Blackhawks

Marian Hossa looks more like himself in Blackhawks' Game 5 win

Marian Hossa looks more like himself in Blackhawks' Game 5 win

Marian Hossa talked about his goal-scoring struggles. They had been there through most of the regular season and continued through the first four games of the first round.

“It’s a little frustration, but also you don’t try to get frustrated because then you’re not playing your way. You also try to stay positive because there are lots of chances,” Hossa said heading into Game 5 against the St. Louis Blues. “Our guys are getting lots of chances. One ugly one and hopefully it’s gonna go in.”

Hossa’s first goal of the postseason wasn’t ugly; it was a slick, short-handed goal that gave the Blackhawks a 1-0 lead. And Hossa’s overall game is what he was looking for and what the Blackhawks needed in their 4-3 double-overtime victory over the Blues. Hossa played just under 25 minutes on Thursday, recording a team-high seven shots on goal and three takeaways.

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The Blackhawks made drastic line changes entering Thursday’s game for several reasons. A few top players, Hossa included, were still looking for their first goal of the postseason. The Blackhawks were down 3-1 in the series and looking for a spark of any kind. And they were trying to figure out a way to contain the Blues’ top line of Jaden Schwartz, Jori Lehtera and Vladimir Tarasenko.

Stopping that Blues’ trio was the Blackhawks’ overall assignment, but fell mainly to Hossa, Marcus Kruger and Andrew Ladd. It worked pretty well. While Schwartz did score on Thursday, the Blackhawks held the other two off the score sheet. That was especially key regarding Tarasenko, who had three goals and two assists in the three previous games.

Bringing Hossa into that equation helped.

“Hoss should be a role model for every single young player. Just to look at him and see how he back-checks and how strong he is with the puck. Still going so strong with his age,” Niklas Hjalmarsson said of the 37-year-old Hossa. “He's one of the most impressive guys that I've been around, the way he works in every single way.”

Perhaps Hossa’s strong Game 5 came with getting moved to the third line, getting a bit of a change. Or maybe, like a few other players, he was just due. Whatever the reason, Hossa made an impact on both sides of the puck. 

Andrew Shaw trying to find balance between toeing the line and not crossing it for Blackhawks

Andrew Shaw trying to find balance between toeing the line and not crossing it for Blackhawks

The Blackhawks brought Andrew Shaw back to Chicago because they lacked some bite to their game. He's already meeting expectations in the physicality department, leading the team with 23 hits.

But the other part of his game the Blackhawks have to live with is the amount of penalties he takes. Through six games this season, Shaw has taken at least one penalty in five of them and is tied for third among all NHL skaters with six minors. The only two skaters above him are guys who have played in two and four more games, respectively.

Because he plays on the edge, Shaw will occasionally cross it and he's trying to find that balance between toeing the line and not stepping over it.

"I find if I'm not playing on the edge, I'm not playing great," Shaw said. "I need to play physical. Even in preseason, I was just finishing checks — clean, shoulder-to-shoulder — and was getting penalty after penalty. Hockey still is a physical game. There's still hitting; it's still legal. So I'm going to go out there and play hard, make it hard on my opponents, make it hard on them physically, do what I do. Not going to change who I am now. I'm an old dog."

Shaw's reputation may also contribute to the matter. He's racked up more than 600 penalty minutes in his NHL career, including postseason, and the officials might be keeping a closer eye on him when he's on the ice.

"It's something he's got to be aware of, but I also think he's got a bullseye on him," coach Jeremy Colliton said. "If I go back through all the penalties he's taken, he probably earned a couple and he probably earned them five years ago. That's something he's got to deal with. We want him to play hard. I think we can handle the ones where he's running people over. We'll kill those off. Obviously the stick penalties and stuff we don't want. But he's playing hard for the team. That's a good thing."

Said Shaw: "The referees, no matter the history of the player, should call the game as it is. If there's a penalty, call a penalty. If there's not a penalty, you let it go. I mean, yeah, I might have been too vocal in my younger days. But the past three years I've been trying to clean it up a little bit. I just take my penalties when I get 'em. But I must have dug myself a really deep hole. Just trying to climb out of it since."

Still, Shaw knows he has to be smarter about the timing of his penalties and where they're happening. The ones that occur in the offensive zone are the penalties that must be eradicated from his game. The ones he earns from battling between the whistles and sticking up for his teammates, the Blackhawks can live with those.

"Obviously I don't want to take penalties, I don't want to put my team down," Shaw said. "I also don't agree with all of the ones I got. I think I got the short end of the stick on a lot of them. Bite my tongue, go to the box. Our PK's been working hard and competing and killing some penalties. Hopefully they start going my way, I guess."

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Robin Lehner to start in goal for Blackhawks vs. Golden Knights

robin_lehner_usa_today.jpg
USA Today

Robin Lehner to start in goal for Blackhawks vs. Golden Knights

Robin Lehner will start in goal for the Blackhawks when they host the Vegas Golden Knights at the United Center on Tuesday, coach Jeremy Colliton confirmed after morning skate. It will be his third start of the season.

Lehner is coming off a game in which he stopped 37 of 39 shots for a save percentage of .949, which earned him the No. 3 star of the game in a 3-2 overtime win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday. He was fantastic. 

Lehner is 1-0-1 with a 2.47 goals-against average and .931 save percentage in two starts this season.

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