How the Blackhawks turned disaster into domination

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How the Blackhawks turned disaster into domination

The mood in the Blackhawks locker room after their 9-2 loss to Edmonton in November was understandably angry and frustrated.

It was an ugly loss in every sense, a big wake-up call for a Blackhawks team that was up and down through November. And its one that got the Blackhawks talking to their coaches and amongst themselves.

Apparently, those were some productive talks.

The Blackhawks head into Monday nights game against the Edmonton Oilers a much different and better team. They are 12-4-1 since that awful game and have the most points in the league with 52. The Blackhawks had several tough games in November, but the one in Edmonton set off the alarm bells.

Sometimes it takes a game like that where you take a step back and analyze things, defenseman Duncan Keith said. Our team games been great since then; weve played well. Sometimes games like that, they can just get out of hand. The next thing you know the scores bad. But we definitely took a lot of notice there.

Coach Joel Quenneville refers to that loss as a whatever-you-want-to-call-it type of game; the most negative word you use (to describe it).

The media questioned if the Blackhawks should still take their mid Circus-trip excursion to Las Vegas after such a loss. They did, and apparently the time away from the game and talking about the previous one helped.

Looking back, it was probably a good thing to talk about what was going on, Patrick Sharp said. I still think our best game of the season was that 1-0 loss to San Jose right after the Edmonton game. Maybe it was a good thing it happened.

The Blackhawks did seem to derive some lessons from that game. Their record since then proves they heeded them. The differences between the team in November and the team now are evident, and in a good way. The Blackhawks played with the team mentality the rest of that Circus Trip, going 2-1-0 on the back end of it. And they carried that into December, which was a very productive month for them.

We realized as a team that we needed to bring it every night, Jamal Mayers said. Were still a work in progress, still searching and we can still get better.

Perhaps it was a turning point. Maybe it was just the Blackhawks going through the November pains. Their travel schedule during that month was brutal and they were still integrating a couple of new players. That game was nevertheless a wakeup call, and the Blackhawks responded to it.

Were coming together as a team now, Keith said. I still think weve got a lot of room for improvement. But you can definitely feel it in the dressing room. Our chemistrys clicking now.

Jonathan Toews practices but won’t play vs. Flyers

Jonathan Toews practices but won’t play vs. Flyers

Jonathan Toews sounded somewhat frustrated but cognizant of the situation.

If it were the postseason there’s no doubt he would be playing right now. That’s not a surprise to hear, considering what hockey players put themselves through when the playoffs start. But this is early December. There are too many games remaining. And with it coming down to making sure he’s healthy for the long haul, it’s an easy call.

Toews practiced on Friday for the first time since being hurt, but he won’t travel to Philadelphia when the Blackhawks face the Flyers on Saturday afternoon. It will be the fifth consecutive game Toews has missed since he was hurt against the San Jose Sharks on Nov. 23. Still, him skating on his own and then practicing with teammates for a few minutes is a good sign that Toews is closing in on a return.

“Just come back and check in again [Saturday], see how it is and hopefully, I guess as they say, re-evaluate for Sunday,” Toews said on Friday. “It’s never fun to miss any time, especially when the team is playing as many games as they are. So nice to get back out there and move around and get going a little bit.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

Toews was placed on injured reserve on Friday, retroactive to Nov. 24, the day after he was injured.  Coach Joel Quenneville said he’ll see how Toews feels on Saturday and, “we’ll get a better idea going forward. But he’s not on the trip.”

“You gotta be fully recovered and want to make sure guys are 100 percent before they can play,” Quenneville said. “Jonny plays at a certain pace and it’s all out, so let’s make sure he’s more than ready when he’s coming back.”

Several have reported that Toews has a back injury, and the captain was doing several back stretches during Friday’s session. Toews left in the second period of the Blackhawks’ 2-1 loss to the Sharks, moments after he went down awkwardly. But Toews said he wasn’t hurt on that play. 

“I think it was just something that started to aggravate in the first period. I tried playing in the second and that instance right there, just went down like a ton of bricks,” Toews said. “I was trying not to aggravate the injury more than I already had. That wasn’t where I got hurt; [it was] probably the instance people were looking for to see what the explanation was.”

If this were April and the playoffs were about to begin, Toews probably wouldn’t be as patient with his injury. But it isn’t, and he will be. It’s not worth making worse. The Blackhawks have managed to get points in his absence, going 3-0-1 so far.

“It’s the type of thing most guys would be able to suck up and play if it were a playoff game and putting everything on the line. But at this point, with the amount of games left in the season, it’s not something you want to continuously deal with,” he said. “If you aggravate it, it’ll keep coming back to haunt you. It’s tough to hold back and do less than you know you can, but in the long run, trying to make sure I get back to 100 percent.”

BRIEFLY

- Trevor van Riemsdyk was activated off the injured-reserve list and is expected to play against the Flyers.

- Marian Hossa took practice off. He is expected to play.

-  Corey Crawford will start vs. Philadelphia.

Blackhawks Road Ahead: Feasting on the East

Blackhawks Road Ahead: Feasting on the East

Pat Boyle, Steve Konroyd and Jamal Mayers have the latest on Joel Quenneville's group in this edition of the Blackhawks Road Ahead, sponsored by Chicagoland NW Indiana Honda dealers.

The Blackhawks are once again taking care of business, going 3-0-1 with their captain Jonathan Toews on the sideline. They're also 6-2-2 against the East this year, and they'll get another chance to add to that record when they take on the Flyers this week.

Here's what our Blackhawks Postgame Live crew had to say about the team's upcoming matchups in this week's Honda Road Aehad.