Chicago Blackhawks: Jon Greenberg

Experienced Hawks excited for big Game 7

June, 1, 2014
Jun 1
Greenberg By Jon Greenberg
Jonathan ToewsRichard Mackson/USA TODAY SportsThe Blackhawks will draw on their big-game experience in Sunday's Game 7.

CHICAGO -- Blackhawks forward Brandon Saad said he managed to get some sleep Saturday night, on the eve of the team's biggest game of the season, but he’s not sure that trend will continue Sunday.

“It’ll be tough to nap this afternoon,” he said after the morning skate at the United Center. “But I’ll try to relax and take it like any other game.”

Sure. Any other elimination game for the right to appear in the Stanley Cup final.

The Blackhawks take on the Los Angeles Kings in Game 7 of the Western Conference finals at 7 p.m. at the United Center. There is no Game 8, so it's a pretty big deal.

It’s the third Game 7 for the Kings in this postseason and it’s the third elimination game for the Blackhawks in this series. The Kings have experience coming back from the precipice, but Chicago is confident in its home building. The Blackhawks haven't lost a Game 5, 6 or 7 in the last two postseasons.

“Being down 3-1 and the comeback that we’ve had to bring it back home for a Game 7, definitely exciting,” forward Bryan Bickell said. “One win away from being in the finals and we’re going to leave everything out there.”

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On Soldier Field ice, a nod to football

February, 28, 2014
Feb 28
Greenberg By Jon Greenberg
Marc-Andre FleuryGregory Shamus/NHLI/Getty ImagesPittsburgh goalie Marc-Andre Fleury has a Steelers-themed helmet ready for Soldier Field.

CHICAGO -- Pittsburgh goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury will look right at home at Soldier Field on Saturday night.

Fleury will wear a Steelers-themed helmet, with a Penguins logo replacing the Steelers', for the "Stadium Series" game against the Chicago Blackhawks.

Chicago backup netminder Antti Raanta has a nifty mask, too, with an eagle painted on it to honor former Chicago goalie Ed "The Eagle" Belfour.

Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford, who is assumed to be the starter Saturday, will have to live vicariously through them.

Crawford also got a special helmet painted, but somehow, he said, his got lost in transit after it was sent to Chicago by Reebok, the manufacturer.

Where is it now?

"I don't know," Crawford said Friday. "I have no clue. Reebok doesn't know. FedEx doesn't know. Whatever. I'm over it now. I spent all day stressing about it. I'm done now."

Crawford said Blackhawks trainers were told it was sent by Reebok, but it appears to have gotten sidetracked along the way.

Trade winds

With the NHL trade deadline looming at 3 p.m. ET Wednesday, the Blackhawks’ rival, the St. Louis Blues, pulled off a big trade with Buffalo on Friday, landing goaltender Ryan Miller and center Steve Ott.

The teams are tied atop the Central Division with 84 points. The Blues have beaten Chicago once in regulation and twice in shootouts. Chicago hosts the Blues on March 19 and April 6, the teams' final regular-season meetings.

"That's a big move for them," Crawford said. "They get one of the better goalies in the league. They're trying to make a push for the Cup. We're not too worried about other teams. We're always focused on what we're doing."

Ice, ice, baby

The most-asked questions Friday night were weather-related. After all, it's not often NHL teams typically have to deal with things like wind and snow when they're on the ice.

Snow is in the forecast for the 7 p.m. CT game, which is great for TV optics, if not so much for the players.

After the evening skate in cold conditions, members of both teams complimented the quality of the ice.

"It's the same for both teams," Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said. "Probably adds to the experience for the fans, being outside. At the end of the day, we're still trying to find a way to win a game."

Chicago winger Patrick Sharp said he's hoping for warmer weather -- good luck, it's supposed to be frigid -- and no precipitation, but he's looking forward to playing in front of 60,000 fans in a raucous atmosphere.

"It's the whole experience," Sharp said. "It's cool to play outside. It's tough to explain why."

Pittsburgh Kid

Blackhawks left wing Brandon Saad will face his home team for the first time in a regular-season game in his short NHL career.

The 21-year-old native of suburban Pittsburgh said he grew up watching Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, who are 26 and 27, respectively.

"Oh yeah, he's a Pittsburgher," Toews said. "I'm sure he is [excited]. I guess I have to ask him. I'm sure he's excited to play against his childhood team, guys like Crosby and Malkin, guys he's looked up to for a long time. It'll be fun for him."

Toews-Crosby hits stadium status

February, 28, 2014
Feb 28
Greenberg By Jon Greenberg
ToewsBrian Babineau/Getty ImagesJonathan Toews gets his first shot at Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby in a regular-season game Saturday.

CHICAGO – It’s Sid the Kid versus Captain Serious.

The NHL’s biggest star against the sport’s reigning winner.

Yes, it’s a hockey heavyweight bout seven years in the making, and it’s finally set to happen Saturday night, at Soldier Field of all places. More importantly, it's the Pittsburgh Penguins against the Chicago Blackhawks in a "Stadium Series" game and a potential Stanley Cup finals preview.

But let's not ignore the novelty of Sidney Crosby versus Jonathan Toews. Hey, this stadium has hosted prizefights.

Thanks to the NHL’s scheduling quirks and some Crosby injuries (groin and concussion), the Pittsburgh star and the Blackhawks captain have never faced off in a regular-season game.

“It’s weird,” Toews said Friday night after the Blackhawks practice. “I feel like it’s been a long time. Never had chance to play against Sidney. I guess you can say he’s the best player in the world, really. I think you look forward to a chance playing against guys like him or Evgeni Malkin, to see what they do and see how they do it.”

Crosby, who leads the league with 80 points, is considered by most to be the best player in the NHL, while Toews is lauded for his two-way play and his leadership.

Toews has won two Stanley Cups, 2010 (when he won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoffs MVP) and 2013, while Crosby has won one with the Penguins in 2009. Both have won a pair of gold medals with the Canadian Olympic team.

Isn’t this a rare individual matchup the league should be marketing, especially in a rare Saturday night prime-time game on NBC? That's not really the hockey mentality.

“That’s not for me to deal with,” Blackhawks winger Patrick Sharp said with a slight smile. “That’s for you guys. There’s a lot of good players in the game tomorrow, not just those two. Both sides have a bunch of stars, a bunch of great players. It’s up to you guys to talk about who you want to talk about.”

[+] EnlargeSidney Crosby
Rob Grabowski/USA TODAY Sports"He competes every night, so he gives himself a chance to be consistent," Penguins star Sidney Crosby said of Jonathan Toews, "and then defensively, he takes a lot of pride in that side of things."
This is true. The Penguins lead the Eastern Conference with 84 points, while the Blackhawks are tied for second in the West with 84. Pittsburgh lost to Boston in last season's East finals, preventing this matchup in the Stanley Cup finals. Both teams are popular TV and ticket draws.

Sharp said Pittsburgh is one of his favorite "Center Ice" teams to watch on off days, while Patrick Kane said he mostly tunes into Penguins games to check out Crosby and Malkin.

"It's a good matchup to have for this type of game," Kane said. "Two teams that a lot of fans probably want to watch on TV, and when you mix it in with the Stadium Series type of game, it make s it even more interesting."

But let’s talk some more about Crosby and Toews.

Crosby sees a lot of similarities in their games, because they both take pride in playing defense.

“You know offensively, he’s really dangerous, he’s strong on the puck,” Crosby said of Toews after the Penguins practiced Friday night at Soldier Field. “He competes every night, so he gives himself a chance to be consistent that way, and then defensively, he takes a lot of pride in that side of things. I think just their whole group as a whole, they play together, and you don’t win as much as they have in the past without everyone kind of buying into playing a certain way, and he kind of leads the way there.”

Toews got a close look at Crosby again during the Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Because there was sparse practice time, the two never really went at it.

“The one thing I’ve noticed playing with him in the Olympics is the speed through the neutral zone,” Toews said. “You see all the highlights of all the goals he scores where he’s kind of sneaking through like three guys. A lot of that is because he’s able to find those holes because he does it with a lot of speed.”

Hockey isn’t a sport that’s decided in a star-versus-star fashion, but expect to see the two go at it Saturday night -- and expect to hear the broadcasters rave about them.

“I'm sure they're going to be out there against one another,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “Jonny's line generally gets some of the best, and Sid plays a ton and Malkin plays a lot as well, so they'll definitely be out there against one another. Who knows how exactly the matchups will play out. The score could probably dictate that. But I think the top guys, I'm sure, are looking forward to what's going on.”

Hawks' ticket-price bump tops in NHL

November, 7, 2013
Greenberg By Jon Greenberg
CHICAGO -- Success doesn’t come cheap.

After winning their second Stanley Cup in four seasons, the Chicago Blackhawks had the biggest ticket price increase in the National Hockey League, according to Team Marketing Report’s annual Fan Cost Index, which was released Thursday.

The average price of a Blackhawks season ticket went up 16 percent to $72.95 for the 2013-14 season. That’s 109 percent more than the average ticket cost for the 2007-08 season, when Rocky Wirtz took over the team after his father Bill passed away. TMR reported the average Blackhawks ticket was $34.88 that season.

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Blackhawks lucky to have Kane

June, 23, 2013
Greenberg By Jon Greenberg
CHICAGO -- If luck is truly the residue of design, then Patrick Kane knew it was coming all along.

Kane is known for his speed and his skill, but like a fourth-line grinder, he isn’t afraid to take his buddies’ leftovers and close the deal. He's more Finish than Teemu Selanne.

Kane, the boy king of Chicago hockey, scored the first two goals in the Blackhawks’ 3-1 win in Game 5, putting them one win away from their second Stanley Cup in four years.

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Blackhawks' attack fades in Game 2

June, 16, 2013
Greenberg By Jon Greenberg
CHICAGO -- As reporters hustled toward the postgame locker rooms, a veteran hockey broadcaster turned to me and said, "I'm just glad it's over."

Allegiances be damned, no one wanted another three-overtime game.

There were planes to catch and stories to write and beds to enjoy and a lot more hockey to play in this series.

If you love sudden death hockey, this is the series for you. Anyone else see overtime in Game 7 in our future?

The second game of the Stanley Cup finals ended early in comparison to the first. It was midway through one overtime when Boston's Daniel Paille scored on Corey Crawford to ice a 2-1 victory, tying the series going back to Boston. Game 3 is Monday evening.

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Chicago sets record with 3OT game

June, 13, 2013
Greenberg By Jon Greenberg
Chicago BlackhawksBill Smith/NHLI/Getty ImagesBlackhawks fans stayed up to watch their team pull off a victory in triple overtime on Wednesday.
CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks needed three overtimes to beat the Boston Bruins 4-3 in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals Wednesday night. It was the first time in, oh, a month and a half, that a Chicago team has needed that much extra time to win a playoff game at the United Center.

On April 27, the Bulls eked out a three-overtime, 142-134 win over the Brooklyn Nets at the arena to take a 3-1 lead in that first-round series. At least that game started in the afternoon.

Elias Sports Bureau confirmed this is the first time a city had NBA and NHL teams play in a 3OT game in the same postseason. It was the fifth-longest game in Stanley Cup finals history. There have been only seven such games in NBA playoff history.

The stakes were much higher for the Blackhawks and the viewers couldn't get enough.

According to Comcast SportsNet Chicago, the Blackhawks did a 25.1 local rating, with most sticking around for the end just before midnight, on NBC. The Bulls' game, which started at 1 p.m., posted a combined 8.1 local rating for TNT/CSN.

Both wins featured comebacks by the home team to get to the first overtime. For the Bulls, Nate Robinson scored 29 of his 34 points in the fourth quarter and the first two overtimes, erasing a formidable Nets' lead late in regulation and hitting a wild go-ahead shot with seconds remaining in the first overtime. Nazr Mohammed hit two shots in the game's final 32 seconds to help ice the victory.

The Blackhawks trailed 3-1 in the third after Boston's Patrice Bergeron scored a power-play goal. But Dave Bolland scored less than two minutes later and Johnny Oduya tied it with a little less than eight minutes to play in regulation. As Thursday approached, Andrew Shaw won the game 12:08 into the third OT.

Greenberg: Hawks focused on future, not '10

June, 12, 2013
Greenberg By Jon Greenberg
CHICAGO -- Three years ago, Jonathan Toews and his buddies didn't know what they didn't know and that made all the difference.

"In 2010, we didn't really know how good our team was," Toews said Tuesday. "We just went out there, we won games and next thing we know we're winning the Stanley Cup. We didn't think twice about it. The last couple years you go through tough times and you start asking yourself questions. 'Why didn't I have the same success?' You can spin your wheels thinking about it."

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The right man at the right time

June, 3, 2013
Greenberg By Jon Greenberg
CHICAGO -- It was early May of last season when the Chicago Blackhawks were at their post-Cup nadir and a power play had as much to do with the front office as the hockey rink.

A first-round playoff exit at the hands of the Phoenix Coyotes was the second spring in a row the Blackhawks went out like lamb. There was no doubt this season would be important for the front office and the coaching staff, namely coach Joel Quenneville.

Some would say it would be a defining season for the future of this organization.

While no one with hiring or firing power would say Quennville's job was in jeopardy, winning the Stanley Cup in 2010 only served as a reminder of what this job was now about, getting back to that ideal. The same holds true for general manager Stan Bowman.

A bad 2013 season could have resulted in big changes for a team that makes money, but also spends prodigiously. Rocky Wirtz has shown loyalty comes after performance.

Even after a record-setting start and a Presidents' Trophy, both meaningless come May, it's fair to assume a second-round playoff exit to the Detroit Red Wings could have spelled doom for some coaches, executives and players, or at least presaged changes to come.

But none of that came to pass. The Blackhawks have new life.

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For Blackhawks, no time to lose

June, 1, 2013
Greenberg By Jon Greenberg

CHICAGO -- To the amateur eye, hockey is a game dependent on a puck bouncing, spinning and changing directions with a mind of its own.

Or to be succinct, luck.

If you want to win this time of year, or any time of year, against a goaltender like the Los Angeles Kings' Jonathan Quick, you have to bury the rebounds and create the deflections. In other words, you have to create your own luck.

Because you know what they say about luck in the NHL playoffs. It’s just opportunity meeting preparation meeting oversized goalie pads.

“Yeah, that first shot against him is tough,” Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “You need traffic. You need a deflection. He finds a way to find pucks.”

Or as Patrick Sharp said of Quick, “He makes saves when he sees the puck, he makes saves when he doesn’t see them.”

The Blackhawks had plenty of opportunities early against Quick, but no success. But when they got chances in the second period, they buried them and the Los Angeles Kings with a 2-1 victory, grabbing a 1-0 lead in the Western Conference finals.

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Blackhawks pair resiliency with talent

May, 30, 2013
Greenberg By Jon Greenberg

CHICAGO -- With a 914.4-meter stare and a flat Canadian accent, Dave Bolland talked about his season-saving hit that freed the puck for Brent Seabrook and led to the overtime goal that shook the United Center and reverberated through the NHL.

"That hit was something that made the play there, and Seabs followed it up and put it in the back of the net," Bolland said.

Thanks Dave. I guess you had to be there.

I was lucky enough to be there, high above the ice, and the end of the Blackhawks' 2-1 win over Detroit in Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinals was richer than Bolland's bland recounting.

It was the exorcism of a 3-1 series deficit against their hated rivals. It was retribution of a game-winning goal waved off. It was jerking awake from a week of nightmares about a dream season wasted.

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Time to prove it again in playoffs

May, 19, 2013
Greenberg By Jon Greenberg
CHICAGO -- With the way the word "adversity" was thrown around Sunday morning, you'd think the Chicago Blackhawks were down 3-1 to Detroit, didn't get their Sunday New York Times delivered and had their rookies forget the coffee and doughnuts.

I can't confirm the team's paper and pastry situation, but I do know the playoff series with the Red Wings is tied at 1-1 with game 3 on Monday night at Joe Louis Arena.

Why the long faces?

Well, it's probably a good sign of the Blackhawks' playoff-tested attitude as a resounding 4-1 defeat Saturday afternoon still lingered Sunday like a brunch hangover on a perfect late spring afternoon.

Is this adversity? Losing one home game to a very good, under-seeded team? Isn't this, you know, the playoffs?

"The Wings are good and if anyone thought anyone was going to cruise through this series, they were wrong," forward Patrick Sharp said. "Look at the talent they have out there and how well they play their team game. We know it's a great series."

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Hawks take the panic out of pressure

May, 1, 2013
Greenberg By Jon Greenberg
CHICAGO -- When Minnesota Wild goaltender Niklas Backstrom left the ice with an injury before the game started, Chicago Blackhawks fans probably expected an easy win over backup goalie Josh Harding.

Maybe the Blackhawks did, too.

The last time the Hawks faced Harding on Jan. 30, he was pulled from the game after two goals in the first seven minutes. Harding, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in the fall, hasn't started a game since then, and played only twice.

But this is the playoffs, after all, and in the NHL it's often hard to tell the seeds apart, let alone the dominant goaltenders (read: Corey Crawford) from the benchwarmers.

That's why everyone loves the Stanley Cup playoffs. The game begins with a goalie change and ends with Bryan Bickell celebrating an overtime goal.

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'It's just fun right now' for Hawks

March, 6, 2013
Greenberg By Jon Greenberg
CHICAGO -- As "Chelsea Dagger" played its Da-Da-Da and the euphoria in the stands roared at Stanley Cup decibels, a TV camera panned to Daniel Carcillo on the bench looking up at himself on the scoreboard. His piano key smile briefly transformed the rugged forward from Hockey Menace to Dennis the Menace.

It wasn't over, but Carcillo and 21,531 of his closest friends knew he had just won the game, rebounding a shot right in front of the net with less than a minute to go. An unlikely hero to say the least. It was his first goal of the season.

With that goal, the Blackhawks extended their record points streak with a 3-2 victory over the Colorado Avalanche.

What was Carcillo, who was playing only his ninth game of the season thanks to injury, feeling at that exact moment?

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Where will it end?

February, 24, 2013
Greenberg By Jon Greenberg

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks' penalty kill is going so well Niklas Hjalmarsson felt comfortable enough to go for style points at a most critical time.

With the Hawks down a man after Andrew Shaw got called for charging with a little over five minutes left in the game, Hjalmarsson got the puck on the boards to the left of his goal and fired a clearing pass between his legs.

The puck went deep into Columbus territory and about a minute later, the Blackhawks killed another penalty.

Hey, whatever works. Hjalmarsson also blocked six shots with his body, but with that pass, he showed he's more than a target.

"It was a little too much, maybe," Hjalmarsson said after the 1-0 victory over the Blue Jackets on Sunday night. "But I got the puck out. Probably half of the guys in the crowd got pretty scared there."

That play was pretty indicative of how things are going for Chicago right now. A dash of style and a lot of substance are going a long way. With the victory, the Hawks extended their NHL record to 18 straight games with a point, or to put it another way, without a regulation loss, to start a season.

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Patrick Kane
16 7 9 -2
GoalsP. Kane 7
AssistsP. Kane 9
+/-K. Versteeg 6
GAAC. Crawford 1.97