Blackhawks

Stalberg honing his all-around game

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Stalberg honing his all-around game

Viktor Stalberg has jump-started his offense lately. Hes also jumped around the Blackhawks forward lines. Top line. Fourth line. And now its the checking line and the defensive responsibility that comes with it.

Its a new look for Stalberg, one that hes earned with stronger play and more offensive output lately. But hes not afraid to learn. Or ask questions.

Hes the first player Ive played with that, after every shift, hes asking me what he needs to do or what I can help him with, said Stalbergs latest linemate Bryan Bickell. Thats good to have the communication on the bench and off the ice, to have a game-plan going into games. I think its been fun for him. And hes been lighting it up big time.

Yes, Stalberg has been lighting up that score sheet lately, tallying three goals and four assists on his current four-game point streak. Hes already established a new career high in assists this season (13), and is just three goals away from his career-best 12 set last season. But Stalberg is also honing his defensive game with his latest line assignment and its helping develop his all-around game.

They stress small details here, and theyve helped me out of a lot with where to place my stick in defensive zone coverage, Stalberg said. Maybe you dont think about that (defensive game) when youre starting your pro career but I feel Im getting better at doing that. Im comfortable playing against the top lines, too.

Stalberg is learning the defensive nuances from Bickell and Dave Bolland, who certainly have enough experience in the checking-line role. Bolland said Stalberg is adapting well.

Hes seeing what its like on the checking line, going off and on, maybe getting a five-second shift instead of a 40-second shift, Bolland said. He knows what to do when he comes back in his own zone. If we can utilize his speed and get him the puck, hell be a big help to us on that third line.

The Blackhawks will still look to Stalberg for offensive production more than defense. But if he can improve his defense, and if that defensive work can lead to more offense, then its beneficial to him and the Blackhawks.

Theres that responsibility of playing against top guys that he can learn from, coach Joel Quenenville said. Theres a lot of reward playing against top guys as far as the offensive side of things. The better you check, the more time you have the puck. Whether its with Bolley or Bicks or (Michael Frolik), if hes with that group, youre committed to defensive play and youre rewarded.

Hawks Talk Podcast: Thoughts on Corey Crawford's season debut

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USA TODAY

Hawks Talk Podcast: Thoughts on Corey Crawford's season debut

In the latest Hawks Talk Podcast, Pat Boyle, Jamal Mayers and Charlie Roumeliotis recap Corey Crawford’s season debut after missing nearly 10 months with a concussion.

Mayers talks about the Kitty system that Niklas Hjalmarsson and Vinnie Hinostroza probably dealt with in their returns to Chicago.

The guys also discuss what’s next for Crawford, the upcoming matchup against Artemi Panarin and the Columbus Blue Jackets, and the Blackhawks’ biggest areas for improvement.

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below, and be sure to subscribe, rate us and write a review!

Four takeaways: Blackhawks suffer first regulation loss, but Corey Crawford looks sharp in season debut

Four takeaways: Blackhawks suffer first regulation loss, but Corey Crawford looks sharp in season debut

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 4-1 loss to the Arizona Coyotes at the United Center on Thursday:

1. Return of the Crow

The Blackhawks got their man back between the pipes after a 10-month layoff due to a concussion. And he looked like same old "Crow."

Crawford stopped 27 of 30 shots for a save percentage of .900. He faced 12 shots and eight scoring chances in the first period, but nothing too out of the ordinary. The biggest save he made was on a Michael Grabner breakaway in the third period, bailing out a turnover in the neutral zone.

"I think I felt better in the second and third," Crawford said. "But they really didn’t get that many opportunities early. It was nice. I think they flipped one in for the first one, so that was kind of good just to get in it and feel one early. We were close in that one all game and we created a lot. I thought [Antti] Raanta played really well.

"It was a tough, tough break at the end. Still felt I should have stopped that one. We were right there, we were creating a lot and gotta try to come up with that one. Just gotta forget about it and worry about the next game."

2. Alex DeBrincat, Jonathan Toews extend point streaks

The hot start continues for the Blackhawks' two leading scorers, both of whom assisted on Erik Gustafsson's goal in the second period to stretch their point streaks to six games. DeBrincat and Toews each have 10 points this season.

3. Overtime streak ends

The Blackhawks made history by forcing five straight overtime games to start the season, something no team has ever done in the four major sports (NBA, NFL, NHL, MLB). But they didn't have the comeback magic in them this time.

Entering Thursday, the Blackhawks were 1-0-1 when trailing after two periods. They were 5-28-2 last season for a win percentage of .143.

4. Familiar faces, new places

Five former Blackhawks took the ice for the Coyotes: Vinnie Hinostroza, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Jordan Oesterle, Richard Panik and Antti Raanta.

It was Hjalmarsson's first trip back to Chicago since being traded in the 2017 offseason. He received a nice video tribute during the second TV timeout of the first period, which made him very emotional.

"I almost got emotional too seeing his reaction," Toews said. "He's one of those guys you'll never forget what he meant to this locker room. He was a quiet guy in the room but we all know how he played and put everyone else before himself. Pretty cool reaction from the fans too. I think we were all sad to see him leave this locker room, he did a lot of special things and was a massive part of our championship wins. Happy for him to get that reception. It's well-deserved and obviously we miss having him around."

As far as the game, Hjalmarsson logged a team-high 22:18 of ice time and blocked three shots. Oesterle registered a secondary assist on Arizona's first goal, which was its first 5-on-5 of the season.

Hinostroza, who was also part of the Marian Hossa trade over the summer, scored twice in his return to his hometown, beating Crawford with a wrist shot to make it 2-1 in the second period and an empty-netter in the third; his second goal turned out to be the game winner, the fourth of his career and first as a member of the Coyotes.

Panik recorded four shot attempts (three on goal). And Raanta improved to 16-0-3 in his career at the United Center, a remarkable record for any goaltender in any situation.