Lackluster night for Blackhawks in loss to Devils


Lackluster night for Blackhawks in loss to Devils

NEWARK, N.J. — The Blackhawks weren’t happy with how they responded to their 5-2 first-period lead to the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday. Their finish wasn’t there.

On Friday their start wasn’t there, either.

Patrick Kane scored his ninth goal of the season and Tanner Kero scored his first career NHL goal, but it was an otherwise forgettable 4-2 loss to the New Jersey Devils. It was another rough road outing for the Blackhawks, who are now 1-5-0 away from the United Center this early season.

Artem Anisimov suffered a lower-body injury in the second period and did not return. Coach Joel Quenneville said Anisimov’s injury wasn’t serious, and the center could play Sunday against the Edmonton Oilers. The Blackhawks were already without Duncan Keith (right knee), who’s still out a few more weeks, and Marian Hossa (lower body), who could also return on Sunday.

The Blackhawks weren’t using injuries as excuses; they’ve been through that before and always found ways. But on Friday it was rough from the beginning, as bad plays and bad passes put the Blackhawks in an early hole from which they couldn’t recover.

[MORE BLACKHAWKS: Patrick Kane ready to return to normalcy]

“You could tell prior to them scoring there were holes everywhere,” Quenneville said of the Blackhawks. “We were sleepy in the first period and down 3-0; (we) created that gigantic hole and tried to get back into it.”

An errant Niklas Hjalmarsson pass led to the Devils’ first goal, with Lee Stempniak scoring for a 1-0 lead just 3:48 into the game.

“I obviously started with a really bad play, first period there, and it gave us an uphill battle. And we just have to find a way to get better on the road,” Hjalmarsson said. “It’s been, I think, five in a row now we’ve lost on the road, so we’re playing decent at home but we have to find a way to play better on the road.”

Corey Crawford allowed two more goals in the first — to Kyle Palmieri off the faceoff and to Travis Zajac 26 seconds later — before getting pulled in favor of Scott Darling to start the second. Crawford, who got off to a great start this season, has now allowed nine goals in the last four-plus periods, including overtime against St. Louis. The Blackhawks have now allowed 20 goals in their last five games, a surprising number for the normally defense-first team.

“The last stretch of games here, we need defense and goaltending to be better,” Quenneville said.

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Jonathan Toews got into a fight with Adam Henrique in the first period. Considering how the Blackhawks were playing at the time, it seemed like it was a move Toews was using to spark his teammates.

“Not necessarily,” Toews said. “I think it was just a play that developed where both players got a little worked up there; kind of a reaction thing. Usually it’s not necessarily my thing, as we all know, to try and spark the team that way. I’d rather be on the ice making things happen in the offensive zone. It’s one of those things that happens, I guess.”

What’s happening right now with the Blackhawks is a departure from the last few seasons. They’ve giving up quite a bit, and the road, where they’ve usually been so strong in the past, has been rough. It’s still early, and the Blackhawks went on a winning streak last November after a so-so start. But the Blackhawks know they have to be a lot better than they’ve been in recent outings.

“It takes a while for us to panic. We’ve been around for a long time, a lot of guys in here. There’s no panic at all,” Hjalmarsson said. “But the league is so even nowadays ... we can’t get too far behind. We have to find a way to get points in pretty much every single game. The league is so good nowadays. We have to find a way quick.”

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


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.”