007-2008 season saw the Blackhawks once again miss out on the playoffs, but the fans began to flock to the United Center once more, and the hype train around the young team built around Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane was gaining steam.

“Moving forward, if we want to be a championship-caliber organization, we have to make tough decisions,” said Tallon. “This was the toughest decision I’ve ever had to make.” 

Savard was 65-66-16 in parts of three seasons as head coach of the Blackhawks. Meanwhile, Quenneville had compiled eight 95+ point seasons behind the bench for the Blues and Avalanche in his 11 years as a head coach.

“We felt the experience and the track record of Joel would be a balance that we needed with a young, inexperienced team,” said Tallon. "Joel brings us a wealth of experience and a winning track record that will have an immediate and lasting impact."

The gamble paid off for the Blackhawks in a major way. Once Quenneville took over, the team got to the sought-after next level. 

They finished the 08-09 season with 104 points, third-most in the NHL’s Western Conference, had a franchise-record setting 9-game win streak in the month of December and returned to the playoffs for the first time since the 2001-2002 season. The “young and inexperienced” Blackhawks took the league by storm, dropping the Calgary Flames in the first round of the playoffs in six games before taking down the rival Canucks in the next round.

They ultimately lost out to the Detroit Red Wings in the Western Conference Finals, but the bar was now set for the organization. From then on, the Blackhawks were Stanley Cup contenders. 

Quenneville currently ranks 2nd in franchise history with 449 wins, trailing only Billy Reay’s 516. 

But most importantly, Quenneville’s 76 playoff wins rank at the top in the organization’s long and storied history, and those three Stanley Cups that he’s raised over his head were anything but “ordinary.”