Familiarity could lead to success


Familiarity could lead to success

When the Chicago Blackhawks look around the room, they see something thats been a bit foreign to them: familiar faces.

Sure, those teams leading up to the 2010 Stanley Cup were full of them. But since then, its been a turnstile of players joining and leaving the organization. Until now. Because after two seasons of much turnover and many personnel changes, the Blackhawks made very few moves this offseason. That has led to familiarity in the locker room.

Considering how short training camp was and how little time teams will have to adjust during this 48-game season, that familiarity could be a good thing.

We know its mainly the same team from last year but were a year older with a year of experience under our belt, Patrick Kane said after Fridays practice. Last year we still had a good season; we had over 100 points. We didnt have a good (postseason) but we felt we had a team that could make a good run. Its the same group, but a little more experienced.

Marian Hossa agreed.

There are just a couple of new names, not many, he said. Guys are more familiar with the system, and in a short season that should help us be on the same page.

Indeed, outside of adding Sheldon Brookbank and Michal Rozsival on the back end, the Blackhawks should know each other well. Its a far cry from two seasons ago, when the post-Cup dismantling gave the Blackhawks a very different look. The 2011-12 season featured its share of new faces, too, with Andrew Brunette, Sean ODonnell, Steve Montador and Jamal Mayers among the new acquisitions.

In the second half of last season several Rockford players started to emerge, namely Andrew Shaw and Brandon Bollig. Theyre back. So is just about everyone else, save ODonnell and Brunette. So the Blackhawks havent had to introduce as many new bodies to their system.

It helps, system-wise, coach Joel Quenneville said. Weve always changed the lines and the new look gives you a little excitement. But as far as knowing where we have to be, predictability with or without the puck, you have a lot of freedom to do what you feel whats right. But the one area we all should be excited about is improving on our special teams as well.

Yes, the forward lines will likely change a few times this season these are the Blackhawks, after all. But no one is a stranger to each others game anymore, so even when combinations are switched, they wont be completely foreign.

When you dont make as many changes, you dont have to make new friends or get to know how other guys play, Dave Bolland said. These guys were all here last year. Were all pretty comfortable here and I think its going to be a great year.

The Blackhawks are on the same hectic schedule as every other team in the NHL. But theyre on the same wavelength. And with little time to adjust and prepare for this season, the few changes could be beneficial.

We were disappointed at the end of last year, Quenneville said. Lets rectify that. We have something to prove.

Blackhawks still trying to solve penalty kill issues

Blackhawks still trying to solve penalty kill issues

When considering the Blackhawks’ penalty kill, you can look at their 3-3-1 record in two ways: their record is mediocre because of it, or they’re still getting points despite it.

No matter how you look at it, however, the penalty kill’s malaise has to stop.

In seven games this season, the Blackhawks’ penalty kill has allowed 14 goals on 26 opportunities. Through their first seven games last season the Blackhawks were shorthanded 18 times, allowing three goals.

Looking at seasons overall, the Blackhawks allowed 46 power-play goals over 82 games last season. The kill allowed a scant 35 goals during the 2014-15 season and 46 goals in 2013-14.

Yes, the Blackhawks know it’s a big problem and they’ve talked about it and worked on it. So far, they just haven’t seen the results on it. Some have come off faceoffs. Some have come from long distance. Some have come off rebounds. It doesn’t seem to matter what they do: goals get scored. The Blackhawks will keep going back to the drawing board until they restore that penalty kill to its normal success rate.

“We talk a lot about the way we’re forcing it up ice, how we’re forcing it in the neutral zone, forcing entries, how we’re moving together as units, the personnel changes,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “We’ve tried a number of different looks on the back end, as pairs up front. We’re trying to find something that clicks. we haven’t gotten that confidence yet where we’re comfortable with just about any pairs right now. hopefully we can get that stabilized.

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“We know the importance of that influencing the outcome of games and sometimes it can win a game for us. But it’s been a real negative so far,” Quenneville added. “We got through three in a row there. hopefully that’s the start of something positive.”

The Blackhawks killed off the final three penalties they took against the Calgary Flames on Monday night. It was a shot of confidence for a group that needed it, and now they have to repeat that more often.

“We just kept our feet moving. We were working. Our shifts were 20 to 30 seconds tops,” Jonathan Toews said. “When you go that short you have the energy to outwork the power play and make up for being down one man. Yeah, I mean, I think that’s the key right there, and I think our systems fall into place when we’re all moving and we’re all skating the right way.”

Artem Anisimov said those three successful kills were “intense.”

“We were skating. We didn’t give so much time to set up in our zone,” Ansimov said. “It was like, always clear. We cleared the puck 200 feet and it was successful.”

The Blackhawks have been talking “baby steps” regarding their penalty kill the past few games. Killing three in a row off on Monday night could be one, but it means nothing if they allow another one in their next game. The penalty kill is broken. The Blackhawks will keep trying to fix it.

Check out Jonathan Toews' scary Halloween costume

Check out Jonathan Toews' scary Halloween costume

Jonathan Toews isn't doing himself any favors of trying to drop the Captain Serious nickname that has stuck with him since 2008.

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The Blackhawks captain and his girlfriend dressed up for a Halloween party on Tuesday night, and their costumes were on point:

Mr. and Mrs. Dead Serious. 💀👻☠️#happyhalloween

A photo posted by Jonathan Toews (@jonathantoews) on

We wonder how long it took to wash that paint off their face.