Blackhawks

Niemi, Sharks get the best of Blackhawks again

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Niemi, Sharks get the best of Blackhawks again

Thursday, Dec. 30, 2010
10:00 PM

By Tracey Myers
CSNChicago.com

When the Chicago Blackhawks have won lately, theyve been disciplined. Theyve stayed out of the penalty box, staying calm and staying away from costly penalties and draining kills.

But on Thursday, they got away from that disciplined game and it cost them.

Joe Thornton scored the game-winner a few seconds after the Blackhawks killed off their final Sharks power play of the night and Antti Niemi collected his third victory against his former team in the Blackhawks 5-3 loss to San Jose on Thursday night.

The Blackhawks were called for six penalties against San Jose, which had the leagues sixth-best power play fifth-best on the road entering Thursdays game. San Jose scored two power-play goals and added Thorntons not long after another advantage in the third.

The effort was there, but I dont think sometimes the smarts were there, defenseman Brian Campbell said. Against St. Louis, we had a ton of penalties, before that when we won four games in a row, we took either (no penalties), one or two in every game. Especially against a team like San Jose, youre killing off that many penalties you get out of sync.

Coach Joel Quenneville was unhappy with the lack of discipline and some of the calls.

Ill disagree 100 percent with two calls tonight that I dont even know where they came from. One (on Brent Seabrook) put us down 5 on 3 and the other (on Jassen Cullimore) led to the winning goal, said Quenneville, who was also frustrated with how the Blackhawks gave up some of those goals.

We almost got through that 5 on 3, which wouldve been nice. But that open-side play those plays, empty netters are plays we have to defend against and be in proper position, Quenneville said of the Sharks first power-play goal by Benn Ferriero. Our PK has struggled this year, but those tap-in goals are something weve got to get out of our repertoire.

Marty Turco, who stopped 40 against St. Louis on Tuesday, allowed four goals on just 20 shots against San Jose.

I couldve made a couple more saves, couldve been the difference, Turco said. I certainly dont make excuses for myself.

But despite the errors, the Blackhawks battled back. Troy Brouwer scored a power-play goal with 22.9 seconds remaining in the second period and Campbell came through with just a half second left in the period to tie the score 3-3.

That was a big lift going into the third, Seabrook said. We thought we got some energy from the second period.

The Sharks, however, got over it quick.

There were a few F-bombs for about a minute and then we kind of calmed the dressing room down shortly after, said Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle. We just said, Hey, weve still got a chance to win the game. It took about a minute but it did calm down after that.

The Blackhawks were finding success with good, clean hockey. The last two games, theyve had anything but.

We were taking too many penalties and its tough to get back into it sometimes, Campbell said. I still felt the puck battles were pretty strong tonight. But its unacceptable to not do everything right every night.

Foley, Olczyk extended

The Blackhawks re-signed broadcasting tandem Pat Foley and Eddie Olczyk to three-year extensions on Thursday. The deals will keep play-by-play broadcaster Foley and television analyst Olczyk through the 2013-14 season.

Foley has been with the Blackhawks for 28 seasons, calling games for the team from 1981-2006 before returning to the booth to start the 2008-09 season.

Olczyk played 16 seasons in the NHL, including five with the Blackhawks. Hes been a TV analyst for the Blackhawks over the past five seasons.

Mothers days

The Blackhawks will have their moms on their latest road trip when they head to Los Angeles on New Years Day. It will be the first time the Blackhawks have had such a trip. Players figure manners will definitely be in order.

Im sure guys will be on best behavior, defenseman Brent Seabrook said. A lot of please and thank you.

Quennevilles mother will also be attending.

The enthusiasm just from my own mother coming on this trip, usually shes excited for Christmas but shes excited about the moms trip, Quenneville said Thursday morning. Everyones excited. The dads trip was great, a lot of fun.

Niemis return

Niemi stopped 26 of 29 for his third victory vs. the Blackhawks and first back at the United Center. Niemi said it was different coming back.

It was a funny feeling, he said. Today was even more exciting. Getting to morning practice and seeing the Blackhawks trainers was great and made it feel like a little more than just one game.

Briefly

Jack Skille was a healthy scratch against the Sharks on Thursday. Of that, Quenneville said, we had some tough decisions. Jordan (Hendrys) played well up front and we were looking for consistency.

Fernando Pisani was out due to illness.

Tracey Myers is CSNChicago.com's Blackhawks Insider. Follow Tracey on Twitter @TramyersCSN for up-to-the-minute Hawks information.

Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews: 'Our No. 1 goal is getting back to the playoffs'

Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews: 'Our No. 1 goal is getting back to the playoffs'

Jonathan Toews watched a lot of playoff hockey this spring. 

"Quite a bit," he admitted Wednesday before making his Chicago Pro Hockey League debut at MB Ice Arena. "More than usual."

That's because the Blackhawks missed out on the postseason for the first time since his rookie year in 2007-08. It's obviously not a position he'd like himself or his team to be in, especially after experiencing three Stanley Cups in a six-year span.

But you have to find a way to take the positives out of it at this point and let it fuel you for the upcoming campaign.

"You always want to be there playing," Toews said. "But when you can maybe step away from the game a little bit and just kind of breathe and — at the same time, look back and realize you’ve been lucky enough to have a lot of success. Obviously there’s no satisfaction there, but you understand it’s not the worst thing to stop and smell the roses and appreciate what you’ve been able to experience, because I think failing to get to the playoffs makes you realize how difficult it really is and maybe it’s something you took for granted.

"But watching more hockey this spring, I think, is something that was really motivating and kind of inspiring and exciting to want to get back to that level again. You dream of playing in the NHL, but at the end of the day, you want to play playoff hockey. That’s what it’s all about."

There were plenty of things that went wrong for the Blackhawks last season and contributed to why they watched the playoffs from home, whether it's the Corey Crawford injury, the down season from Brandon Saad, or the inexperience on the blue line.

For Toews, who turned 30 in April, it's about regaining that old form that made him one of the top players in the NHL and hoping it can filter down the rest of the Blackhawks lineup.

"For me, it’s part of just recapturing that energy, that motivation, excitement and that mindset of a young player who takes nothing for granted, that you had in your younger days," he said. "But also carrying the experience with you and understanding the impact of what you say, what you do, how you carry yourself can impact your teammates, especially the young guys. For me, it comes down to knowing what to say at the right time. But letting my play be the thing that helps me lead by example. No better time than now to use that experience and that excitement trying to rebound off the season we had last year."

If there's any reason to have belief that the Blackhawks can turn it around quickly, look no further than the two teams that collided in the Stanley Cup Final: Vegas and Washington. 

The Golden Knights had the longest odds to win it all at the beginning of the season while the Capitals' championship window was perceived to be closed after they failed to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2017 in the second round yet again with a loaded roster. But it's not about what's on paper.

"Watching that last series, you just knew it came down to who had the most, the deepest belief in themselves," Toews said. "I even had a hard time predicting who was going to win every series. It could’ve gone either way in a lot of situations. It’s not only motivating, seeing how fast that play was and to have missed out on playoff hockey this year and to have the drive to get back there, but knowing if you do sneak into the playoffs it doesn’t matter. You can go a long way.

"For us, thinking, 'OK, we're gonna back and win a Stanley Cup this year,' it sounds like a long shot. But as always, our No. 1 goal is getting back to the playoffs and being ready to hit our stride when we get there."

Stan Bowman explains how Blackhawks may utilize extra cap space

Stan Bowman explains how Blackhawks may utilize extra cap space

The Blackhawks had cap space to use this summer but elected to shore up their depth rather than make a splash when free agency opened up on July 1. Perhaps a large reason for that was because Marian Hossa's $5.275 million cap hit over the next three years complicated what they could do exactly in the short term without jeopardizing the long term.

Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman admitted Tuesday that they had had discussions about moving Hossa's contract for a year now. But it finally reached a point where they simply needed to get it off their hands, even if it meant giving up Vinnie Hinostroza as a sweetener.

"We tried to make that deal work in every other way possible but they obviously said he had to be in it," Bowman said of including Hinostroza.

That's how important it was to free up even more cap space. By trading Hossa's contract in a nine-piece trade with the Arizona Coyotes, it created more options for the Blackhawks and financial flexibility going forward.

"It was a difficult trade from a sentimental perspective, because we'd love to not have to do that," Bowman said. "But on the practical matter, it was becoming challenging to try to operate with that contract here. It necessitated us trying to make the move that we did make. You don't know when those opportunities are going to come to try and make that type of a move. ... When this presented itself, we talked it through and got to the point where we thought it was something we had to take advantage of."

The problem for the short term is, it's mid-July and the big-name free agents are off the market. There's not much the Blackhawks can do to improve their roster externally unless they make a trade, which would require dipping into the pipeline.

And it's unfair to put a grade on the Hossa trade as a whole without seeing how they utilize that extra cap space. Could that be before the 2018-19 season starts?

"It's an option if we can find the right player or the right situation," Bowman said. "We certainly have more options now than we did before. I wouldn't say we have to do something. Having cap space is an asset in and of itself, so things will come along maybe in the summer or maybe in the beginning part of the year where teams have a couple players that make their team unexpectedly and that makes some other players more expendable. In the past we probably haven't really been a good match for those types of situations because we didn't have the cap room at that time, so now we're going to be in the mix for those types of things.

"Whether we use it right away or whether we use it during the season, I think the nice thing is we have the flexibility now going in to the coming years where we're going to need cap room, all that and more, to sign the young players."

It doesn't sound like there's much urgency to pull something off between now and when training camp rolls around in September. At least for now.

That doesn't mean there won't be once the market picks back up again. 

"Each year teams have surprises, good and bad, in camp," Bowman said. "Our team’s the same way. You have ideas on how your lines are going to look or how your players are going to be ready. Sometimes guys surprise you in a good way, sometimes it’s not what you think. There’ll be some adjustments around the league, but probably not a lot of activity.

"If you look back the last couple of seasons, late July and August are quieter as far as transactions. But there are some arbitration cases coming up around the league; those may get settled ahead of time. But if they do go to arbitration, if the number's not the way the team likes it, they may look to do something. There’s the possibility of moves, but probably closer to training camp is more when changes may happen."