Blackhawks

Underdog Hawks ready; Canucks 'hate' 'em

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Underdog Hawks ready; Canucks 'hate' 'em

Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Posted: 7:56 p.m.

By Tracey Myers
CSNChicago.com

VANCOUVER, British Columbia For Vancouver defenseman Kevin Bieksa, it doesnt matter that this Chicago Blackhawks group is quite different than the one that eliminated the Canucks the past two seasons.

When you put that (Blackhawks) jersey on, its instant hate in this dressing room, Bieksa said. Its a team we want to beat badly.

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Or maybe more a team the Canucks need to beat badly.

As the Blackhawks and Canucks meet for the third consecutive postseason beginning Wednesday night, theres certainly no shortage of story lines. For the Blackhawks, theyve been pretty good: two consecutive series triumphs over Vancouver and a Stanley Cup last season. They could also be getting forward Troy Brouwer (shoulder) back for Game 1. But the No. 1 Canucks are nevertheless the team to beat, and the eighth-seeded champs are, lets face it, dark horses.

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Thats probably where everybodys got us, coach Joel Quenneville said. Winning first game is paramount. Were on the road, were viewed as underdogs and coming into a building thats hard to win in. Weve played hard here, so have to be ready to be at our best.

Meanwhile, the Canucks are dealing with another problem: constant Cup pressure. They led the league in several categories, had a firm hold on the Western Conference and claimed the Presidents Trophy. But until they win that Cup, theyre never going to hear the end of it.

For the whole team, youre not going to be seen as great until youve won it all. There are always going to be questions until you win, Daniel Sedin said. (The Blackhawks) won. Nobodys questioning them. We have to prove we can win.

The Blackhawks, meanwhile, dont want to fall into happy-to-be-here mode. After feeling euphoric on Monday, a day after Minnesotas victory over Dallas got them in, the Blackhawks were more in business mode at Tuesdays practice.

We want things to go our way, we want to win this series, Jonathan Toews said. Theres no working for 82 games just to make it to the playoffs and be happy with that. We want to get this series started on the right foot and hopefully move on after that.

Its the playoffs again and the pressures on again. The Blackhawks have been to the top of the heap. Now theyll play a Canucks team that badly wants take their place.

Theyve proven they can play on the big stage and play through adversity, challenges and the pressure that comes with winning four rounds to get your hands on the big prize, Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. We think we can do it, were going to set out tomorrow to try to prove it. Weve worked all year long to finish first and were getting Cup champs. It doesnt get any better than that.

Brouwer close?

Troy Brouwer, whos missed a week with a right shoulder injury, could be in the lineup Wednesday against the Canucks.

Well say were hopeful hes a possibility (for Game 1), Quenneville said.

Brouwer practiced with the Blackhawks on Tuesday, although he was wearing a white non-contact jersey. Still, considering how big the series is and Brouwers family ties here, it may be hard to hold him out.
Patrick Kane found success with the playoff mullet last year, so he decided to sport it again. Why does that make at least one member of the Vancouver Canucks angry? (AP)
Im comfortable and confident in (my shoulder) right now that I can jump in. Once you get into the heat of the game, a lot of things youre feeling you dont pay attention to anymore, Brouwer said. The playoffs are a time when you play through a few things and for me its no different. But I feel good and I can only tell the coach how I feel. Its his decision whats going to happen next.

Mullet musings

Patrick Kanes rush to get his mullet back for the postseason didnt sit well with Canucks left wing Tanner Glass, who sports his own.

Its embarrassing. Hes kind of mocked the mullet and Im not too pleased about that, to be honest, said Glass with a smile. I dont think there are (mullet) rules, but when you do it for a few months and then you cut it off, its mocking.

Battle tested

If Corey Crawford felt butterflies when he played in front of the hometown Montreal folks last week, theyll probably be there again tomorrow night when he starts his first NHL playoff game.

Then again, considering the Blackhawks dogfight to get in, Crawfords already had a taste of playoff-type hockey.

Well find out tomorrow but there have been a lot of tough games, Corey Crawford said. Its only going to prepare us for tomorrows game.

Quenneville has been happy with Crawfords preparation throughout this season.

You have to commend him on how hes approached all these games and continued to get the job done, he said. Hes consistent and quietly goes about his business.

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

The Blackhawks' thinking behind Henri Jokiharju's development

The Blackhawks' thinking behind Henri Jokiharju's development

A little more than a month ago, the Blackhawks were in the basement of the entire NHL. And Henri Jokiharju's minutes were dwindling.

At the time, it probably made sense to send him to Rockford, where he could regroup mentally and play in all situations on the top pairing. But things have changed rather dramatically now that the Blackhawks are in the middle of a legit playoff race.

On Friday, Jokiharju was recalled on an emergency basis because Brent Seabrook (abdominal strain) was out and Carl Dahlstrom (flu-like symptoms) was a game-time decision. Jokiharju played, and logged a season-low 9:14 of ice time. He took just three shifts in the third period.

The reports after Friday's morning skate were that Jokiharju's stint wouldn't necessarily be temporary. But it was, with the Blackhawks sending him back to Rockford on Saturday morning.

"I just think the other guys played pretty well," coach Jeremy Colliton said. "When I look at Henri's game, we're happy. I see a growth from when he left us to go to Rockford to now. Circumstances required us to bring him for the game, just with Seabs and Dahlstrom. Dahlstrom probably could've played in the end, but we didn't know that in the morning. So we wanted to get Henri since we called him up, but we feel that he's where he should be in Rockford and we're happy with his progression and how he's handling it. He's playing 21, 22 minutes every night and we're seeing a growth in his game, so that's a positive."

There are two sides to this development: The Blackhawks obviously want Jokiharju to be playing heavy minutes and developing as an elite defenseman. But they also want him playing in meaningful games.

The easy thing to wonder is, why can't he do that in Chicago rather than Rockford? Isn't he one of the team's better defensemen? Well, yes. But the Blackhawks don't want to run him into the ground at age 19. Young guys tend to struggle with the grind of an 82-game season because it takes a toll physically and mentally to do that against grown men in the NHL.

In the AHL, it's less taxing and, quite frankly, there's not as much pressure because he's not in the spotlight every night. There's value in developing at your own pace and doing it out of the spotlight, and the Blackhawks are looking at it from that lens.

"He's been great," Colliton said of Jokiharju's attitude. "We've had really good feedback, talked to [IceHogs interim coach Derek King] and [assistant coach] Anders [Sorensen] obviously, how he's been down there. He's been a pro. I think that's been good for him too. Initially when we sent him down he wasn't very happy. But when he got there, it was like, 'Oh OK, maybe this is a good thing.' And that was the reaction last night too.

"Yeah, he wants to be in the NHL, he wants to be a great player, an elite player and that's what we want too. But he's where he should be right now."

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MVP? Patrick Kane has Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews' vote for Hart Trophy

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USA TODAY

MVP? Patrick Kane has Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews' vote for Hart Trophy

At age 30, Patrick Kane is playing the best hockey of his career. Even better than his MVP campaign in 2015-16 when he also won the Art Ross Trophy with 106 points.

On Friday, Kane became the seventh player in NHL history to record multiple point streaks of at least 20 games, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, joining Wayne Gretzky (7), Brett Hull (3), Guy Lafleur (2), Mario Lemieux (2), Adam Oates (2) and Steve Yzerman. All six of those players are in the Hall of Fame, and it's not hard to see Kane joining them one day.

Through 61 games this season, Kane ranks second in goals (39), first in even-strength goals (30), fourth in assists (54) and second in points (93). He's on pace for 52 goals, 72 assists and 124 points, which would be career highs in all three categories. And he even missed a game with an illness.

MVP? Kane has the Blackhawks captain's vote.

"Relative to his team, absolutely," Jonathan Toews said. "You see who won the Hart Trophy last year, and in my book there’s no doubt that he should be taking home some hardware at the end of the season this year. But we all know he’s not worried about that right now. He’s worried about keeping his streak going and staying hot and playing his game, and every night he’s a big part of our offense, so it’s pretty incredible to see him do it night after night.”

Taylor Hall was named the Hart Trophy winner in 2017-18 after recording 93 points in 76 games for the New Jersey Devils, who finished as the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference. Toews doesn't see how this is any different, especially if the Blackhawks find a way into the Stanley Cup playoffs. Kane has strapped this team on his back.

Kane hasn't gone more than two games this season without picking up at least one point, and is one of the main reasons — if not the primary — why the Blackhawks have gone from last place in the NHL to competing for a wild card spot in a month. 

Kane's biggest competition is Tampa Bay superstar Nikita Kucherov, who is having a historic year for the Lightning. He's already topped the 100-point mark through 62 games, and is on pace for 132 points. Kucherov would become the first player to hit that point total since 1992-93 when Teemu Selanne and Pierre Turgeon each finished with 132 points.

But Kane isn't far off at a 124-point pace, and he's doing it on a team that has relied heavily on his services. The Blackhawks wouldn't be where they're at in the standings without his consistent production.

"He's been great, no doubt about that," coach Jeremy Colliton said. "I can just speak for our team, he's been tremendously valuable. He's at times carried us on his back. ... He's probably going to find another level too."

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