Chicago Blackhawks: Brendan Morrison
Klesla headed to the locker room holding a towel to the right side of his head. Klesla has a goal and three assists in the first five games.
Morrison scored the Hawks’ first goal in the eventual 3-2 overtime loss on Thursday and said in one sense he was surprised he dressed for the game.
“Maybe surprised because the way I played hasn’t really been to anyone’s expectations,” he stated.
The goal was Morrison’s first point as a Hawk.
The 3-1 deficit: The Hawks are counting on experience to climb out of the hole they’re in.
“A lot of us in this room have been here before,” Jonathan Toews said. “We were down 3-0 last year. We didn’t go anywhere, we didn’t stop working.”
The Hawks trailed their series against the Vancouver Canucks but won the next three games only to lose in overtime of Game 7.
“Maybe could be 3-1 for us right now, but it’s not,” Corey Crawford said regarding four overtime games in the series. “Just have to keep playing hard, eventually it’s going our way.”
• Morrison’s goal was his first in the playoffs since May 1, 2007 as a member of the Vancouver Canucks.
• Brandon Saad had a quiet postseason debut. He didn’t handle the puck a lot but also didn’t hurt the Hawks either. The 19-year-old registered four hits and a plus-1 rating in 13:11 of ice time.
• The Hawks outshot the Coyotes 32-19.
• The Blackhawks set an NHL record with six consecutive overtime playoff games, stretching back to Game 6 of the 2010-11 Western Conference quarterfinals against Vancouver.
• Chicago and Phoenix became the second playoff series in NHL history to reach four consecutive overtime games. The 1951 Stanley Cup Final between Toronto and Montreal went to OT in five straight games.
• "He’s a big reason why the series is 3-1 for them.”-- Morrison, on goalie Mike Smith.
• “It’s a tough road ahead of us. Look at the smaller picture.” -- Quenneville, on the prospects of coming back from a 3-1 deficit.
After the game, though, you wouldn’t find a Blackhawks player who’d use that as an excuse, as plausible as it might be.
“Obviously missing our top guys makes a difference but we’ve played well without Johnny,” goalie Corey Crawford said. “We just have to find a way to get some points.”
“Those are good players, but you can’t sit here and make excuses after the game, especially after a performance like that,” Patrick Sharp said. “We have a good team that we put on the ice today. We just didn’t play like it.”
That might be true, but when you’re missing your top two centers and half of your top defensive duo it’s bound to have an effect -- at least until other players feel out some new roles.
Toews was the lone Hawk not on the ice for practice, but it wasn’t cause for concern until coach Joel Quenneville announced to the media the Hawks captain would miss the game due to an upper body injury. He is day-to-day.
Toews' absence means Brendan Morrison will go from a healthy scratch to the top line if Tuesday morning’s practice is any indication. Morrison lined up between Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp, taking Toews' normal spot.
“I think puck possession is something that plays into his strengths,” Quenneville said of Morrison. “He’s progressed in games. Looking for a strong start from him.”
Morrison has been underwhelming since coming over in a trade with Calgary during the All-Star break. If he can’t keep up with the quicker Kane and Sharp look for Dave Bolland and Morrison to switch roles.
John Scott indicated he could play defense for Tuesday’s game which means Michael Frolik might suit up on the fourth line. Scott has played forward over the past four games.
Hammer skates: Niklas Hjalmarsson practiced with the Hawks for the first time since the first week of January. He’s missed six games with an illness turned upper body injury.
“I was a little nauseous there in San Jose,” Hjalmarsson said Tuesday after practice. “Just wanted to go home and not risk anything to the guys on the team. Starting to feel better now. It’s been frustrating watching the guys play.”
Hjalmarsson will miss his seventh straight game Tuesday evening and says he’s not 100 percent yet. He wouldn’t confirm he had a head injury or was suffering from concussion like symptoms.
“It’s amazing how fast you lose everything and how long it takes to get it back,” Hjalmarsson said. “I really need to work on my conditioning and puck handling.”
Tuesday night’s game starts at 7 p.m.
Steve Montador remains on injured reserve with an upper body injury and has not practiced or played in six games.
Dave Bolland has launched a charity foundation, The Dave Bolland Foundation, which is dedicated to helping marginalized and at-risk youth, will focus on three projects: Chicago’s Beyond the Ball, Toronto’s The Remix Project, and International disability charity Easter Seals. The goal is to raise awareness and funds in order to assist community programming through education and mentorship initiatives in sports and the arts.
VANCOUVER -- After just one game the jury remains out on whether newly acquired Chicago Blackhawks center Brendan Morrison is the answer to the Hawks' problems in the middle on the second line. Morrison had a slow start in the 3-2 loss to the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday, including missing a great scoring chance in the second period.
“He got better as the game went along,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “I thought he got [more] comfortable with the puck.”
Morrison had several turnovers early in the game and even iced it once during a Hawks’ power play, but his biggest “miss” came when Cory Schneider slid across the crease to stop him from scoring an easy goal after turning over the puck to the former Canuck.
“Hats off to him,” Morrsion said. “He made a great save. I took my time with it. Shot it hard. I just didn’t get it high enough. Desperation save.”
Morrison played 18:56 registering just one shot while winning only 31 percent of his faceoffs.
“It’s a start,” Morrison said. “I didn’t think our line generated a whole lot … It was fun. We started off with a lot of positives.”
There were some positives but he didn’t have the immediate impact some might like. Then again he wasn’t brought in as the blue-chip answer. Just a veteran getting a new chance. He’ll need a few more before judgement can be rendered.
“He’s playing with a couple nice players,” Quenneville said. “Once he gets more familiar with them I think he’ll get anticipate where they’re going to be ... and I think that’s where he improved in the game.”
And if it doesn’t work out he’ll be added to a long list who have played that position this season but didn’t stick.
• The Hawks were not called for a penalty for the second time in the Rogers Arena this season.
• Despite five goals scored between the teams the game was tied for all but 6:04.
• Marian Hossa’s nine game point streak came to an end. Hossa has had two point streaks of eight or more games this season.
• Brent Seabrook have five shots and six hits to lead the Hawks in both categories.
VANCOUVER -- He may or may not be the answer as the second-line center for the Chicago Blackhawks, but newly acquired forward Brendan Morrison is going to get first crack at it.
Morrison lined up between Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp during practice Monday evening in Vancouver and summed up the idea of playing with the two stars with one word.
“Fun,” he declared after practice. “Two highly skilled players. Very talented. Great offensive instincts. Hopefully we can develop some chemistry.”
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville says he’s not worried about Morrison’s 36-year-old legs keeping up with Hossa and Sharp. He just wants him to be himself.
“He adds a real nice dimension in the middle,” Quenneville said. “Be it faceoffs and experience. He can make plays and see plays. Playing with Hossa and anyone else could be the makings of something special.”
One thing no one can question is Morrison’s leadership and work ethic. Everyone associated with his new team or his old one – Vancouver -- raved about his integrity as a player.
“I was a big fan of Brendan,” Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. “The knowledge of the game, the way he prepares was a great example for our group. He was a real piece of the foundation of this organization for a long time.”
Morrison’s new captain echoed the same.
“He’s always been known as a hard-working player,” Jonathan Toews said. “One of those character guys on the ice. For a guy that plays both ways in the middle, it’s going to be a huge help for our team.”
The new lines
With the addition of Morrison on the second line, Quenneville elected to move Marcus Kruger to wing and play him with Dave Bolland and Andrew Shaw. Jamal Mayers remained at center with Bryan Bickell and Andrew Brunette on the fourth line.
Quenneville likes Kruger’s defense and this places him in a more prominent role playing beside Bolland. If Morrison doesn’t work out with Hossa and Sharp, then expect Kruger to return to that position.
The last time they did it was in 1994. They went 4-5 after starting the trip 3-1. Prior to that the only other nine-game trip came in the 1955-1956 season. They also went 4-5.
Incidentally, the team’s performances after those road trips were vastly different. In 1994 the Hawks went 8-2-2 over their next 12 games but in 1955 they were 0-7-2 and missed the playoffs.
The last two teams in the NHL to be on the road for at least nine games were the Los Angeles Kings last season and the Vancouver Canucks the year before when the Olympics sent them out for 14 consecutive games. They went 8-5-1. Los Angeles was 6-1-3 over a 10-game span. So success isn’t impossible.
The Hawks have broken up each three-game segment into three different trips. After each one they’ll come home for a change of clothes and a practice before heading back out. It’s sure to test their mettle as well as their 29-15-6 record.
Here’s a look at what’s in store for them as they crisscross western Canada and the United States.
Vancouver/Edmonton/Calgary, Tuesday-Saturday: The first game of the trip might be the juiciest for plenty of obvious reasons. This will be the first meeting between the teams since Dave Bolland called Daniel and Henrik Sedin the “Sedin sisters” on a Chicago radio show in December. Canucks coach Alain Vigneault responded by saying Bolland’s IQ was the “size of a bird seed and [he has] a face only a mother can look at.” Both sides have since backed down. The game also marks the debut for newly acquired center Brendan Morrison who starred for Vancouver from 1999-2008. Both teams have decisive wins on the other team’s ice this season.
The theme for Edmonton and Calgary is simple: revenge. The Oilers embarrassed the Hawks 9-2 last time in Edmonton in November and then beat them in the “Dan Carcillo game” at the United Center on Jan. 2 when he blew out his knee and was suspended for seven games all in one play. The Flames also beat the Hawks the day before Edmonton did and Morrison will get a chance to face the team that just traded him. Plenty of drama awaits in western Canada.
Colorado/San Jose/Phoenix, Feb. 6-12: The Avalanche always play the Hawks tough and present a problem defensively because of their speed. Revenge might be on the Hawks’ minds for this one as well, having been shut out at home 4-0 the last time the teams met. Speaking of last meetings, the Hawks finally got to Sharks goalie Antti Niemi in a 4-3 victory earlier this month at the United Center. Last time in San Jose, the Hawks played great but so did Niemi, besting his old team 1-0. The Hawks owe Phoenix a solid showing after losing both their home games to the Coyotes this season, 4-1 and 4-3, in the span of a week in early December though the Hawks played one of their best games in October winning 5-2 in Glendale, Ariz.
Nashville/New York Rangers/Columbus, Feb. 13-18: The final leg of the trip moves East as again the Hawks will look to avenge losses, this time to the Predators who beat them twice right before the All-Star break. The Rangers are one of the best in the Eastern Conference and are the only team in the East the Hawks play on the whole trip. If Chicago has a good run through the first seven games many will dub the matchup as a possible finals preview. The finale of the nine-game trip might look easy -- Columbus hasn’t beaten the Hawks in four tries this season -- but it’s the finale of a nine-game trip. Who knows what condition the Hawks will be in? We’ll find out in about 20 days.
CHICAGO -- OK, so he’s not a 25-year-old, $4-million center in the prime of his career but right now new Chicago Blackhawks’ middle man Brendan Morrison is better than nothing. And he could be more than that.
Credit general manager Stan Bowman for one thing, he jumped the gun on Morrison before someone else did. Morrison is the kind of guy many teams would take a flyer on considering it’s a low-risk, high-reward deal. Now Brian Connelly, whom the Hawks gave up in the deal, turns into a 15-year NHL player and Morrison flames out as a Hawk, the risk was much higher than it looks.
But at this moment, for this team, it’s all hands on deck. He’s a veteran. Check. He plays center. Check. He’s a leader. Check. And he’s defensively responsible. Check.
But you might not be able to put a check next to “healthy” until he plays a few games. He’s played in only 28 this year. He says he’s ready but what else would he say, right?
“I needed a little bit more time to work on some explosiveness,” Morrison said on a conference call Friday night of coming back too soon from knee surgery. “I know it’s fine. There are no issues at all. Skating is getting back to where it’s always been.”
It better be fine if he’s going to keep up with the likes of Marian Hossa or any other top-6 winger. His addition gives Joel Quenneville options, and the Hawks need those options at center. His 50 percent face-off winning percentage over the last couple seasons makes him attractive for that reason alone. After Jonathan Toews the Hawks don’t have a reliable face-off man though Dave Bolland did fill in nicely (85%) in the last game before the all-star break.
If Morrison can hack it he’ll play on the second line and Marcus Kruger will move down. General manager Stan Bowman certainly made it sound like that was in play considering Morrison’s past history of playing with skilled forwards.
If he can’t handle it in the top 6 he’s a depth guy that probably moves Jamal Mayers back to wing as he could settle in on the fourth line and kill penalties as well.
The storylines Morrison brings with him are juicy. He’s a former Vancouver Canuck who was a leader on that team as the Sedin twins were just coming up. He knows what Chicago and Vancouver means these days.
“Very aware of it,” Morrison said of the rivalry. “I don’t think you could ask for a better first game really. It’s going to be a playoff style game.”
You could hear the smile through the phone. His first game as a Hawk comes against the team he made his name in the NHL with. Then there is the irony of being knocked out for the year last season after Niklas Hjalmarsson checked him into the boards in March. And then he had words with players on the Hawks bench as he limped off.
But that’s history when it comes to trying to win a Cup. Morrison isn’t the sexy name many want or expected but it’s a start. And just think how many people might be saying “we could have used him” if he had been gobbled up by another team. Depth at center. It’s what the Hawks said they wanted and they got some. Before someone else did.
Now let’s see if he can play. And stay healthy.