Saturday, December 28, 2013
Quenneville, Hawks reflect on first half
By Dave Luecking Special to ESPNChicago.com
ST. LOUIS -- The game versus the St. Louis Blues on Saturday represents the end of the first half of the season for the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks -- game No. 41 of 82.
As such, coach Joel Quenneville was asked before the game at Scottrade Center to assess the first half.
"It's amazing how fast it’s gone by," Quenneville said. "We like the way we’ve played. Our start, we’ve very happy and pleased with the way we’ve played. Right now, I think we’re playing our best hockey of late, so I think if we can finish the first half the way we’ve started the first half, we’d be happy."
The Blackhawks, who have a five-game unbeaten streak at 4-0-1, entered the day first overall with a record of 27-7-6 for 60 points and led the NHL with 152 goals, 24 ahead of the second-place Blues. Forward Patrick Kane is second in the league with 50 points, on 22 goals and 28 assists, and the Hawks have four other players in the top 23 in scoring: Patrick Sharp (ninth, 40 points); Jonathan Toews (tied for 12th, 38); Duncan Keith (tied for 17th, 36); Marian Hossa (tied for 23rd, 33).
But the Blackhawks need to clean up a couple of things.
"We can work on our goals against and our penalty killing; those are two areas that we’d like to improve," Quenneville said.
Chicago is in a three-way tie for 18th with 109 goals against and 28th with a penalty-killing success rate of 76 percent, ahead of only the Florida Panthers and New York Islanders.
"We’ve seen some improvement over this last stretch; that’s why we like the way we’ve been playing." he said.
Quenneville expects the second half to be a dogfight, just like the first. Currently, the top seven teams are within seven points of each other.
"Playing the right way is important for us, as long as we’re consistent with how we play each and every night,” he said. “If we play the right way, we should improve. That’s what we’re looking for in the second."
• Goalie Corey Crawford, who has missed eight games with a dreaded lower-body injury, accompanied the Blackhawks to St. Louis, but it wasn’t to play: just to be with the boys.
"He’ll have a couple of days here, and I don’t foresee him versus [the Los Angeles Kings], either [Monday at United Center] playing in that game," Quenneville said. "We expect him hopefully to be ready on that trip to the Island and New Jersey [for games Thursday and Friday]. That’s what we’re shooting for."
• Quenneville said he would make one lineup change for the game Saturday but was coy about the change and didn’t name names.
"A defenseman will probably come out," said Quenneville, who actually has only 12 forwards on the roster after two D-men -- Michael Kostka and Sheldon Brookbank -- were scratched Friday.