Scoring in bunches: Blackhawks have to tighten up


Scoring in bunches: Blackhawks have to tighten up

Marian Hossa got the question that so many Blackhawks did following their Game 1 victory over the Minnesota Wild.

Yes, the Blackhawks won, with Teuvo Teravainen’s late-second-period goal providing the difference. But that second period, the one in which the Wild scored three times in less than 10 minutes to erase the Blackhawks’ 3-0 lead, what the heck was that?

“It’s amazing, eh?” Hossa said with a bit of a smile. “The same thing happened in Game 1 in Nashville, just the other way around. It’s hard to explain why: a few little mistakes, they have hot sticks and put it in the net.”

[MORE: Teravainen nets winner as Blackhawks edge Wild in Game 1]

Part of it was a great Wild team pushing to get back into the game. But this isn’t the first time the Blackhawks have given up goals in bunches. Five times already this postseason, the Blackhawks have allowed three goals in a single period — five, including the second period on Friday night.

So what happened?

“We’re better when we’re exposing our speed and play with some tempo,” Antoine Vermette said. “In the second period a few times we didn’t necessarily, on a few occasions, position ourselves and the puck to advance the play a little more efficiently. And they took advantage.”

Indeed, the first and second periods were extreme, for both teams. As good as the Wild was in the second, it was the mistake-riddled team in the first when the Blackhawks were capitalizing on everything. That reversed in the second.

Quenneville called a time out immediately after the Wild tied the game. Who knows what was said — let’s face it, we probably couldn’t print it anyway — but the message apparently got through. Brandon Saad said the Blackhawks didn’t really have a choice but to forget everything up to that point and play better from there on out.

“We don’t want to give you that many goals, that quickly, but after it happens there’s not much you can do about it,” Saad said. “It’s an even game there. It’s considered 0-0 and you have to score. We have to regroup. Regardless of what happened, obviously it’s not how we want to play but we have to regroup, refocus and get the job done.”

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The Blackhawks pulled one out of the fire on Friday night. It was 50 minutes worth of a fairly strong game, punctuated by a befuddling 10 minutes. The Wild will come out desperate again on Sunday, much like it did in the second period on Friday. The Blackhawks need to be wary of that, and give up a lotless than they did the other night.

“They’re a very disciplined team. Well-structured. So you’ve got to be patient. But you’ve got to play with a purpose and be smart and manage the puck a little better than we did in the second period,” Vermette said. “That’s one thing we’ve got to focus on — move our feet and puck possession and placement would be a key factor.”

Wake-up call? Brandon Saad 'surprised' about possibility of being a healthy scratch


Wake-up call? Brandon Saad 'surprised' about possibility of being a healthy scratch

Brandon Saad played a majority of last season on the first line, started this season on the second to change things up, got demoted to the fourth by the fifth game, and could find himself out of the lineup in the sixth.

Before the Blackhawks hit the ice for practice on Monday, the 25-year-old winger found a white jersey hanging in his stall. That's usually reserved for players who are injured — Andreas Martinsen (back) was the only other player wearing one — or players who are on the outside looking in, which appears to be Saad right now considering he was not part of the four-line rotation.

"I don't think anyone wants to be wearing white around here," he said. "But it is what it is and there's nothing you can do but keep trying to improve. It's their job to make the call to put the best team out there to win hockey games."

Known for being even-keeled through the ups and downs, Saad expressed disappointment about the possibility of being a healthy scratch on Thursday against the Arizona Coyotes. He didn't exactly show that emotion following his demotion to the fourth line, perhaps out of respect to the players he was playing with by noting how it brings balance.

But he did on Monday, and it was the first time we've really seen some sort of emotion out of him.

"Everyone makes mistakes and things aren't always going to go your way but to be out of the lineup, a little surprised today," Saad said. "But it is what it is. ... No one wants to be out of the lineup. That's never fun regardless of who you are."

When asked to pinpoint what's gone wrong, Saad said he wasn't the right person to ask.

"I think you got to ask him that," he said, referring to Joel Quenneville and the coaching staff. "It's his calls. For me, you can talk pros and cons as much as you want but just trying to go out there and compete and win hockey games. We've won a few here, I know every game has gone to overtime so they've been close. Nothing was said to me about lineup change or anything like that. You just come in and you see your jersey and you go out there and you play."

So Quenneville was asked.

"Just expect more," he said. "That's the situation."

Is his mindset in the right place?

"I think he's fine," Quenneville said. "His mindset is what it is. Whether it's urgency or passion, coming up with loose pucks in those areas is going to be the difference."

The Blackhawks sending a message shouldn't only be directed at Saad. It also serves as a reminder to his teammates and is important to note for the younger guys about earning your ice time.

"I don't really know where the coaches are coming from so I'm not going to comment on that," Jonathan Toews said respectfully. "But [Saad] has been doing some good things and I think it's good for all of us to know what's going on there because if [Saad] can get his ice time taken away, then so can a lot of guys, myself included. So we all want to play well and have team success."

The Blackhawks need Saad to return to form quickly because he's crucial to their overall success. There's no debate about that. It's why the thought of Saad, who played in all 82 games last season, serving as the 13th forward is frustrating for everyone involved.

It hasn't been a problem in the past, but now it's becoming one because of the Blackhawks' aspirations of getting back to the playoffs and their dependence on their top players.

"I don’t think it’s an issue," Quenneville said. "We just expect more out of him."

Blackhawks make sports history with fifth straight overtime game to start season

Blackhawks make sports history with fifth straight overtime game to start season

The Blackhawks made sports history on Saturday after they appeared in their fifth straight overtime game to start the season.

No NHL team has done that since the league introduced a regular-season overtime period in 1983-84, per the Elias Sports Bureau. It also has never happened in the history of MLB, NBA or NFL, showing just how crazy this early season run has been for the Blackhawks, who have rallied from all five games and have come away with wins in three of them.

"We’ve had five games, every one of them have been extremely intense and the game’s been on the line from start to finish," coach Joel Quenneville said following a 4-3 overtime win over the St. Louis Blues. "Our group’s been competitive this year, the guys have been working hard for one another. I don’t know how many games we’ve been down in the third period, and coming back to win is special."

The Blackhawks appeared in 17 overtime/shootout games last season and won seven of them. They are one of six teams this season that have yet to pick up a regulation win.

On a separate note, Saturday marked the eighth time in Blackhawks history that one player scored a tying goal in the third period and scored in overtime (Alex DeBrincat), according to the NHL's PR department. It's the second time it's happened this year for the Blackhawks, with Jonathan Toews the other on Oct. 6 against St. Louis.