Blackhawks' balance, grit proves troublesome again for Blues


Blackhawks' balance, grit proves troublesome again for Blues

Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock knows playing at the United Center had been no easy task for his team in the past, and it sure wouldn't be on Tuesday night either.
"We usually get our a kicked in this building," Hitchcock said light-heartedly at the Blues' morning shootaround.
The Blackhawks and Blues both headed into tonight's matchup undefeated, but the way the Chicago began tonight's game proved they weren't ready to add a tally to their non-existant loss column. Their momentum right off the bat mirrored the same strength they showed in Los Angeles and Phoenix, and just like the Kings and Coyotes, the Blues were taken aback by it.
"The start killed us," Blues forward Andy McDonald said. "We took too many penalties, we mismanaged the puck early in the game, it seemed to take us a while to feel comfortable making plays in our own zone, plays in the neutral zone. Maybe a little bit of that had to do with how how the Blackhawks were coming, but we've got the skill to make better plays and manage the puck better than that."
Since the 2009-10 season, the Blackhawks have hosted the Blues a total of 10 times in the regular season, and only once -- a matchup back in Feb. 2010 -- did St. Louis come out of top. But that sure hasn't slowed the rivalry between the two teams. McDonald, who scored the Blues' first goal in Tuesday night's 3-2 loss, knows the Blackhawks' strong chemistry among their four lines is what gave the Blues trouble from the start.
"They've got a pretty balanced team," McDonald said."They have a lot of talent up front and a lot of skill spread out. They also have some grit and physicality there, so I mean they're a pretty well-rounded team.
"It's always a great rivalry between them and us and we look forward to playing them whether it's here or in our building. It's always a lot of fun. We've got a few more games, so we've got to get them back."

Today on CSN: White Sox face Athletics in spring training game

Today on CSN: White Sox face Athletics in spring training game

The White Sox will battle the Oakland Athletics today, and you can catch all the action on CSN. Coverage begins at 3:05 p.m.

Today's starting pitching matchup: Carlos Rodon vs. Kendall Graveman

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Quick Hits from Blackhawks-Stars: Another slow start but better finish

Quick Hits from Blackhawks-Stars: Another slow start but better finish

It wasn't pretty, but the Blackhawks found a way to pick up another two points and improved to 6-0-1 over their last seven games, and 18-3-1 over their last 22.

With Minnesota's loss to Philadelphia, the Blackhawks have taken an eight-point lead for first in the Central Division and are only two points away from the Washington Capitals for home-ice advantage throughout the entire Stanley Cup playoffs.

Let's take a look at Quick Hits from the 3-2 shootout victory over the Dallas Stars on Thursday night:

What Worked: The finish and shootout. While the Blackhawks scored the game's first goal, it was another slow start by a team that has had a few of those over the last several outings and has preached working on turning in more of a complete effort. They recorded only 14 shots on goal in the first two periods, and it took more than six minutes after Patrick Kane's goal to record their next one.

But they finished on a positive note yet again, and went 2-for-3 in the shootout thanks to Kane and Artemi Panarin, who potted the game winner. Kane said after the game that he tried his move on Scott Darling during morning skate and it worked. So he went with it tonight in an effort to snap a mini shootout drought and he did.

What Didn't Work: Controlling the puck. The Blackhawks seemingly have the puck more than their opponent does almost every game, but it doesn't reflect in the shot department because they often look for the perfect pass or shot and fail to record one at all. They had 50 shot attempts with 26 of them on goal compared to the Stars' 64 attempts with 44 on goal. They know they must get better at that.

Star of the game: Corey Crawford. After allowing four goals on only 10 shots in Tuesday's overtime loss to Vancouver, the Blackhawks netminder bounced back in a huge way. He matched a season-high with 42 saves, and recorded his 30th win of the season.

He Said It: "He played amazing tonight. Reason we won the game. Hats off to him, he's done that a lot this year. For a goalie it's probably tough to show up every night, even the goals he let in last game you can't put all the blame on him, but he was outstanding tonight." — Kane on Crawford's performance

By the Numbers:

167 — Niklas Hjalmarsson blocked one shot in the win, and it was enough to set a new career high in that department, previously established during the 2010-11 campaign (166).

15 — Trevor van Riemsyk assisted on Marian Hossa's goal in the third period, giving him a career-high 15 points on the season in 50 games. He had 14 points in 82 games last year. He also extended his point streak to three games.

6 — With the victory, Crawford has earned at least 30 wins in six of his seven NHL seasons as a full-time starter. The only time he didn't reach that mark was during the lockout-shortened year in 2012-13 when he went 19-5-5.