Chicago Blackhawks: Patrick Sharp

Kane, Toews have Hawks positioned well

July, 9, 2014
Jul 9
12:45
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Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews have shared their NHL journey ever since they first took the ice together for the Chicago Blackhawks and combined their talents to produce a goal on Oct. 10, 2007.

It marked the beginning of their success together. The ending is still nowhere in sight.

[+] EnlargePatrick Kane, Jonathan Toews
Jonathan Kozub/NHLI/Getty ImagesThe careers of Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews will be tied together for eight more years.
Kane and Toews continued to align their NHL careers Wednesday by both agreeing to eight-year contract extensions which a source says are for $10.5 million per year, keeping them Blackhawks through the 2022-23 season.

Their arrival in 2007 represented hope for an Original Six organization which had fallen on hard times for nearly a decade. They haven't disappointed since.

Over the past seven seasons, Kane and Toews have played in nearly 500 regular-season games together. After four consecutive sub-.500 seasons prior to their rookie season, the Blackhawks have since gone 309-163-68 with them. The two players have combined for 933 regular-season points, including 375 goals.

As good as they've been in the regular season, they've been even more clutch when it's mattered most in the playoffs. They returned the Blackhawks to the Stanley Cup playoffs in 2009 after five seasons of failing to do so and immediately helped them to the Western Conference finals. A year later, they both raised their first Stanley Cup and ended the franchise's 49-year championship drought. They've since led the Blackhawks to a second Stanley Cup and made them a perennial contender.

From Day 1, they have accomplished it all together and never looked to outshine or outdo the other. While they already have money and fame, they could have even more. All it would have taken is one slightly larger ego, and they may have never agreed to identical five-year, $31.5 million contract extensions the first time around and certainly not their newest contracts.

Kane and Toews are being paid like superstars, but they could have certainly asked for more and would have had their share of more significant offers to choose from if they had waited to go onto the free market after next season. They left money on the table, allowing the Blackhawks some cap flexibility. The Blackhawks may have to eventually let some core pieces go and turn to their prospects who are NHL ready, but they should be Stanley Cup contenders for the foreseeable future.

The Blackhawks' main objective with that additional money will be re-signing Brandon Saad to a new contract. Saad will be a restricted free agent after next season, and there has to be some fear another team will come along with an offer sheet if he's allowed to get that far. Considering he's 21, has shown improvement in each of his first two seasons and the cap is expected to rise, Saad could fetch somewhere between $4-7 million a season.

Kane and Toews permitted their careers to be harmonious, realizing their opportunity in Chicago is rare and can ultimately elevate them to a special place in NHL history.

Kane, at 25 years old, and Toews, at 26, didn't attach themselves together through their athletic primes and into their 30s to make a run at just one or two more Stanley Cups in Chicago. They're out to deliver to the Blackhawks what Michael Jordan once bestowed upon the Chicago Bulls.

Like Jordan, to honor Kane's and Toews' shared success and shared commitment to the Blackhawks, the organization will undoubtedly unveil matching statues of them outside the United Center whenever they decide to retire. It'll be a fitting end to their NHL journey, as they'll have a permanent place on Madison together side by side.

Second-line center trade tricky for Hawks

June, 25, 2014
Jun 25
5:51
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Patrick Sharp Claus Andersen/Getty ImagesThe Blackhawks could use a strong second-line center, but seem unlikely to deal Patrick Sharp
The Chicago Blackhawks are still in need of a second-line center. There are reportedly some respectable second-line centers who could be acquired for the right trade.

Let’s assume the Blackhawks aren’t going to hand the keys to second-line center over to Teuvo Teravainen, Andrew Shaw or someone else already in the organization. Teravainen may need time to get comfortable in the NHL. Shaw’s second-line success in the playoffs may not be enough to be confident he’s the man for the job. So, there are reasons why the Blackhawks may want to obtain a proven top-6 center.

With all that laid out, the next question is: What would the Blackhawks be willing to give up to bring in someone like the Vancouver Canucks' Ryan Kesler, the Ottawa Senators' Jason Spezza or the San Jose Sharks' Joe Thornton? Some of the names thrown around amidst trade rumors for those players have been Blackhawks forwards Patrick Sharp, Teravainen and Brandon Saad.

Sharp’s agent Rick Curran of The Orr Hockey Group quickly shot down Wednesday any rumors of his client being shipped off by the Blackhawks this offseason. Curran said he was assured by Blackhawks general Stan Bowman that Sharp wasn’t going anywhere.

“There’s absolutely no truth to it,” Currant said in a phone interview on Wednesday. “They’re not trading him. He’s the last guy on the list who they would trade. He’s not available.

“Believe me, I’ve spoken to Stan a couple times, as recently as a few days ago. There’s absolutely no truth to it.”

Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman wouldn't address Sharp's situation on Thursday.

“I’ve never commented on rumors, and I’m not going to start today,” Bowman said during a conference call. “I don’t think it’s a helpful process for anybody.”

Bowman has been vocal about keeping his core together and making a run at multiple Stanley Cups with Sharp and a number of other veterans. Even as he's gotten older, the 32-year-old Sharp has continued to produce at a high rate for the Blackhawks.

Saad and Teravainen don’t exactly fall into the core group and aren’t veterans, but they have been considered two pieces to Bowman’s big-picture puzzle.

Saad is 21 years old and has already proven capable of being a top-6 forward. If he can figure out his consistency issues and play more often like he did in the Western Conference finals, he has the chance to be another game-changer for the Blackhawks.

Teravainen is only 19 and has only played in three NHL games, but the hype for him has escalated ever since the Blackhawks took him in the first round in 2012. If he’s anywhere near where expectations have been placed, Teravainen could be one of the league’s more entertaining and productive offensive players.

The Blackhawks simply aren’t going to give up Saad and Teravainen even if there is an advantage in the real short term of doing so. But that doesn’t mean the Blackhawks are out of the running for one of those second-line centers.

The Blackhawks possess some valuable prospects who could be packaged with a veteran to entice another team. They might be able to work out a trade if they include one of their up-and-coming defensemen, the rights to Kevin Hayes, a 2010 first-round pick who they aren’t likely going to sign, and even someone like Jeremy Morin, who has proven he can score at the NHL level, and include someone on the current roster to help provide cap relief. If the Blackhawks can get a little creative, they can hold onto their present and future core pieces and still upgrade at second-line center.

Hawks player reviews: Patrick Sharp

June, 16, 2014
Jun 16
10:00
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Patrick SharpBill Smith/NHLI via Getty ImagesPatrick Sharp couldn't carry his strong regular season into the playoffs.

Patrick Sharp, Forward


2013-14 cap hit: $5,900,000 | Age: 32 | Season stats: 34 goals, 44 assists, plus-13

Season recap: Sharp had the most all-around offensive season of his career. His 78 points were a career-high, and he consistently produced throughout the regular season. His playoffs weren't as smooth. He scored twice in Game 7 of the Western Conference finals, but had three goals over the first 18 playoff games.

Season highlight: Sharp scored a hat trick and had an assist against the Colorado Avalanche on his 32nd birthday on Dec. 27.

Season lowlight: Sharp has normally excelled in the playoffs, but that wasn't the case this season.

Final grade: A.

Inside the numbers: Sharp led the Blackhawks with 12.1 shots on goal per 60 minutes (minimum 25 games), via extraskater.com.

Notes: Sharp was second on the team with 18 multi-point games.

Quotes: "I think at this point of the year everybody's got something going on [with injuries]," Sharp said after the season. "I'm not going to make any excuses for the way I played at different stretches of the playoffs. It'll be nice to have a little bit of a longer summer than last year to be ready to go next year."

What's next: Sharp is getting into his 30s, but he's continued to play at a high level. He has three years left on his contract. The line of Sharp, Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa was especially effective this season. Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville could return to that line next season.

Blackhawks get their cuts in at Wrigley

June, 6, 2014
Jun 6
4:09
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CHICAGO -- It took a few days but the Chicago Blackhawks came out of hibernation to take some batting practice at Wrigley Field after their crushing Game 7 overtime defeat to the Los Angeles Kings last Sunday in the Western Conference Finals.

Patrick Sharp, Bryan Bickell, Michael Handzus and Sheldon Brookbank shagged fly balls during batting practice and took some swings themselves before the Cubs played the Miami Marlins on Friday.

"Hit a couple to the warning track," Sharp said. "Thought I could hit one out, wind must be blowing in."

The Hawks know they've raised the bar in the city -- something the Cubs are trying to do -- and getting to a conference final is no longer good enough. They're fine with those kinds of high expectations. Now they just have to keep meeting them.

"Mentally you're pretty down," Bickell said. "You want to go to the finals and win the Cup again."

Initially Sharp wasn't sure if he'd watch the finals between the Kings and New York Rangers, but he didn't miss Game 1 on Wednesday.

"It was tough to watch," he said. "It's painful to watch, but I love the game and I'll be watching for sure."

Sharp reiterated his intention to keep quiet about any injuries.

"I said at the end of the season everyone has something going on at this time of year," he said. "To bring that kind of stuff up sounds like I'm making excuses."

So for now the Hawks will lick their wounds coming off a long season, but they vow to return and finish business as they did in 2010 and 2013.

"For the team we had, we were expecting to win this year," Bickell said. "We just fell short against those Kings."

Five reasons Hawks didn't defend Cup

June, 2, 2014
Jun 2
2:25
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The Chicago Blackhawks' quest to repeat at Stanley Cup champions came to a halt on Sunday as they fell to the Los Angeles Kings in Game 7 of the Western Conference finals.

Here are five reasons the Blackhawks landed short of winning another Stanley Cup:

1. Blackhawks general manger Stan Bowman's decision to keep most of last season's Cup-winning team together didn't work: Nineteen players returned from the Stanley Cup roster, and the thought was the same group could win another Cup together. That didn't play out as they hoped.

[+] EnlargeMichal Handzus
Joel Auerbach/Getty ImagesMichal Handzus was a minus-8 and had just three points in the playoffs.
Bowman re-signed veterans Michal Rozsival and Michal Handzus after they contributed to the Cup run, and they weren't the same players this season, especially in the playoffs. Rozsival was solid throughout the playoffs last season. He was a plus-9 and had a 57.4 Corsi percentage (shot differential) in 23 playoff games. In the playoffs this season, Rozsival was a minus-1 and had a 52.9 Corsi percentage. Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville saw enough of Rozsival's struggles in the second round that Rozsival was a healthy scratch for two games.

Handzus' drop in play was more significant. He had 11 points, was a plus-7 and provided a stable second-line center in the playoffs last season. He couldn't replicate that performance this time around. He had three points, was a minus-8 and was the team's fourth-line center by the end of the playoffs. He had a 48.7 Corsi percentage in the playoffs last season and dropped to 36.3 this season.

Bowman traded away Dave Bolland and Michael Frolik and didn't resign Viktor Stalberg in the offseason. Bowman said he wanted to make room for some of the organization's prospects. Players such as Jimmy Hayes, Jeremy Morin, Brandon Pirri and Ben Smith were all expected to contribute. Smith was the only one who stuck in the lineup. Morin and Pirri showed their upside during stretches this season, but Quenneville wasn't convinced overall and went with his veterans. Hayes and Pirri were traded during the season, and Morin was a healthy scratch for a majority of the playoffs.

Losing Bolland and Frolik wasn't much of a factor in the regular season. A fourth line of Brandon Bollig, Marcus Kruger and Smith was fine throughout the season. The Blackhawks' penalty kill also figured out how to succeed without Frolik. But in the playoffs, the absences of Bolland and Frolik were noticeable. The Blackhawks weren't as deep of a team, and Quenneville became heavily reliant on three lines. Stalberg was in Quenneville's doghouse last season, but he still played at least seven minutes a game throughout the playoffs. In Game 6 of the Stanley Cup finals last season, every forward except for Stalberg played 10-plus minutes of even-strength ice time.

By comparison, Handzus, Bollig and Kris Versteeg, the team's fourth line on Sunday, all played fewer than seven minutes of even-strength ice time. Handzus played 6:52, Versteeg 3:34 and Bollig 2:28. It wasn't like that for just one game, either. Bollig averaged 6:24 in 15 playoff games and played as little as 1:50 in one game. Versteeg played a total of three shifts after the second period in the last two overtime games. Handzus' even-strength ice time was diminished throughout the playoffs. Morin and Joakim Nordstrom played less than seven minutes in five of their combined nine playoff games.

2. The Blackhawks didn't add any pieces during the season that paid off in the playoffs: Handzus was that piece last season. This season Bowman considered re-acquiring Versteeg as the Blackhawks' major in-season move in November. Versteeg was part of the Blackhawks' 2010 Stanley Cup team, and they saw him as a versatile forward who could fill their third-line wing spot and provide consistent offense.

Versteeg didn't live up to those expectations. His play fluctuated during the regular season, and he had 10 goals and 19 assists in 63 games for the Blackhawks. He began the playoffs on the Blackhawks' top line, but he ended it barely playing, finishing with one goal, two assists and was a minus-5 in 15 playoff games. He was also among the team's worst possession plays and had a 41.7 Corsi percentage. He could remember being a healthy scratch just once prior to the playoffs this season, and it happened to him three times by Quenneville in the playoffs. Versteeg has said he came back too soon from a knee injury, which happened last season, so the Blackhawks have to hope a full offseason will do him and his knee good for next season.

Peter Regin, acquired from the New York Islanders in February, formed one of the team's better lines with Bryan Bickell and Morin, but Quenneville didn't stick with it entering the playoffs. Regin played in five playoff games.

3. The Blackhawks began and ended another season with questions about their second-line center: Handzus gave them enough in the playoffs last season, but his play didn't hold up over the course of this season. More importantly, he wasn't much help to Patrick Kane, who scored one goal in 5-on-5 situations with Handzus in the regular season, according to stats.hockeyanalysis.com. They were together for 310:16. Kane had 16 goals while with other teammates in 5-on-5 situations.

[+] EnlargeTeuvo Teravainen
Steve Babineau/NHLI/Getty ImagesIs Teuvo Teravainen the answer at second-line center for the Hawks next season?
Pirri was expected to start the season as the second-line center, but an injury during training camp derailed that. Quenneville used Pirri there later in the season, but it didn't last. Andrew Shaw, Regin, Kruger and Smith also saw time at second-line center. Brandon Saad was even given a crack at it in training camp. Quenneville remarked how much he liked Shaw alongside Saad and Kane during the Kings' series. Shaw could be valued too much as the team's consistent third-line center and his career 43.9 faceoff percentage may be reason to believe he won't stay there.

Teuvo Teravainen could be the solution. He's the organization's top prospect, and his offensive ability would be ideal for Kane. Inexperience is a concern with the 19-year-old Teravainen as is his size (5-foot-11, 169 pounds).

4. The Blackhawks weren't as consistent defensively and in the net during the playoffs: The Blackhawks allowed an average of 2.02 goals against in 23 playoff games last season. They gave up 2.90 goals against this season.

The Blackhawks' possession numbers were also down from last season. Their Corsi close percentages (shot differential with the game tied or within a goal in 5-on-5 situations) last season were 56.8 against the Minnesota Wild in the first round, 54.6 against the Detroit Red Wings in the second round, 51.2 against the Kings in the Western Conference finals and 57.0 against the Boston Bruins in the Stanley Cup finals, according to extraskater.com.

Their percentages in the playoffs this season were 50.1 against the St. Louis Blues in the first round, 49.7 against the Wild in the second round and 47.8 against the Kings in the Western Conference finals. The Blackhawks just weren't the same puck-possession team.

No one pointed the finger at Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford for his play against the Kings, but he wasn't the same goaltender who led them to six consecutive series victories. He had a few off games before, but they never stacked up, and he always bounced back. He allowed four or more goals in 5-of-37 playoff games prior to facing the Kings. He gave up four or more goals in five of seven games against the Kings and allowed 26 goals and saved 187 of 213 shots for an .878 save percentage. He had allowed 26 goals and had a .931 save percentage through two series this season. He had a 1.84 goals-against average and a .932 save percentage in the playoffs last season.

5. The Blackhawks may never admit it, but they may have been tired and beaten down in the end: The Blackhawks clinched the Stanley Cup on June 24, 2013, and then had a summer of Cup celebrations. They were back on the ice in early September for training camp, returned to an 82-game regular-season schedule, had 10 players participate in the Olympics and were again making another late playoff run. That's a lot of hockey, and they seemed unable to put together complete-game efforts as consistently as they did last season. They also went through grueling series with the St. Louis Blues and Minnesota Wild before taking on the Kings.

Blackhawks denied chance to repeat

June, 2, 2014
Jun 2
12:58
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CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks never pretended repeating as Stanley Cup champions would be easy.

They also never doubted they couldn't do it.

Even as their season took them on different turns and their play wasn't as consistent as it was on their way to last season's Stanley Cup, the Blackhawks never stopped believing they could be champions again this season.

[+] EnlargeJonathan Toews
AP Photo/Nam Y. HuhJonathan Toews is no stranger to NHL and international success, but he found himself on the losing end for one of the rare times against the Kings.
On Sunday, the Blackhawks' season-long plan of becoming the first team to repeat in nearly 20 years was ceased when the Los Angeles Kings eliminated them from the playoffs with a 5-4 overtime win in Game 7 of the Western Conference finals.

The Blackhawks struggled to come to terms with that just afterward.

"It's tough," Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp. "It stings right now, that's for sure. Don't really know what else to say other than that. I thought we had a heck of a game tonight. Just one goal short."

Losing as the Blackhawks did in overtime only worsened the feeling.

"Really disappointing," Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith said. "You don't get this far, to Game 7, one shot, one goal away from going to play for the Cup. It's just really disappointing, I don't know what else to say."

Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews felt that same way for himself, his teammates and the Blackhawks' fans.

"When you get the chance to win a Stanley Cup and you win another one, you see how great it feels and how amazing it feels to be part of a group like that, that gives everything and you get the result that you want, especially when a city like Chicago rallies around you," Toews said. "So to come up short, it's not fun, especially when we know what we're missing out on."

Keith and Sharp recently said their season wouldn't be a success unless they repeated as champions. Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville wasn't as hard on his team. He saw positives in what the Blackhawks did this season.

"Well, we were pretty close to getting to the big dance," Quenneville said. "You look at how close we were, how competitive it was. It's a tough league. It's a tough thing to do, to win the Cup. I couldn't be prouder of our guys the way we competed in some tough situations, down 3-1. One shot away from going to try to do it again.

"We're in a tough division, some tough teams, some tough games. Overcoming all those obstacles after what happened last year and this year, you know, I've lost some tough games, but nothing like tonight."

Rapid Reaction: Kings 5, Blackhawks 4 (OT)

June, 1, 2014
Jun 1
10:26
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CHICAGO -- Here’s a quick look at the Los Angeles Kings’ 5-4 overtime win over the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 7 of the Western Conference finals at the United Center on Sunday:

How it happened: Game 7 didn’t disappoint. After six wildly entertaining games, the Blackhawks and Kings put together another memorable one in Game 7. The series was put to bed when Alec Martinez scored the game-winning goal at 5:47 of overtime. The beginning and middle of the game were nearly as dramatic. The Blackhawks got their home crowd roaring with goals by Brandon Saad and Jonathan Toews in the game’s first 8:36. It would take more than that to put the Kings away. They responded with goals by Jeff Carter and Justin Williams to tie it. Twelve seconds after Williams’ goal, Patrick Sharp put Chicago back ahead. The teams combined for five first-period goals. The Kings answered again with a Tyler Toffoli goal to tie it at 10:31 of the second period. The Blackhawks regained the lead when Sharp blasted in a power-play goal at 18:25 of the second period. The Kings fought back one more time. Marian Gaborik tied the game at 4-4 at 12:43 of the third period. The Blackhawks were 2-of-5 on the power play, the Kings were 0-for-2. Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford had 27 saves on 32 shots. Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick stopped 37 of 41.

What it means: The Kings clinched the series and advanced to the Stanley Cup finals for the second time in three seasons. L.A. became the first team in Stanley Cup playoffs history to take three consecutive series by winning a Game 7 on the road. The Blackhawks failed in their attempt to repeat as Stanley Cup champions. The Detroit Red Wings are the last team to accomplish the feat (1996 and 1997). The Kings improved to 7-0 in elimination games in the playoffs this season. The Blackhawks-Kings series was not short of goals. The teams combined for 51 goals over the seven games. Chicago forward Patrick Kane’s two assists in the loss gave him nine points over the past three games. Williams’ goal gave him seven goals in seven career Game 7s.

Player of the game: Gaborik continued to be a difference-maker for the Kings. He scored his third goal of the series and 12th of the playoffs.

Stat of the game: The Kings trailed three different times in the game.

What’s next: The Kings move on to play the New York Rangers in the Stanley Cup finals. Game 1 will be in Los Angeles on Wednesday. The Blackhawks’ season is over.

Sharp hoping goal sparks him

May, 25, 2014
May 25
8:04
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EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp focused not on scoring against the Los Angeles Kings in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals, but on doing things that have often led to him scoring.

"I felt like [in Game 3], individually, I was around the net a little more, hanging onto the puck down low," Sharp said after practice on Sunday. "Whether you're creating chances or getting chances yourself, it's always nice to have those feelings. I try not to judge myself the way I'm playing off goals and assists, but at this time of year, those things are important. I want to give my best to help the team that way."

Sharp admitted prior to Game 3 he was frustrated by having only two goals after 14 playoff games. He’s been accustomed to scoring throughout his career. In the playoffs last season, he had eight goals through 14 games.

Sharp has tried to stick with what’s worked in the past throughout his recent slump. He was especially active in Game 3 on Saturday and attempted nine shots, which included a team-high four shots on net.

Sharp was rewarded for his play when he redirected a shot into the net in the final five seconds of the third period on Saturday. It was his first goal in five games.

"It’s always nice to score," Sharp said. "It’s obviously better to score in a win. But felt a lot better waking up this morning knowing I was around the net a little bit more and was able to bounce one in. Hopefully, we can keep scoring and I can get one in a win tomorrow."

Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane was optimistic Sharp’s production would begin to meet his level of play after picking up the goal.

"It’s nice to see pucks going into the net," Kane said. "Whether it deflects off you or you can tip it out of the air, you can score off a shot -- any way you see a puck go in the net, obviously it makes you feel good. He’s had chances. He’s been playing well, and, obviously, it’s nice to see him get one, too. I’m sure he was happy about it."

Blackhawks not finding offensive balance

May, 25, 2014
May 25
12:27
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Jonathan Quick, Marian HossaJeff Gross/Getty ImagesMarian Hossa and Jonathan Toews, right, haven't gotten much help after their line departs.

LOS ANGELES -- The Chicago Blackhawks have often leaned on their offensive depth to get them past opponents, particularly in the playoffs.

The Blackhawks have relied upon everyone from their stars to their role players, and from their first to their fourth lines to give them production in the past.

The Blackhawks aren’t getting that across-the-board help through three games against the Los Angeles Kings in the Western Conference finals, and that is part of the reason why they’re facing a 2-1 series deficit.

“We have four lines that can score and we’ve got to show it,” Blackhawks forward Michal Handzus said after Saturday’s 4-3 loss in Game 3.

Chicago's top line has done its job: Bryan Bickell, Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa have been solid offensively and defensively. They have kept Marian Gaborik, Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown in check, and they’ve been creating offensive chances for themselves.

[+] EnlargeMarcus Kruger, Alec Martinez, Tanner Pearson
AP Photo/Chris CarlsonMarcus Kruger and his mates on the fourth line took a beating in the Hawks' Game 3 loss.
The possession numbers indicate that the Blackhawks’ top line has had the puck much more than the Kings' in the series. Bickell has a 64.1 Corsi percentage; the Blackhawks have had 41 shots for and 23 shots against with him on the ice in 5-on-5 situations in the series, according to extraskater.com. Hossa has had a 61.6 Corsi percentage (45 shots for, 28 against) and Toews has had a 60 Corsi percentage (48 shots for, 32 against.)

Chicago has scored eight goals in the series. Two have come on the power play, one short-handed, one with the goalie pulled and four at even strength. Chicago's top line has accounted for two of the four even-strength goals.

The Blackhawks’ other lines haven’t been keeping up. Ben Smith on the fourth line scored a goal in Game 2, and defenseman Duncan Keith scored with the second line on the ice in Game 1. The three other lines’ possession numbers have fluctuated as well.

Chicago's second line of Patrick Sharp, Handzus and Patrick Kane struggled the most in Game 3. Handzus had a team-worst 27.7 Corsi percentage (five shots for, 12 against), followed by Sharp at 30.4 percent (7 for, 16 against) and Kane at 30.8 percent (8 for, 18 against). For the series, Handzus has a 36 Corsi percentage (18 for, 32 against), Sharp a 30.9 (21 shots for, 47 against) and Kane has a 43.5 (30 shots for, 39 against).

The Blackhawks’ third line did fare better with Andrew Shaw in the lineup Saturday; it had been among the team's worst possession lines during the first two games. When together, the fourth line of Brandon Bollig, Marcus Kruger and Smith turned in a Corsi below 50 percent in Game 3.

Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said he would reexamine his lines after Saturday’s loss, but he wasn’t sure whether they needed much fine-tuning.

“We'll look at our lines,” Quenneville said. “We look at basically nine periods there, seven of them pretty good, pretty effective as far as what we've been doing, as far as chances, generating what we're looking to do. They've had two big third periods on us. That's the difference in being down 2-1.

“We can look at the lines. I don't know if we got to shake them up too much.”

Rapid Reaction: Kings 4, Blackhawks 3

May, 24, 2014
May 24
9:56
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LOS ANGELES -- Here’s a quick look at the Los Angeles Kings’ 4-3 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals at Staples Center on Saturday.

How it happened: The Kings rallied from another deficit to defeat the Blackhawks. Down 2-1, the Kings fought back and scored two goals in the second period to take the lead. Jeff Carter netted the equalizer off a pass from Tanner Pearson at 8 minutes, 8 seconds; Tyler Toffoli then put the Kings ahead when he skated past two Blackhawks defensemen for a loose puck and scored on a breakaway at 14:19. Drew Doughty extended the lead to 4-2 in the third period. Jonathan Toews accounted for the Blackhawks' first two scores. He stole the puck on a Kings power play and bagged a short-handed goal at 5:26 of the first period to give Chicago a 1-0 lead. After Slava Voynov scored a power-play goal for Los Angeles, Toews put the Blackhawks back in front when he knocked in a rebound at 13:19 of the first. The Blackhawks cut the Kings’ lead to one late with a goal by Patrick Sharp with 4.2 seconds remaining in the third period. Los Angeles goaltender Jonathan Quick made 24 saves on 27 shots. Chicago goaltender Corey Crawford stopped 28 of 32 shots. The Kings were 1-for-3 on the power play, and the Blackhawks were 0-for-4.

What it means: The Kings took a 2-1 lead in the series and continued to hold home-ice advantage. The Blackhawks dropped the road opener of a series for the 10th consecutive time, a streak dating back to 2010. The Kings improved to 4-3 at home in the playoffs this season. Los Angeles was able to capitalize on its power play for the second consecutive game. The Kings scored two power-play goals in Game 2 and another in Game 3. The Blackhawks had allowed a total of four power-play goals in the playoffs prior to Game 2. L.A. held Chicago without a power-play goal for the first time in the series.

Player of the game: Carter scored a goal and had two assists in the win. He has four goals and three assists over the past two games and eight points in the series.

Stat of the game: The Kings outshot the Blackhawks 18-7 in the third period.

What’s next: The series remains in Los Angeles for Game 4 on Monday.

Kings get wish, hold Hawks under 3 goals

May, 21, 2014
May 21
11:50
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CHICAGO -- Los Angeles Kings coach Darryl Sutter set a limit of two goals for the Chicago Blackhawks entering the Western Conference finals.

If the Kings could keep the Blackhawks under three scores in a given game, Sutter liked his team’s chances against the defending Stanley Cup champs. More than two, he didn’t like the Kings’ odds.

Sutter has been dead on so far. The Blackhawks scored three goals in Game 1 and won. The Blackhawks scored two goals in Game 2 and lost 6-2 Wednesday night.

“We probably played better [in Game 1],” Sutter said. “The only difference between tonight and [Sunday] was not goals for, it was goals against. Give up three against them, you're in trouble.”

[+] EnlargeNick Leddy and Blackhawks
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesThe Blackhawks were stoked after dominating early. But they failed on several strong chances to extend a two-goal lead to three, and the Kings pounced after that.
The absence of that third goal Wednesday will have the Blackhawks shaking their heads for a few days. The chances were there for the third goal to put the Kings away.

The Blackhawks placed themselves in a comfortable position by going ahead 2-0, when Ben Smith scored 1:40 into the second period. But they didn’t back off. They kept pushing for another goal, and the Kings weren’t putting up much of a fight to stop them.

After their second goal, Blackhawks forward Marian Hossa nearly scored on a shot from the slot after receiving a stretch pass to get him open with 13:23 remaining in the second period.

Michal Handzus had a wraparound backhanded shot with 6:19 left that gave Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick a problem.

Off an odd-man rush shortly later, Hossa left the puck for Duncan Keith at the blue line, and Keith fired a shot that Quick blocked. But the Kings were fortunate the Blackhawks couldn’t capitalize on the rebound.

Of all the missed opportunities, the one that will bother the Blackhawks the most was a 2-on-1 rush. Kris Versteeg had the puck on the left wing, and Brent Seabrook was to his right. After Kings defenseman Willie Mitchell committed to Versteeg, he pushed the puck over to Seabrook, who fired it on net. Quick shifted quickly from left to right, filled the open space and denied the puck entry.

Quick kept the Kings in it, and they took advantage, as Justin Williams scored with less than two minutes remaining in the second period to cut the lead to one. From there, the game changed.

“That's what we need Quickie to do. He does it all the time, makes those big saves when we need him, and that's just a prime example of him being himself,” Kings defenseman Drew Doughty said. “That's a huge save for us, and from that point we got pucks to the net, put one in, and came in here down only 2-1, which is what we wanted.”


The Kings scored five more goals, all in the third period, and the Blackhawks didn’t score again.

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville thought the Kings’ one goal in the second period may have been more deadly than the lack of a third Blackhawks goal.

Quenneville described his team’s first 38 minutes of the game as perfect.

“Couple real nice looks there,” Quenneville said. “[Seabrook] coming down the pipe and it’s still 2-0 and we’re fine at 2-0. You get in after two [periods] and you’re up 2-0, it’s a different game maybe, but certainly it didn’t look ... The way it turned on a dime like that, I don’t know if we’ve seen a game like that all year, where we’re doing everything right and then all of a sudden it was a disaster.”

The Blackhawks struggled to comprehend how a game they were dominating for nearly all of the first 40 minutes went against them. It's something they'll look to fix in Game 3 on Saturday.

“It’s pretty frustrating,” Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp said. “We got off to a good start through 40 minutes. We were skating well and drew a few penalties, and then obviously things unraveled during the third.

“We’re not happy and we’re looking forward to getting on the plane and making up for it in Game 3.”

5 observations: Hawks-Wild, Game 5

May, 12, 2014
May 12
11:40
AM CT
Powers By Scott Powers
ESPNChicago.com
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Here are five observations from the Chicago Blackhawks' 2-1 win over the Minnesota Wild in Game 5 of their second-round series:

1. The Blackhawks won partly because coach Joel Quenneville chose to put his top line together again, accessed all four lines and stopped toying with them. The line of Patrick Sharp, Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa was the Blackhawks' best line most of the season. The trio was together most of the regular season and consistently produced. It wasn't until late in the season the three players were separated. They quickly clicked when placed together to start the second period in Game 5. With that line in place, Quenneville was able to distribute his other lines more efficiently. Brandon Saad-Michal Handzus-Patrick Kane, Bryan Bickell-Peter Regin-Kris Versteeg and Joakim Nordstrom-Marcus Kruger-Ben Smith made up the other lines. Each line was competent, and Quenneville distributed minutes across the four lines as he had done for much of the regular season. The Blackhawks had become more a three-line team in the playoffs.

2. What Regin contributed shouldn't really be a surprise. The only worry with Regin was whether not playing for a month would impact his game. Regin proved from early March to early April he could play with 11 games with a Corsi percentage (shot differential) of better than 50 percent during that span. There was a stretch in late March-early April where he, Jeremy Morin and Bickell were the Blackhawks' most productive line. Despite Regin's play, Quenneville opted to go with his regulars and put Regin back on the shelf. With Brandon Bollig's suspension and still not trusting Morin, Quenneville went back with Regin in Game 5 after sitting him the first 10 games of the playoffs. Regin picked up where he left with a 70 Corsi percentage and he drew a penalty which led to a power-play goal.

3. Quantity over quality helped the Blackhawks' offense get going in the second period. The Blackhawks began the second period trying to get every puck they could to the Wild's net. They certainly weren't quality shots, but they were building numbers. They had eight shots on net through the first 6:11 of the second period after having six shots on net for the entire first period. They finished with 15 shots in the period and 28 for the game. They hadn't had more than 22 shots in any of the first four games.

4. Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford responded from a soft goal and a so-so Game 4. Crawford wasn't solely to blame for the Blackhawks' Game 4 loss, but there were a couple of goals he allowed that he normally doesn't. He wasn't much better early in Game 5. The Wild nearly beat him on a few shots, and he wasn't able to make a glove save on Erik Haula's initial shot, which led to a rebound goal. As the game went on, Crawford got better. He was especially impenetrable in the last five minutes of the game when the Wild were desperate and being aggressive offensively. He stopped all 14 shots he faced in the third period.

5. The Blackhawks allowed the Wild just one power play. After giving the Wild nine power plays, two of which they took advantage of with goals in Games 3 and 4, the Blackhawks were smarter about their penalties. After Brent Seabrook was called for tripping 29 seconds into the game, the Wild didn't have a power play the rest of the evening.

Hawks stymied again on road; series tied

May, 10, 2014
May 10
12:59
AM CT
Powers By Scott Powers
ESPNChicago.com
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Chicago BlackhawksAP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt"We're going to have to figure out what we did wrong," said Corey Crawford, right.

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The Minnesota Wild's crowd is undeniably loud. The fans scream and yell along with blaring music for their own team and can keep a “Co-rey” Crawford chant going for minutes.

But the Chicago Blackhawks didn’t lose back-to-back road games and see their 2-0 series lead erased because of Minnesota crowd. The crowd certainly motivated the Wild, but the Blackhawks have overcome hostile crowds before. The past two seasons they’ve won on the road in Minnesota, Detroit, Los Angeles, Boston and St. Louis in the playoffs to capture series.

The Blackhawks were beaten 4-0 in Game 3 on Tuesday in Minnesota then 4-2 in Minnesota in Friday's Game 4 because the Wild outplayed them.

“No matter where we are we don’t want to make any excuses,” Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said after Minnesota evened the series at 2-2. “We’re on the road. We have to find a way to do it.”

The Blackhawks scored two more goals Friday than they did in Game 3, but Game 4 was arguably their worst of the playoffs.

The Blackhawks and Wild shared possession of the puck for most of Game 3. That wasn’t the case for Game 4, as the Wild had 35 total shots to the Blackhawks’ 21 with the game tied or within a goal to give Chicago a 37.5 Corsi close percentage -- a playoff low for the Blackhawks in that figure, which accounts for shot differential. The Wild also had 31 shots on net Friday to the Blackhawks’ 20 -- with Minnesota scoring an 18-9 advantage in the second period alone.

Shots on net have been a challenge for Chicago throughout the playoffs. Even when the Blackhawks were winning in the first two games of this series, they weren’t lighting up the Wild’s net. They’re averaging 20.8 shots on net in the series. They had 22 shots on net in Game 1, 22 in Game 2, 19 in Game 3 and 20 in Game 4.

[+] EnlargePatrick Sharp, Jonas Brodin
AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt"I think we can look at ourselves in our locker room and be a lot better," Patrick Sharp said of the Hawks.
“They do a good job of picking up their man in the neutral zone,” Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp explained after Game 4. “It seems like when we get a chance at some open ice, they’re playing well away from the puck and they’re taking time and space. But it’s not so much what they’re doing; I think we can look at ourselves in our locker room and be a lot better.”

An inability to get the puck out of their own zone cost the Blackhawks on the Wild’s first two goals. The Blackhawks’ penalty kill also can’t be expected to remain perfect when Chicago provides the Wild five power plays. The Wild scored on their fifth power play of the night.

The Blackhawks continued to show respect for the Wild after the loss and credited them for their play, but players said it was ultimately on themselves to rise above and exceed what Minnesota been doing.

“I think it’s reflecting of our intensity,” Toews said. “They worked for their chances. They worked for everything they got. We have to do the same. I don’t really know how to explain it, we have to be better. It’s frustrating to not get a win the last two games on the road. Could have put ourselves in a great spot had we played the way we need to play to try and get a win these last two games. But we didn’t. This series is long from over. That’s the good news. We have a chance to redeem ourselves and be better than we have been.”

Blackhawks goaltender Crawford also felt it came down to him and his teammates finding another gear.

“We just got to come harder,” Crawford said. “We got to dig down and come harder next game.

“We’re going to have to figure out what we did wrong. You always want to look at it and try to fix things you need to fix for next game.”

The Blackhawks do have the luxury of still having home-ice advantage over the Wild. The Blackhawks can take care of the Wild by staying undefeated at the United Center -- site of Game 5 on Sunday and, if necessary, Game 7 on Thursday.

“This is a tough building,” coach Joel Quenneville said of the Xcel Energy Center. “We should be excited to go home. Taking care of that game, it’s going to be a big game, tough game. Let’s be excited about it.”

Excitement and a loud United Center will undoubtedly be in place come Sunday. Whether the Blackhawks will step up their game again is the unknown.

“[We need] a real short memory and remind ourselves of how good we can be in our building,” Toews said. “It’s playoff hockey. It’s not supposed to be easy. There’s going to be some moments where your stomach drops and you’re not feeling like everything is going your way. That’s the way it goes.

“You have to find a way to battle through that and create something out of nothing, especially in this building when it’s loud. They’re playing with energy. Everywhere you look they seem to be there. They’re checking you. You have to find a way through that. When you work hard enough, people are going to get lucky.”

Sharp aiming to contribute more for Hawks

May, 8, 2014
May 8
8:36
PM CT
Powers By Scott Powers
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- Winning and not scoring: that Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp can handle.

Losing and not scoring: that’s harder for Sharp to swallow.

Sharp was held without a goal for the eighth time in nine playoff games Tuesday in a 4-0 loss to the Minnesota Wild in Game 3 of their second-round series. The Blackhawks are 5-3 when Sharp doesn't score.

“It’s frustrating when you lose games and you can’t help contribute offensively, but playing on a good team and we’re going to win games if everybody plays the way that our coaching staff wants us to play,” Sharp said after practice Thursday. “But to answer your question, yeah, when you lose games and you don’t contribute, it’s definitely frustrating.”

[+] EnlargePatrick Sharp
Brace Hemmelgarn/USA TODAY SportsPatrick Sharp has just one goal and three points in nine playoff games this season.
The Blackhawks were hopeful Sharp would ignite after scoring against the St. Louis Blues in the clinching Game 6 of their first-round series. He had two assists against the Wild in Game 1, but has been goalless in all three games. He has three points in the playoffs.

Sharp has been creating opportunities in most games. He’s had 31 shots on goal in the postseason. He had four shots on net in both Game 1 and Game 3 against Minnesota; he had none in Game 2. It was only the fourth time this season he was held without a shot on goal. He has a 3.2 shooting percentage for the playoffs.

Sharp was asked if his shot had been off in recent games, but he said he felt it was fine.

“I’m sure there’s things that can happen that affect a player’s shooting whether it’s physical, whether it’s mental,” Sharp said. “But as far as me personally, I have no excuses.”

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville didn’t express any concern about Sharp.

"I just think that scorers, it's a little tighter for them [in the playoffs] and the production is usually across the board a little down than a regular-season production for most players,” Quenneville said. “Scorers, sometimes they get that added attention, so I mean, hopefully he can get that feeling-good streak, whether they start going in offensively. Same time, that reliability defensively, that's what we're looking for and he's been fine in that area. Eventually, like we say a lot, we don’t care who scores as long as we get some contributions across the board.”

Sharp has come through for the Blackhawks in the playoffs in the past. He scored 10 playoff goals, including five against the Wild in the first round, last season. He has 34 goals in 96 career playoff games.

Sharp was optimistic he'd get himself going in Game 4 Friday.

“Sure, I know I can be better in that category, whether it’s making plays, whether it’s being more direct with my play, getting more spring opportunities, helping out my linemates,” Sharp said. “I know that’s something I can do. Get a good rest today and hopefully do it tomorrow.”

Quenneville searching for balance in lines

May, 8, 2014
May 8
1:25
PM CT
Powers By Scott Powers
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville, the chemist, unveiled his newest line mixtures Thursday after spending some time in the lab following his team's Game 3 loss to the Minnesota Wild.

Quenneville's new first line has Bryan Bickell, Jonathan Toews and Ben Smith together. The first line had been Bickell, Toews and Marian Hossa in recent games.

The new second line includes Brandon Saad, Marcus Kruger and Patrick Kane, shaking up the previous group of Patrick Sharp, Smith and Kane.

The new third line is Sharp, Michal Handzus and Hossa. It had previously been Saad, Kruger and Joakim Nordstrom.

The new fourth line is Brandon Bollig, Nordstrom and Jeremy Morin. The fourth line has varied from game to game, but it included Bollig, Handzus and Kris Versteeg last game.

"We're looking for balance and maybe all lines, a little more threat to score on all the lines," Quenneville said after practice on Thursday. "That's what we're looking for a little bit. Offense, defensive reliability at the same time of having maybe more offense spread out throughout our lineup."

The line changes come after the Blackhawks were held without a goal and limited to a season-low 19 shots on net in a 4-0 loss to the Wild in Game 3 of their second-round series on Tuesday.

Sharp isn't surprised to see Quenneville alter the lines.

"It's something we've come to expect from Joel," Sharp said. “There's different combinations all the time. We trust in our coaching staff to make adjustments through a series and how players are playing and whatever the reason may be. I think everyone in our locker room's comfortable with playing with each other, and it's no big deal to us."

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