Blackhawks

Look back fast then move on: Five thoughts on the Blackhawks

toews-hawks-road-insider-0101.png

Look back fast then move on: Five thoughts on the Blackhawks

Ah, here we are, folks, in 2016. It’s a time to reflect on the past and make resolutions for the future (if you’re into that sort of thing).

For the Blackhawks, they finished 2015 with two victories. They were two interesting, entertaining victories, but they were victories nonetheless. They’ll enjoy a quick respite but, beginning Sunday, the Blackhawks start another busy month, in which they’ll play 14 games in 24 days.

So with this very brief respite upon us, let’s look at Five Thoughts on how the Blackhawks finished 2015 and what awaits them in 2016:

1. Jonathan Toews’ overtime goals. It’s just becoming something you expect: if the Blackhawks head to overtime, you can expect Toews to score the game winner. Toews did it again on Thursday, scoring his league-leading fourth overtime goal. He also set a single-season franchise record for overtime goals. Some may lament Toews not having more goals overall this season but ultimately, you need your captain to come through at clutchtimes. Scoring a bunch of overtime winners fits that description.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

2. Is that third line onto something? Andrew Desjardins, Phillip Danault and Teuvo Teravainen: it may not be an on-paper combination that screams “offense,” but that’s exactly what these three have created lately. Desjardins has three goals in his last two games. Teravainen has three assists in the same two games and Danault has two assists. The Blackhawks wanted to get their supplementary scoring going and these three have gotten that third line involved in the offense.

3. Giving up the goals. There’s always another side, isn’t there? The Blackhawks’ goaltending during most of December was stellar. Corey Crawford, who had three shutouts last month, was a big part of that. But he and Scott Darling gave up eight goals combined against the Arizona Coyotes and Colorado Avalanche. Darling told the Sun Times he was feeling alittle rusty – it was just his second start in December and third in a month. Perhaps Crawford was feeling the effects of a busy month. The Blackhawks’ goaltending, overall, has been good this season. There’s no reason to think it won’t return to being stingy soon.

[MORE: How good have the Blackhawks been on the power play on the road?]

4. The Blackhawks’ power play is good. Repeat that, folks, because it’s not something you’ve been able to say the last few years. That power play that was long futile despite the amount of talent is futile no more. It’s third overall in the NHL, converting 23.8 percent of its chances. Now it’s not as good at home (12th, 20 percent), where you could argue the Blackhawks fall into that wait-and-pass-a-lot habit more often. But it’s the league’s best on the road, recording four power-play goals in the past two games.

5. Looking back, then moving forward. The Central Division continues to be an entertaining one that, outside of Dallas, is allowing little breathing room. But the Blackhawks are keeping pace; they finished 2015 in third place with 48 points, two behind St. Louis and two ahead of Minnesota. The Stars lead with 59 points. The Blackhawks won’t head into January thinking, “we have to catch the Stars.” They’ve been here, done this before. It’s not about finishing first; it’s about getting into the playoffs and seeing what happens from there. Certainly, it’s not going to get easier. But the Blackhawks, who went through a lot of changes, two injuries – one current – and a myriad of line changes, are doing fine. 

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

saad_crawford_usa_today.jpg
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.”