Chicago Blackhawks: Patrick Kane

Bowman makes most of Kane's injury

February, 28, 2015
Feb 28
Powers By Scott Powers
Antoine VermetteBruce Bennett/Getty ImagesAntoine Vermette isn't a Patrick Kane-type scorer but can be useful in a number of ways.

This week's injury to Patrick Kane presented an interesting opportunity for Chicago Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman.

The Blackhawks might have lost their star offensive player for 12 weeks with a broken clavicle, but Bowman had a chance to keep his team a Stanley Cup contender because Kane’s injury happened just before the trade deadline. A week later and Bowman would have been out of luck.

Instead, Bowman went to work. His phone rarely left his ear. Following nearly four days of exploring countless trade options, he pulled the trigger twice in consecutive days. He acquired defenseman Kimmo Timonen from the Philadelphia Flyers on Friday, then grabbed one of the biggest names on the market Saturday by acquiring forward Antoine Vermette from the Arizona Coyotes.

Timonen filled a definite need at defenseman. The Blackhawks haven’t had the same defensive depth since trading Nick Leddy prior to the season. Rookie Trevor van Riemsdyk showed some potential early on, but a knee injury in November derailed his season. Since then, the Blackhawks have had a revolving door for their sixth defenseman. There is an unknown in that Timonen hasn’t played all season due to blood clots and he’s 39, but the Blackhawks saw the trade as low risk, high reward in that he’ll help them if he’s anywhere near what he’s been in the past.

With Vermette, the Blackhawks add another versatile forward. He isn’t Kane, but he can help a team as a solid two-way forward. He can contribute offensively and defensively, win faceoffs and spend time on the penalty and power play. He's a top-six forward who will likely help the Blackhawks in a top-none role.

The Blackhawks are also stronger down the middle with centers Jonathan Toews, Brad Richards, Marcus Kruger and Vermette. They also have Teuvo Teravainen and Andrew Shaw, who play center or wing. The Blackhawks had trouble matching up with the Los Angeles Kings at center in the Western Conference finals last season. Vermette would help there.

There was some question if Bowman would have to give up too much to get a quality defenseman and center. It cost the Blackhawks a first-round pick, a second-rounder, potentially another second-rounder and one prospect. That's a lot of future pieces, but it’s certainly a price the Blackhawks happily paid.

Aside from Klas Dahlbeck, whose future with the Blackhawks was unknown, the organization didn’t give up any other prospects it was high on. Chicago still has players such as Mark McNeill, Stephen Johns, Ryan Hartman and Phillip Danault, whom they foresee filling in around Kane and Toews for years to come.

The traded draft picks could be valuable, particularly in a deep 2015 draft, but the Blackhawks would have selected players they envisioned helping them well down the line. They have mostly drafted college and European players in recent years because their timetable to get them to the NHL is much longer. They already have a number of young college players, including Nick Schmaltz, John Hayden, Anthony Louis and Vince Hinostroza, who are still a number of years away from helping them.

The Blackhawks would undoubtedly prefer having Kane healthy -- you can't replace the league's points leader -- but Bowman made the most out of a tough situation. And if the Blackhawks can advance a few rounds, they would welcome back Kane to a team that includes both Timonen and Vermette. That's a team the rest of the NHL doesn't want to see.

Can Blackhawks make a Stanley Cup run without Patrick Kane?

February, 25, 2015
Feb 25
Powers By Scott Powers

The worst news for the Chicago Blackhawks would have been a season-ending injury for forward Patrick Kane.

What they received wasn’t far off.

The Blackhawks announced Wednesday Kane is expected to miss 12 weeks after undergoing successful surgery to a repair a left clavicle fracture. That brings Kane’s target return date to May 20, meaning the Blackhawks will have to make a deep playoff run if Kane is to play again this season.

The question now is how do the Blackhawks make a Stanley Cup run without him?

Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman likely is putting his unlimited phone plan to use today. The Blackhawks placed Kane on long-term injured reserved earlier in the day and now have his $6.3 million cap hit to utilize elsewhere.

At least Kane's injury came at a favorable time, what with the trade deadline still ahead on March 2. If Kane’s injury had occurred a week later, the Blackhawks wouldn’t have had the luxury to explore other options.

When Bowman spoke in late January, he didn’t expect the Blackhawks to be major players at the deadline, but he did say that could all change with injuries. That’s certainly the case now.

“There will be some injuries as things go along, but I still feel comfortable with our depth from within, and the young players are going to be excited to be here and hungry to show that they belong,” Bowman said on Jan. 21. “In terms of adding players outside, things can change obviously if you have a couple of injuries between now and the deadline and then you have holes you got to fill and some cap space then. So we’re doing our work and preparing for it. I wouldn’t expect us to be making a lot of trades.”

What Bowman has to figure out is whether the Blackhawks want to add another offensive forward (Antoine Vermette has been mentioned), another depth forward (Chris Stewart is in that mix) or another defenseman (possibly someone like Jeff Petry). They also could look into adding a few of those players.

The Blackhawks will likely be targeting only expiring contracts. Their cap situation will get even worse next season, with Kane's and Jonathan Toews' extensions going into effect. They already have about $65 million committed to 15 players for the 2015-16 season, and that doesn’t include having to pay Brandon Saad, who will be a restricted free agent after this season.

That’s all part of the equation, too. While the Blackhawks are in need now, they also have to plan for the future. Teams will be asking for draft picks and prospects. The Blackhawks will be leaning on their system more for future prospects than ever before because of their cap situation. Bowman has to weigh what is important now against what is important later.

The Blackhawks recalled their top prospect, Teuvo Teravainen, on Wednesday morning. His upside is his offensive game, especially his vision. He was solid during a 15-game span when Kris Versteeg was injured last month. Teravainen will slot into a top-nine role.

Offensively, the Blackhawks still have a lot of firepower with a top line of Saad, Toews and Marian Hossa and a second line of Patrick Sharp, Brad Richards and Versteeg. Hossa’s goal scoring finally came around earlier in February, and Sharp is due for the same. Saad, Toews and Versteeg have been consistent for much of the season. The Blackhawks could use Bryan Bickell getting into his playoff form earlier.

The Blackhawks’ issue this season often has been defensive consistency. Their depth hasn’t been the same since they traded Nick Leddy prior to the season to get under the salary cap. Rookie defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk surprised many early on, but he’s been out since Nov. 16 with a knee injury; he could be back in March. Veteran defensemen Johnny Oduya and Michal Rozsival haven’t been completely reliable, and the Blackhawks haven’t found an absolute answer in any of their defenseman prospects. It doesn't help them that Oduya also is injured right now. For all those reasons, defensive performance might be Bowman’s most pressing concern.

The next six days should be telling as the Blackhawks piece together a final roster for a stretch run without Kane. And with the Central Division far from being decided, there should be plenty of drama ahead.
CHICAGO -- The last time the Chicago Blackhawks were without Patrick Kane for an extended period of time, Patrick Sharp stepped up in his absence.

The Blackhawks could use that again.

The Blackhawks are expected to be without Kane for about 6-10 weeks with an upper-body injury, a source confirmed on Wednesday. He was last out of the Blackhawks’ lineup for a significant amount of time when he missed 12 games at the end of the 2013-14 regular season with a knee injury.

[+] EnlargePatrick Sharp
Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty ImagesPatrick Sharp is second in the league in shots on goal in 5-on[-5 situations, but they aren't finding the back of the net.
That the Blackhawks remained afloat when Kane missed that time last season was largely due to Sharp. He scored five goals and tallied five assists during that span.

The Blackhawks would benefit from Sharp's emergence not only because they’ll be without Kane, who is tied for an NHL-best 64 points, but also because Sharp hasn’t been producing a whole lot as of late. Since recording four assists against the Anaheim Ducks on Jan. 30, Sharp has zero goals and two assists over the last 12 games.

Sharp was hopeful earlier in the week that moving to the second line with Kane and Brad Richards would get him back on track. Sharp admitted he was feeling the weight of his slump, especially with the Blackhawks going through an inconsistent stretch.

“Yeah, I feel like I’ve played with a lot of different guys this year,” Sharp said on Monday. “Sometimes it’s worked, sometimes it hasn’t. But I’m not too concerned right now with who I’m playing with when I go out there, what power play I’m on, you name it. I’m just concerned with myself, getting back to playing as well as I can.

“Makes it even more difficult when personally I feel that I could be a lot better of a player, and it kills you when the team loses and you’re a reason for that. You carry that around on your shoulders every day. For me personally, I’m working as hard as I can to get out of it.”

A lot like Marian Hossa was due for a scoring breakout, which came recently, so is Sharp. Sharp is still getting a lot shots on goal -- he’s second in the league with 13.94 shots per 60 minutes in 5-on-5 play -- but not many are finding the inside of the net. He has scored 10 goals on 169 shots for a 5.9 shooting percentage this season. He has a career-average 11.4 shooting percentage.

Sharp’s continued aggressiveness paid off for the Blackhawks in their 3-2 shootout win over the Florida Panthers on Tuesday. He had a shot blocked during the second period, and teammate Kris Versteeg got to it first and scored from the left circle. Sharp picked up the primary assist, and it was also his 500th career point with the Blackhawks.

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville also liked how Sharp played against the Boston Bruins on Sunday.

“Production-wise, I thought he did some things [Sunday] that would enhance a chance of scoring goals, getting more inside, which is something we’re harping on as a team and something we did better [Monday] in practice,” Quenneville said. “It’s the middle drive, hanging around the net. [The Bruins] scored goals like that and that’s how you score. I mean, both of our goals were right around the net. But when you get on the outside, the goalies are too good.”

Sharp finished Tuesday’s game with Richards and Versteeg on the second line and was effective throughout much of the game. Sharp was third on the Blackhawks with a plus-8 Corsi.

Sharp didn’t pretend Tuesday as if replacing Kane was a one-person job, but he believes the Blackhawks have the depth to get by for however long they would be without Kane.

“Just another blow,” Sharp said. “As I said, we’ll know more, I guess, going forward. But you never want to see Kaner miss a shift, let alone the rest of the game. It happens every season whether it’s injuries, losing streaks, you name it. It’s just another obstacle to overcome.

“I don’t think you can replace the things that he does with the puck, without the puck, the attention that he draws, but one of the strengths of the organization is depth. You hear it all the time, when a player goes down, you need to step up and collectively fill those shoes. But you guys know as well as I do what kind of player Kaner is.”

Patrick Kane's injury leaves Blackhawks with void

February, 25, 2015
Feb 25
Powers By Scott Powers
CHICAGO -- Patrick Kane has been a constant in a season of inconsistencies for the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Blackhawks have had stretches of superiority. They have had stretches where they have been average to below average. Throughout it all, Kane continued to pile up points while putting together a career season.

[+] EnlargeKane
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesPatrick Kane suffered an upper-body injury on Tuesday and could be out of the lineup for "some time," according to Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville.
Now the Blackhawks face the possibility of being without Kane. He suffered an upper-body injury when he crashed into the boards after a crosscheck from the Florida Panthers' Alex Petrovic on Tuesday. Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville was unsure after the game how long Kane would be out, but Quenneville used the words "some time," which probably means at least a few weeks.

Kane's teammates made no attempt to downplay his significance after the game. From his league-best 64 points, which includes a team-high 27 goals and 37 assists to playing on both power-play units to being the lone forward who is asked to double-shift, the Blackhawks rely on Kane and his offensive skills in an abundance of ways.

"You never want to see Kaner miss a shift, let alone the rest of the game," Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp said.

Blackhawks forward Kris Versteeg felt the same.

"People pay a lot of money to watch Patrick Kane play," Versteeg said. "It's never good when he's out of the lineup not only for us, but for the league. Hopefully he's good. We'll see how it goes."

The Blackhawks haven't had to handle being without Kane for much of his eight seasons. His most significant injury came last season, when he sat out the final 12 regular-season games because of a knee injury. The Blackhawks also were without Jonathan Toews for six of those games. Both players returned for the playoffs.

It's that span last season where Quenneville's mind immediately turned after losing Kane on Tuesday.

"We came together well and played some big games and got some meaningful points," Quenneville said. "That's what we got to do now."

(Read full post)

Self-evaluation essential for Brad Richards

February, 24, 2015
Feb 24
Powers By Scott Powers
Brad RichardsJonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesBrad Richards is less concerned about numbers these days when evaluating his game.
CHICAGO -- Brad Richards stopped assessing his game based on points as he aged.

Richards, 34, discovered as he got older that production wasn’t what allowed him to sleep well at night. There were games where he produced, but the points didn’t put his mind at ease because he knew his performance had been subpar.

Instead, Richards learned how to analyze his play differently. Production is still an important factor, but he delves further into it. He tries to comprehend what’s working, what’s not and why all that is. As Richards and the Chicago Blackhawks enter the final stretch of the regular season, he’s increased that self-analysis in order to get his game where he wants it to be at the most important time of the season.

[+] EnlargePatrick Kane and Brad Richards
Icon Sportswire/AP ImagesBrad Richards has been re-energized since being paired on a line with Patrick Kane.
“You can’t go home and worry about production,” Richards said. “You got to know where your game is at and keep building on that. Sometimes you can produce and you still go home and worry about how you played because you know if I play like that again, it’s not going to be pretty.

“Production is nice. Self-evaluation is the biggest thing. If you know how to self-evaluate, [you’ll be fine]. I think playing with [Patrick Kane], we’ve had a lot of talk of keep pushing each other and keep going. He doesn’t want to take any nights off. It’s nice to have a guy there dragging on you to go to battle.”

Honesty is an important element to Richards’ evaluation. It’s only natural to favor one’s own positives and find a way to skew the negatives. He looks for the good and the bad.

When Richards put his play under that microscope recently, he didn’t like what he saw. The production hadn’t been there -- he was stuck on one point for much of February -- and he knew something was off. It didn’t take watching much video for him to realize his skating was deterring him.

“I think for a while there I stopped skating a little bit and was watching and just thinking too much,” Richards said. “I know in my career when I struggle, it’s probably because I’m not skating, not being on the puck, stuff like that. We’re all human. Sometimes you’re just looking at it different and it’s right there in front of you. You got to skate. Sometimes it’s as simple as that and things will come back to where they should be.”

Aware of the issue, Richards began doing something about it. Over the last week and a half, Richards has been more mindful of his movements on the ice. He’s pushed himself to skate more and get more involved in the play.

The change in mentality hasn’t exactly paid off in points yet -- Richards has one point after seven games of an eight-game homestand -- but he’s witnessed progress. How his line, which often includes Kane and sometimes Kris Versteeg or Patrick Sharp, hasn’t accounted for multiple goals recently has baffled him.

“The last couple games has been feeling where it was earlier in the year where we’re finding each other,” said Richards, who also thought he had to be more aggressive in shooting. “It feels a little bit snake-bitten the last couple games, especially the last couple first periods where it feels like we could have had two or three to get the team going. But that’s life. You got to keep doing the right things, the details. I think our creativity will take over.”

(Read full post)

Homestand becoming nightmare for Hawks

February, 22, 2015
Feb 22
Powers By Scott Powers
CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks and their fans possessed grand visions for an eight-game homestand.

The Blackhawks never had such a long homestand, and everyone envisioned the possibilities. They were going to take care of home ice now in order to secure it for later, and make their move on the Nashville Predators and St. Louis Blues. It had the makings of a nonstop party at the United Center for two-plus weeks.

The fans who didn't depart and remained for the third period of Sunday's 6-2 loss to the Boston Bruins can fully grasp how far from a celebratory atmosphere the inside of the United Center was. Aside from the occasional shout from the beer vendors, the game may as well have been played in an empty building, as only the sounds of the puck hitting sticks and skates on ice filled the air.

[+] EnlargeNiklas Hjalmarsson
Bill Smith/NHLI/Getty ImagesBlackhawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson said the team was very motivated after Friday's loss to the Avs, which made Sunday's drubbing by the Bruins all the more difficult to explain.
What couldn't be heard, but certainly could be felt -- from the team's bench to the 300-level -- was the shock of what had happened so quickly. The Blackhawks were in the game down by just a goal to begin the second period and suddenly found themselves trailing by five goals 20 minutes later. Add in the fact that Chicago was outscored 3-0 in the third period in a loss to the Colorado Avalanche on Friday and fell to 2-2-3 on the homestand, and those grand visions had been completely decimated by the time the final horn sounded Sunday.

"That was one of those games where you can't be happy about anything that went on today," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "The first period we're down 2-1. The second period was hard to watch. The third period was just another period.

"That definitely gets your attention. I know the last game was disappointing, but today is a different approach. So, across the board, we all should be looking forward to what we can do better."

The Bruins and Blackhawks entered Sunday's game with similar mindsets. Both teams were coming off bad losses, had been losing ground in the standings and were driven to fix that. The Bruins were the only ones to act on it, though. The situation was similar on Friday when the Avalanche appeared to just be hungrier than the Blackhawks.

"We were really motivated [after Friday]," Blackhawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson said. "I couldn't really see this coming. Yeah, I don't really have an explanation.

"Obviously this was pretty embarrassing, especially in front of our home crowd. At the same time, they had a couple bounces that went their way. But they were better than us today, for sure. Have to admit that."

How the Blackhawks were outworked may not be explainable, but there are a number of reasons why Chicago hasn't been succeeding lately.

For one, the Blackhawks haven't been building leads in the first period. They are 19-2-0 when they lead after the first period. In their past 11 games, they have led once after the first period. They have been outscored 8-2 in the first period during that span.

Secondly, the Blackhawks still aren't getting consistent defensive play. Quenneville has tried a bit of everything in the defensive pairings and hasn't been satisfied. On Sunday, the overall defense had issues, but Michal Rozsival could have prevented two goals at the net and was on the ice for three goals total. The Blackhawks' defenseman depth was already questioned before Johnny Oduya suffered an injury Sunday that could keep him out a few games.

The Blackhawks also aren't getting a lot of scoring as of late. They have tallied 21 goals, including 11 5-on-5 goals, over the past 11 games, which is well below their 2.83 goals-per-game average. They also haven't been getting much production outside of their top-six forwards.

The Blackhawks have been a difficult team to put a finger on all season. They have had positive and negative stretches throughout their 60 games. They struggled to score early in the season, then went through a span in which they looked like the best team in the NHL, then went on the decline in late December, then were working their way back up to begin the current homestand, and again are trending the other way.

So what now? The Blackhawks know they have some issues, but they're not so easy to correct, as forward Patrick Kane admitted.

"If anything, I just think it shows when you're struggling -- it's not flip a switch and it's going to change right away," Kane said. "It's a process to get through and no matter how much talent, how much skill is in the room -- it's not like you can just turn it on and off. It's a process. We have to be way better starting right now in preparing ourselves for the next game."

The Blackhawks' dressing room was opened later than usual and an unusual number of players were still at their stalls when media members were allowed in after the game, but no one would officially say there was a team meeting or elaborate on what had been said.

Regardless, Hjalmarsson shared what had to be on all of his teammates' minds.

"We just have to find a way to get through this," Hjalmarsson said. "At the same time, this is the time to really show your true colors when stuff is going against you and you're not playing that great. It's going to be a good test for the group in here to find a way out of it."

Patrick Kane welcomes more ice time

February, 19, 2015
Feb 19
Powers By Scott Powers
CHICAGO -- Patrick Kane has discovered there is one downside to being put out on the ice for an entire Chicago Blackhawks power play.

“What I’ve noticed about it is I need to get my stamina up a little bit,” Kane said. “Sometimes I want to get off the ice a little bit early.”

Playing two consecutive minutes will do that. Kane’s endurance has been pushed to the max lately. Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville has been utilizing his star offensive player more than usual. Between playing on both power-play units and at times double-shifting on the third or fourth lines, Kane’s minutes have increased this month. He leads all NHL forwards with an average ice time of 21:30 in February, up from 19:29 last month.

That is all completely fine by Kane. Aside from the very end of his shifts on the power play, he’s enjoyed every second of his recent ice time surge.

“I feel great,” Kane said. “I feel good. I think sometimes when you play those extra shifts it gets you into the game a little bit more and gets you a little bit more involved. I’ll always welcome some extra shifts and some extra ice time, and it’s my job to be as prepared as possible to play those minutes.”

For Quenneville, it only makes sense to play the league’s points leader as much as possible. Quenneville also trusts Kane won’t overdo himself.

“He manages his ice as far as exertion during a shift or the course of a game, make sure he’s ready to go,” Quenneville said. “If he shows signs of fatigue, we give him enough rest. We’ll see how things go down the stretch. He’s been playing well. He wants to be out there, wants the puck, (he) makes us better.”

Kane has double-shifted in the past, but the decision to play him on both power-play units is something new. He played 7:14 of a possible 7:56 on the power play against the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday, 3:46 out of four minutes against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday and 5:57 out of 7:31 against the New Jersey Devils on Feb. 13.

Quenneville said he chose to put Kane on both units because of how effective he is on the power play. He leads the Blackhawks with 21 power-play points.

“Just his production, seems like he has the puck the whole time, his play selection be it off entries, selling the play, patience, play recognition, production,” Quenneville said.

Kane isn’t taking that responsibility for granted either. He called it an honor to be allowed to play on both units.

“You’re playing with some great players on both units,” Kane said. “It’s a great opportunity to try to help your team produce. I think the power play has been pretty good the last few games, just haven’t found the back of the net as much as we’ve wanted.

“It’s sometimes still getting used to different spots on the power play as well. I’m trying to get accustomed to that and make sure I get my stamina up so I can play those full two minutes. But it’s an honor, for sure. So many great players in here, for me to be on it for two minutes right now is something you want to take advantage of the opportunity and make sure the power play is doing well when you’re out there.”

Hawks by the numbers: More ice for Kane

February, 16, 2015
Feb 16
Powers By Scott Powers
Patrick KaneBill Smith/NHLI/Getty ImagesPatrick Kane scores in the shootout against Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury on Sunday.

Here’s a look at the Chicago Blackhawks by the numbers:

• Lately Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville has been going with the philosophy of the more Patrick Kane, the better. Kane has played 21-plus minutes in the last five games. He’s especially been seeing more ice time on the power play. He played 3:46 out of a possible four minutes on the power play on Sunday.

• The Blackhawks are 7-2 in shootouts this season. They were 6-8 in them last season. Kane scored once on 11 chances last season, and he’s scored six goals on nine opportunities this season. The Blackhawks’ goaltenders also have a .806 save percentage in shootouts this season compared to .643 last season.

• Kane has recorded points in 37 of 57 games this season. He hasn’t gone more than two games without a point. He’s had nine games where he’s had two points and 10 games of three points. Brad Richards has been on the ice for 16 of Kane’s 19 5-on-5 goals and 24 of his 33 points.

Niklas Hjalmarsson snapped a 41-game goalless streak by scoring on Sunday. Michal Rozsival has the current longest goalless streak at 28 games. Ben Smith has the longest one for forwards at 23 games.

Patrick Sharp played 13:08 against the New Jersey Devils on Friday and 13:04 against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday. It was the first time he was limited to less than 14 minutes in consecutive games since the 2006-07 season.

• February has often been a good month for Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford. He has a .932 save percentage (177 saves on 190 shots) through six games this February. It ties for the second-best save percentage he’s ever had in a month with a minimum of six starts. He also had a .932 save percentage in February of 2011. His career-best save percentage was .956 in February of 2013.

Jonathan Toews is tied for third in the league with 15 primary assists in 5-on-5 play. He has 21 total assists at 5-on-5.

• The Blackhawks have killed off 14 of 15 penalties in the last eight games. They increased their penalty-kill percentage by 0.6 during that span. They lead the league with a 87.9 percentage.

Duncan Keith and Toews lead the Blackhawks with a plus-16 goal differential in 5-on-5 play. They are followed by David Rundblad (plus-15), Kris Versteeg (plus-12) and Brandon Saad (plus-12). Johnny Oduya has the worst differential at minus-12 and is followed by Andrew Shaw (minus-10) and Sharp (minus-8).

• Toews leads the Blackhawks in penalties drawn at 15. Saad (13), Shaw (12), Kane (11), Bickell (10) and Kruger (10) are also in the double digits.

Marian Hossa scored seven goals on 13 shots in four games. He had 10 goals on 153 shots the previous 52 games.

Changes lead to power-play success for Hawks

February, 14, 2015
Feb 14
Powers By Scott Powers
BlackhawksCal Sport Media/AP ImagesPatrick Kane, who leads the league in points, has recently played on both power-play units.
CHICAGO -- Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville can be quick on the trigger to change his lines when they’re not producing on a consistent basis.

He’s often been less aggressive about trying new personnel on the power play. But after witnessing the Blackhawks’ power play struggle in every facet against the Arizona Coyotes on Monday, Quenneville finally decided something needed to be altered.

For one, Quenneville determined Patrick Kane, who leads the league in points, needed to be on the ice as much as possible and would play on both power-play units. Quenneville also wanted to keep together the line of Brandon Saad, Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa on power plays. Saad’s role was changed to being the net-front presence. Finally, Brent Seabrook became the main point defenseman instead of Duncan Keith.

The sample size is still quite small, but the Blackhawks have liked the early returns. The Blackhawks have scored three power-play goals in the last two games. Aside from that obvious positive statistic, they’re also creating cleaner entries, having more offensive possession and attempting more shots.

Quenneville’s thought Kane’s additional ice time was the main factor for the power play's recent rise. The Blackhawks had 7:31 of power-play time against the New Jersey Devils on Friday, and Kane played a team-high 5:57 of it.

“I think what we did was basically Kaner was going to play out there for the whole power play,” Quenneville said. “It seems like since then it’s worked very well. We have the puck in the offensive zone almost exclusively on all units. The other unit almost doesn’t get on the ice.

“It’s a situation where whether it’s entries, whether it’s patience, play recognition, traffic, shooting the puck, it’s been a lot of good things and our entries have been good. Kaner is going so well right now. He deserves to stay out there for the two minutes. I think he’s been the difference.”

(Read full post)

Brandon Saad helps Blackhawks solve Jets

February, 6, 2015
Feb 6
By Scott Billeck
Special to
WINNIPEG, Manitoba -- Brandon Saad finally cracked the code that is the Winnipeg Jets.

With 1:59 left in overtime, Saad -- who hadn't scored in six previous contests -- saw a chance to snap a couple of streaks and pounced. The marker, his 16th of the year, elevated the Chicago Blackhawks to a 2-1 overtime win, a first against the Jets in four meetings this season.

[+] EnlargePatrick Kane
Bruce Fedyck/USA TODAY SportsAfter being shut out in their previous two games, Patrick Kane got the Blackhawks on the board in the second period against the Jets.
"My eyes opened pretty big there, I was pretty excited that puck found its way to me, and I am happy to get the goal," Saad said.

The win was Chicago's first in three games, having been shut out in their previous two contests.

"It's huge, especially coming after a couple losses there and at the end of a long trip," Saad said. "We just want to get wins here and close out this trip."

The win closed the gap between the Hawks (66 points) and both Nashville and St. Louis (72 points) in the Central Division.

Patrick Kane opened the Hawks' account on the night, scoring early in the second period via a sensational backhand deke that had Jets netminder Michael Hutchinson still unwinding himself after the game.

"It was nice to get that first one, especially when you haven't scored in a couple of games," said Kane, who finished with five shots on goal.

Kane said the Jets, as they have all season, presented challenges at every juncture of the 60-plus-minute affair.

"It was a playoff game out there, there wasn't too many chances each way," Kane said. "You obviously saw the shot totals [22-21 in favor of Chicago], and it was a pretty physical game -- it was tough to generate.

"It's big, it was a big game against that team and a big game for our team."

Coach Joel Quenneville, who notched his 300th career win behind the Blackhawks bench Friday, echoed the sentiments of his leading goal scorer and point-getter following the game.

"I wasn't choosy on who the team was," Quenneville said. "But, certainly, we were looking for the win against a team we have had a hard time with all year. I thought it was a hard game, tight the whole game, tight the whole way. It was almost like a playoff game, an important game."

Corey Crawford was solid when called upon, steering aside 20 of 21 shots in the game, and was praised by both coach and team following the win.

"He was excellent tonight," Quenneville said. "I thought he had two really good days, yesterday and this morning in the skates. He was very important for us tonight."

Added Kane: "He was unbelievable in Minnesota, it could have been five, six, seven nothing if he wasn't in net and playing the way he did. It's what we have come to expect from him. He's a great goaltender, top-notch in the league, and we are lucky to have him."

Rapid Reaction: Blackhawks 2, Jets 1 (OT)

February, 6, 2015
Feb 6
By Scott Billeck
Special to

WINNIPEG, Manitoba -- Here's a snapshot of the Chicago Blackhawks' 2-1 overtime win over the Winnipeg Jets on Friday night at the MTS Centre.

How it happened: Brandon Saad scored his 16th goal of the season with 1:59 left in overtime as the Blackhawks snapped a two-game skid.

The Jets opened the scoring early in the first period via Mark Scheifele, who fired home his first goal in 11 games. Patrick Kane leveled the game with 2:50 gone in the second frame with his 26th on an unstoppable deke to snap the Hawks' scoreless drought at nearly two and a half hours.

Corey Crawford made 20 saves in the win.

What it means: The win brings the Hawks out of a two-game funk after they were previously shut out in both San Jose and Minnesota during their current seven-game road trip. The Hawks also gained some valuable ground on the St. Louis Blues, who were blown out 7-1 in Columbus on Friday. Chicago is within six points of both Nashville and St. Louis, who both sit at 72 points.

Chicago crept within a win of .500 since Jan. 1. The Blackhawks are 7-8-0 in that time.

Player of the game: Kane had five shots on goal, converting on one of them in the second period, and was all over the ice creating chances.

Stat of the game: The Blackhawks scored their first goal since last Friday, a span of 149:25 of game time. Kane got the marker, his team-leading 26th of the season.

What's next: The Blackhawks head to St. Louis to finish up their seven-game road trip Sunday night before heading back to Chicago to start an eight-game homestand Monday.

Hawks thoughts: Sharp at his best

January, 31, 2015
Jan 31
Powers By Scott Powers
Here are some thoughts on the Chicago Blackhawks following their 4-1 win over the Anaheim Ducks on Friday:

1. Patrick Sharp may have had his best game of the season. He did the little and big things. On the first two goals, he made smart, easy passes to teammates who had some open ice in front of them. On the third goal, he created space for Patrick Kane by skating into the offensive zone with the puck, leaving it behind him for Kane and picking off Ducks’ defenders. On the fourth goal, Sharp didn’t allow the Ducks to get the puck out of their zone, got possession and delivered a perfect pass to Kane at the net. Sharp recorded a career-high four assists for the third time. He also had a game-high plus-19 Corsi. It was his best Corsi differential in a regular-season game since also being plus-19 on Feb. 11, 2012. He has one goal and eight assists in the last five games.

2. Two of the Blackhawks’ better games this season have come against the Ducks. The Blackhawks were in complete control of their 4-1 win in Anaheim on Nov. 28 and again Friday. The Blackhawks’ top two lines especially created chances all night. The third line was good. The fourth line lost the possession battle, but kept the line of Patrick Maroon, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry off the scoreboard. Corey Crawford saw only 22 shots, but he had to make some big saves and was sharp all night. The penalty kill was solid until taking consecutive penalties in the third period. The power play was a mess, but that didn’t factor into the game.

3. Kane just keeps on tallying points. There’s really no reason why he can’t make a run at the league's points title at this point. He’s second now with 56 points in 49 games and is just behind the Philadelphia Flyers’ Jakub Voracek, who has 58 points in 50 games. Unless someone goes on a tear, Kane could be right there until the end. He's been making up ground lately. He has nine points in the last five games and has 16 points for the month. He had all of seven points in January last season. He is playing well, but also getting help from his linemates. He and Sharp are clicking. Kane has good chemistry with Brad Richards, and Kane saw some even-strength time with Toews on Friday.

4. The Blackhawks received consistent play from all three defenseman pairings in the win. Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville went again with pairings of Johnny Oduya - Michal Rozsival, Niklas Hjalmarsson - Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith - David Rundblad, but nearly everyone spent time together during the course of the game. The Blackhawks didn’t allow an even-strength goal, and none of the defensemen had a negative Corsi. Rundblad played 10:30, which was the least amount of ice time among the defensemen, but he attempted six shots, two on net, and was a plus-9 Corsi.

5. The Blackhawks finish up their West Coast trip against the San Jose Sharks on Saturday which leads into an important Central Division stretch. The Blackhawks face the Minnesota Wild, Winnipeg Jets and St. Louis Blues in consecutive games. Minnesota is fighting to keep its season alive and has won its last two games. The Jets are four points behind the Blackhawks. The Blues are on a four-game winning streak and are two points ahead of the Blackhawks.

6. Brandon Saad didn’t score against the Ducks, but his aggressiveness and confidence should be noted again. He had seven shots on goal against the Ducks and has 27 shots on goal over the last five games. Considering he had a total of 28 shots on goal for the entire month of December, Saad is doing something different.

Third period unkind to Blackhawks

January, 30, 2015
Jan 30
Arritt By Dan Arritt
Special to
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The third period hasn’t been kind to the Chicago Blackhawks this month. It all began on New Year’s Day, when the Washington Capitals scored with 13 seconds left to steal a 3-2 victory in front of 42,000 fans at the Winter Classic outdoor game.

Chicago missed another opportunity to generate some much-needed points Wednesday night, this time against a Western Conference foe, the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings, giving up two goals in the final seven minutes and losing 4-3.

The Blackhawks have been outscored 11-6 overall in the 11 third periods they’ve played in January, getting blanked six times.

“It’s kind of frustrating on our part,” said Blackhawks left winger Patrick Sharp.

Sharp said third-period offense will be one of Chicago's primary objectives heading into Friday night’s game against the West-leading Anaheim Ducks, particularly if it’s a close game.

Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said he doesn’t believe a pattern has developed as far as third-period breakdowns, and the Blackhawks remain a traditionally a strong team at closing out wins or finding a way to push the game into overtime, but attitude remains the primary factor.

“As a team, we want to be in that position when we’re playing the last five or 10 minutes of a tight game,” he said.

The Blackhawks are keenly aware the Ducks played a bad game Thursday night at the San Jose Sharks, giving up five goals in the second period and ultimately losing 6-3 to snap a six-game winning streak. Any fatigue that could be present from playing the second of back-to-back contests will likely be overcome by the desire to play a better game, as well the arrival of the Blackhawks, who sit eight points behind in the West standings.

“They’re a tough team to play against, especially in this building,” Sharp said. “I know it’s back-to-back for them, but I’m sure they’re going to play their best game tonight, considering what happened last night, and we’re excited about that also.”

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Points product of consistent play for Kane

January, 27, 2015
Jan 27
Powers By Scott Powers
Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane tries not to pay attention to how many points he has and where he is among the league’s leaders.

He’s been around long enough to know his play has a tendency to get off track when his mind is wandering to those areas. What’s best for him and his statistics is concentrating on the task at hand.

Cal Sport Media/AP ImagesPatrick Kane entered the All-Star Game break seventh in the league with 22 goals and tied for third with 51 points.
“I’ve kind of learned from experience, especially in this league, if you get into a situation where you start thinking about points and numbers and where you are as far as stats and points go, you’re only going to get yourself in trouble,” said Kane, who is in his eighth season. “I’ve tried to just focus on playing good, creating chances and just worrying about the next game on hand and hopefully that stuff takes care of itself.”

That stuff has been taking care of itself for Kane this season. He entered the NHL All-Star Game break seventh in the league with 22 goals, tied for third with 51 points and is on pace to break his career-high totals of 30 goals and 88 points, which were both set in the 2009-10 season. That season and the shortened 2012-13 season were the two times he finished in the top 10 in points.

Kane may not follow his point production game by game during a season, but he’s fully aware of how he ends up. His expectation is at least a point a game, and he would like to surpass his career-high marks.

“I think the year after [the 2009-10 season] I was at a point a game and the year after that I dropped down a little bit when I was playing center, and the lockout season my numbers were pretty good,” Kane said. “Last year, I was up there and just kind of got injured at the end of the year. The most important thing is probably staying healthy for a full 82 games. The big thing for having a good season is really not to have any slumps and be consistent. I always feel like I can get back up to those numbers.”

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Blackhawks at the midway point

January, 9, 2015
Jan 9
Powers By Scott Powers
BlackhawksCal Sport Media/AP ImagesPatrick Kane has been on a tear since mid-November with 34 points in his last 24 games.
The Chicago Blackhawks have to like where they are halfway through the season. There’s certainly been more good than bad at this point. Here’s a look at what’s going right for the Blackhawks and what they’d still like to improve on before entering the playoffs:

Looking back on the first half

1. The Blackhawks have put themselves in position to make a run at the Central Division title and even the Presidents’ Trophy with a 27-12-2 record through 41 games. They’re tied for third in the NHL with 56 points and are second in the Central behind the Nashville Predators, who have 58 points in 40 games. The Blackhawks have been solid in the Central so far with an 11-5-0 record after going just 13-13-3 in the division last season. They have 13 division games remaining. The division will likely come down to the Blackhawks, Predators and St. Louis Blues. The Blackhawks face the Blues three more times, including twice in the final week of the regular season. The Blackhawks have no remaining games against the Predators.

2. Patrick Kane has been on a tear since mid-November. After having just 11 points through 17 games, he has 34 points over the last 24 games. He’s tied for third in the league with 45 points and is seventh with 20 goals. It’s no coincidence his game took off after joining Brad Richards and Kris Versteeg on a line Nov. 16. Having a consistent and offensive second-line center has done wonders for Kane. He and Richards have created a bond on and off the ice. Kane is on pace to break his career-highs of 30 goals and 88 points, which both came in the 2009-2010 season. He had 53 points midway through the 2013-14 season, but his play slowed down and he also had a late-season injury.

[+] EnlargeCrawford
Bill Smith/Getty ImagesCorey Crawford looks like he's healthy and near the top of his game.
3. Corey Crawford is near the top of his game. His numbers were better during the 2012-13 season, but he shared games with Ray Emery for much of that. When he’s been healthy, he’s been getting the net nearly every game this season. He’s 16-8-2 with a 2.19 goals-against average and .921 save percentage. He’s fifth in goals-against average and ninth in save percentage (minimum 15 games). He had a 2.47 goals-against average and .907 save percentage halfway through last season. It also appears as if he’s shaking off the rust from his latest injury. He’s had 64 saves on 68 shots over the last two games.

4. The Blackhawks have gotten back to being the league’s top defensive team. They struggled to keep the puck out of their net last season. They were 15th in the league with a 2.68 goals-against average midway through last season and finished 12th with a 2.58 average. They lead the league now with a 2.15 goals-against average. A lot of that is due to the play of Crawford, Antti Raanta and Scott Darling. The trio has 1,115 saves on 1,200 shots for a .929 save percentage. Possession has also helped the Blackhawks. They’re third in league with a 54.4 Corsi percentage in 5-on-5 situations. Their penalty kill has also been keeping goals out. They lead the league with a 89.7 penalty-kill percentage. They had a 76.0 percentage after 41 games last season.

5. The Blackhawks are among the league’s deepest teams again. The Blackhawks and Blues are the only teams in the league with nine players with 20-plus points. Brandon Saad is on pace to set a career-high in points. Brent Seabrook has already matched his goal total from last season and needs three more goals to set a career high. Patrick Sharp has found his groove after an early-season injury. Kris Versteeg has dealt with a couple of injuries, but he’s been back to form when healthy. Jonathan Toews has been his usual self. Altogether, the Blackhawks are sixth in the league with a 3.00 goals-for average. That could still go up a bit considering they’re 5-on-5 shooting percentage is still lower than usual.

Looking ahead to the second half

1. The Blackhawks haven’t looked like their usual selves over the last few weeks. They’re still finding ways to pick up points, but they’ll want to avoid what happened in the second half last season. The Blackhawks actually had more points through 41 games last season. They were 27-7-7 with 61 points midway through last season and then broke down throughout the second half. They went 19-14-8 over the final 41 games. Their play picked up in the playoffs, but that’s not something you want rely on happening every year.

[+] EnlargeJoel Quenneville
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesJoel Quenneville still has some decisions to make on his fourth line.
2. Injuries have forced Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville to toy with his lineup again, but he’ll want to figure out in the coming months what works best and who can be depended on in the playoffs, especially on that fourth line. The Blackhawks had a consistent fourth line of Brandon Bollig, Marcus Kruger and Ben Smith throughout the regular season last season. The line was solid and dependable. But when the playoffs came, Quenneville began tinkering with his lineup because Michal Handzus wasn’t getting it done on the second line. The fourth line was included in those changes, and he basically lost all faith in the players on the fourth line. The Blackhawks became a three-line team, and their play declined due to it. One of Quenneville’s biggest questions will have to be whether he trusts Daniel Carcillo in tight games. Carcillo’s play has varied this season. He was back in the lineup Thursday. It could be between him and Joakim Nordstrom to be a fourth-line winger in the playoffs.

3. The Blackhawks are finally starting to get some consistent play out of their third defenseman pairing. David Rundblad has been better and has noticeably been more confident with the puck. Michal Rozsival will still have the occasional turnover, but he’s held his own considering it’s been a few seasons since he’s been an everyday player. Going forward, the Blackhawks should get Trevor van Riemsdyk back into the lineup in a few months. Seabrook, Duncan Keith and Niklas Hjalmarsson have been good most of the season. The Blackhawks would like Johnny Oduya to be more consistent leading into the playoffs. Whether Quenneville will trust Rozsival, van Riemsdyk or Rundblad in the playoffs is yet to be seen. Quenneville’s patience for defensemen diminishes in the playoffs. Nick Leddyk knows all about that.

4. The Blackhawks would love to get Marian Hossa and some of their depth players contributing more. Hossa’s scoring and shooting percentage numbers are down. Bryan Bickell has shown some life lately with four goals over the last five games, but he still has 16 points in 41 games. Andrew Shaw has three points since Dec. 1. Smith and Kruger had better numbers last season.

5. The Blackhawks’ power play has been up and down. It’s been better lately, but they’re still 15th in the league with a 19.0 percentage. It was actually better last season as they finished tied for ninth in the league with a 19.5 percentage. The Blackhawks did a nice job of getting the puck to the net and creating off that for a power-play goal on Thursday. Kane has a team-high 18 power-play points. He and Sharp each have six power-play goals.



Patrick Kane
64 27 37 10
GoalsP. Kane 27
AssistsP. Kane 37
+/-J. Toews 23
GAAC. Crawford 2.29