Hawks leaning on each other during slump


Hawks leaning on each other during slump

NEW YORK Jonathan Toews gave a few smiles on Wednesday, an expression thats been hard to display considering the Blackhawks past few weeks of games.

Trouble sleeping, conversations on hockey and nothing but hockey, Toews and the Blackhawks are experiencing a lot of that right now. Nobody understands the life of a struggling athlete more than another struggling athlete. So with the pressure to win leaning on them heavy, the Blackhawks are leaning on each other.

The Blackhawks will look to snap their nine-game winless streak on Thursday, when they take on the surging New York Rangers. Its been a long haul on an already long road trip for the Blackhawks, who are dazed at whats happened the last three weeks. But theyve tried to take advantage of their time around each other, talking it out and trying to keep each others spirits high.

Every day were reminding each other that were teammates, friends and family. Well pull through it together, Toews said. Were not holding any of the bad luck or discouraging things against each other. Thats the biggest thing.

Dave Bolland said hes never been through a skid like this, dating all the way back to his junior hockey days. Keeping spirits high has been difficult, at best. But he said the team dichotomy has to pull the Blackhawks out of this off the ice as well as on it.

We go down as one and we win as one, he said. When one guys down, you boost him up. Were always helping teammates. Thats the one thing with this team: were a family. If anybodys down and anything happens, theres another guy to bump him up or say something.

And for those who think the Blackhawks are just turning off the hockey thoughts as soon as they leave the rink, guess again. Toews talked about having some sleepless nights lately. Patrick Sharp said the conversation is all hockey all the time, from on the ice to at the dinner table its not like you punch out of the rink and clear mentally, Sharp said. We take our job seriously.

The Blackhawks say theyre pulling together during this slump. They have to. Other teams are still gunning for them and nobodys feeling sorry for them.

They were a tight group when they were winning. They have to be just as tight, if not tighter, to start winning again.

It does get to be tough when youre losing to come to the rink. Nobody likes talking about it; everybody likes to stay away from it. But we do talk about it, Bolland said. Its never fun being in one of these and its tough. For us, talking and anything we can do to get out of it is positive.

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Special teams struggles continue

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Special teams struggles continue

Pat Boyle, Jamal Mayers and Tracey Myers discuss the Blackhawks' penalty kill woes in the latest installment of the Blackhawks Talk Podcast. 

They also break down the defensive pairings and Joel Quenneville's coaching after seven games. 

Check out the latest episode of the Blackhawks Talk Podcast below: 

Artem Anisimov collecting points but knows faceoffs need to improve

Artem Anisimov collecting points but knows faceoffs need to improve

It took a little bit for Artem Anisimov to get going this season.

Much like the second line overall, he wasn’t making an immediate impact or collecting many points. Oh, how things have changed in a week or two.

Now if he can get his face-off victories on the same level as his production, he’ll be happy.

Anisimov, who was named the NHL’s second star for last week, continued his point-scoring run with an assist in the Blackhawks’ 3-2 shootout loss to the Calgary Flames on Monday night. Entering Tuesday’s games, Anisimov is one of four players with a league-best nine points.

“It was a very good week,” said Anisimov, whose focus quickly turned to the Blackhawks. “But we need to play better as a team. Better on the [penalty kill], better on the power play, too. Just play better.”

Anisimov wasn’t giving himself too much credit so Patrick Kane, the beneficiary of Anisimov’s assist on Monday, did.

“He made a great pass to me. Not that he didn’t do that last year. He was there, but sometimes we’d score a goal, he’d be the third assist or the guy in front of the net creating traffic and could be the biggest reason we score,” Kane said. “Good to see him get the points and get the recognition, for sure.”

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Now, about those faceoffs. After winning 44.2 percent of his faceoffs last season, Anisimov has won just 35 percent so far this season. As soon as the subject came up, Anisimov shook his head in frustration.

“The faceoff situation. It’s not great, actually. I try to do so many things right now but it doesn’t work,” he said. “You have so many different things. Try to worry about the opponent, how they do it, and not focus on myself. I just need to focus on myself and what I’m doing. keep working.”

Jonathan Toews is by far the Blackhawks’ faceoff man right now; he’s winning 60.8 percent of the time. Marcus Kruger is at 50 percent. The Blackhawks as a team are 29th in the NHL in faceoffs won in the offensive zone (42.5 percent), 27th overall in faceoffs (46.6 percent). Coach Joel Quenneville needs the team, including Anisimov, to be better in that department.

“We started off in a tough area – across the board except for Jonny – where we’re starting against it, chasing the puck and a lot of times we’re out there in the offensive zone and we don’t get that pressure, sustain offensive zone time or puck possession time. That’s an area where we’d like to get 50-50 or close to that and get a little help along the lines as well,” Quenneville said. “That’s definitely area where we need [Anisimov] to get better and get a little stronger, and [have] an awareness to what the opponents are doing or how the officials are dropping it as well. We have to get better.”

Anisimov has gotten his production going. He’d like to do the same with his faceoffs. Much like his scoring, he knows getting confidence in faceoffs could turn things around.

“Of course, yes,” he said. “I just need to straighten out a couple more games in the faceoffs and it’ll build confidence. Just build confidence.”