Penalties haunt Blackhawks in shootout loss to Blues


Penalties haunt Blackhawks in shootout loss to Blues

ST. LOUIS – In the matchup between the second- and third-place Central Division teams, special teams loomed large.

And while the Blackhawks will take the one point they did get, their shaky penalty kill left them frustrated and absent that other point.

Artemi Panarin tied the game late but Kevin Shattenkirk won it in a shootout as the St. Louis Blues beat the Blackhawks 3-2 on Wednesday night. The Blackhawks, thanks to that point, move back into first place in the Central Division. The Dallas Stars, Friday’s opponent, also has 88 points but the Blackhawks have two more regulation/overtime victories than the Stars.

The Blackhawks took a 1-0 lead into the third period but gave up two power-play goals. Former Blackhawks forward Troy Brouwer scored what was the go-ahead goal for the Blues at the time. The penalty kill’s issues, and the infractions that put the Blackhawks on them (too many men and holding), left coach Joel Quenneville frustrated.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans]

“I didn’t like it at all tonight,” Quenneville said of the kill. “I didn’t like the two penalties we took at the end, too.”

Jonathan Toews, who left briefly in the second period after colliding with a partially open door on the Blues’ bench – a hip flexor he said felt better as the game went on – said the Blackhawks need to shore things up on the kill.

“I think the majority of the game we played pretty well. We just need those timely penalty kills in the third and we didn’t get them,” said Toews, who assisted on Panarin’s late regulation goal. “We’ve got to be better. I think our focus has been there the last couple of games; I think our kill was really good against Detroit. It’s still something that we need to improve on big time.”

On the other side, the Blackhawks had their power-play chances too but could come up with just one on three opportunities. That included a lengthy power play when Ryan Reaves was given a five-minute charging and a game misconduct for his hit on Blackhawks defenseman Christian Ehrhoff. Andrew Ladd redirected Teuvo Teravainen’s shot for a 1-0 lead. Outside of that one, though, the Blues’ league-leading penalty kill held off the Blackhawks’ league-leading power play.

Still, after Corey Crawford vacated the net late in regulation, Panarin forced overtime with his 25th goal of the season. After a 3-on-3 overtime in which both teams looked drained from thephysical contest, the Blackhawks and Blues traded a few shootout goals. After Shattenkirk scored his, Teuvo Teravainen missed to seal it for the Blues.

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“That was a tough shootout,” said Crawford, who stopped 28 of 30 in regulation and overtime. “It was a fast game and playoff-type game. Itseems like we’re playing a lot of those lately. We’re in a great position, had some tough luck there on a couple power-play goals but I thought we played really well. Had a lot of chances.”

The Blackhawks did have their chances, but it’s what they gave up on the other end, on a penalty kill that’s been so good for the past several years, that had them disappointed.

“I think for the most part we played pretty well with the lead and I think we can always expect that they’re going to come hard at us,” Toews said. “So knowing that, in a way it’s disappointing we couldn’t come up with a second point.”

With Connor Murphy set to return, Blackhawks reassign Adam Boqvist to Rockford


With Connor Murphy set to return, Blackhawks reassign Adam Boqvist to Rockford

The Blackhawks announced Thursday morning that they have reassigned top defenseman prospect Adam Boqvist to the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League.

The 19-year-old Swedish defenseman appeared in six games for the Blackhawks and averaged 14:27 of ice time. He scored his first career NHL goal in his second appearance in a 3-2 win over the Anaheim Ducks on Nov. 2.

But with Connor Murphy (groin) eligible to come off long-term injured reserve on Saturday, the Blackhawks had to make a corresponding move to become cap compliant and Boqvist was the obvious candidate to be sent back down.

He’s still in the early stages of his development, but Boqvist certainly held his own at the NHL level during his brief stint. The Blackhawks want him to continue playing top pairing minutes and in all situations, and it would’ve been difficult for him to do that in Chicago with Murphy returning to the lineup.

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Corey Crawford and Robin Lehner tandem proving to be exactly what Blackhawks envisioned


Corey Crawford and Robin Lehner tandem proving to be exactly what Blackhawks envisioned

LAS VEGAS — The first day of NHL free agency is always exciting for hockey fans, particularly the first hour when most of the moves are announced at a rapid rate. Last offseason, the Blackhawks had a quiet few hours before dropping the hammer on the most surprising signing of the day, Robin Lehner, to a one-year deal.

“I think we have the best 1-2 punch in the league is the way I look at it right now,” GM Stan Bowman said on July 1. “I certainly feel really comfortable going into next season, whether Corey Crawford’s in net or Robin Lehner’s in net.”

So does the entire city of Chicago.

More than one month into the 2019-20 season, the goaltending tandem between Crawford and Lehner is exactly what the Blackhawks envisioned it would be. That’s what happens when you pair a Vezina Trophy finalist with a two-time Stanley Cup winner.

"We got two guys who are outstanding," head coach Jeremy Colliton said. "I think they're both going real well now and that's a huge advantage for us no matter who's in the net, we're getting a chance to win. It gives our guys a chance to come through offensively, so they've been big for us."

After starting the season 1-4-0 with a 3.67 goals-against average and .888 percentage, Crawford has been lights out since the calendar flipped to November. He’s 2-0-2 with a 2.72 goals-against average and .929 save percentage in his last four starts, which includes a 39-save performance in a 5-3 win over the Golden Knights on Wednesday.

Lehner has been one of the league’s best from the beginning. His .934 save percentage ranks second among goaltenders with at least six appearances and his goals saved above average at 5-on-5 ranks fourth-best, according to Natural Stat Trick. Crawford's goals saved above average of 4.21 puts him at ninth.

And this is despite the fact the Blackhawks are giving up the most shots on goal per game (37.1), second-most high danger chances per 60 minutes at even strength (13.1) and third-most scoring chances per 60 minutes at even strength (29.2).

While the dynamic may have been awkward at first, both goaltenders appear to be making the best of the circumstances and view it as healthy competition.

"I mean, he's doing a great job," Crawford said of Lehner. "Definitely keeping us in games or being a big factor in some wins. I think both of us are just trying to be at our best when we get the chance."

The challenging part of the situation is getting both guys a fair amount of starts. Crawford has been vocal about preferring to start regularly — “it’s a little bit easier when you keep playing games in a row” — and Lehner no doubt feels the same.

"They both want to play 60 games, 80 games maybe,” Colliton said. “That's part of the team. [Patrick Kane] wants to play 60 minutes. It's how it is. Ultimately, we want to make decisions that help the team win and part of that is keeping both guys fresh, keeping both guys playing at a high level and I think that's going to be a benefit for us as the season goes on."

It’s a good problem to have if you’re the Blackhawks, especially if Crawford and Lehner are at the top of their games at the same time like they are right now.

"It's great," Calvin de Haan said. "I think goaltending's the most important position. If you're not keeping the puck out of the net, you're not going to win a lot of games. But those guys are giving us a chance every night and it's really evident the past few weeks here."

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