The So-Cal Blackhawks Connection


The So-Cal Blackhawks Connection

With Calgary in town to face the Blackhawks Sunday night, the Flames former Head Coach and General Manager is reportedly dotting Is and crossing Ts to take over behind the Los Angeles Kings bench for the fired Terry Murray and Interim Head Coach John Stevens. Darryl Sutters wrapping up the business of getting back to the NHL after being fired as Flames GM about a year ago. That means the crosstown southern California rivals will be coached by former Blackhawks teammates, thanks to an earlier coaching call by a third member of the 1985-86 Hawks.

A few weeks back, Anaheim GM Bob Murray pulled the plug on coach Randy Carlyle about as reluctantly as Kings GM Dean Lombardi was forced to with Terry Murray last week. Bob Murray a co-captain on that Hawks squad with Sutter 26 years ago brought in Bruce Boudreau just two days after he was fired by Washington. Boudreaus seven-game Blackhawks career took place that same season. Those two are reunited in the difficult task of trying to resuscitate the Ducks to the level they played in the second half of last season.

Sutter, meanwhile, is a curious move. If theres anyone whos not L.A., its Darryl. Or any of the Sutter brothers, for that matter. Yes, he has long and strong relationship with Lombardi, but his reputation as a task-master, the fact he hasnt coached in five years, and his defense first philosophy make me wonder if this will be a good fit. Defense hasnt been the Kings problem (with the NHLs 5th-best goals-against average entering Saturday night), its their league-worst offense.

Meanwhile, another former Blackhawk was involved in the leagues sixth head coaching change this season on Saturday. Randy Cunneyworth who played briefly for the Hawks 18 years ago takes over for the rest of the season in Montreal after the firing of Jacques Martin. Cunneyworth was an assistant under Martin, but only speaks English. The last Canadiens head coach who didnt speak French as well was Al McNeil back in 1970, before Scotty Bowman took over and won the Stanley Cup the next season. Good luck with the media and fans there, Randy. The Habs visit the United Center to face the Blackhawks Wednesday.

One other note: During a casual get-together with reporters Friday morning before his teams game with the Hawks, Boudreau was asked about his memories of that brief stint here as a player. He said the organization treated him well, but he wished it lasted longer than seven games. Pully (Coach Bob Pulford) never put me in, he laughed.

Five Things from Blackhawks-Maple Leafs: Richard Panik stays hot

Five Things from Blackhawks-Maple Leafs: Richard Panik stays hot

This Five Things was headed for a lot of negativity before the final three minutes of regulation. But thanks to the Blackhawks’ third-period comeback, this one won’t sting as much as Friday’s installment.

So while you all celebrate the Cubs going to a World Series, let’s look at Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ 5-4 shootout victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs.

1. Waking up just in time. The Maple Leafs haven’t played their best hockey in third periods – entering Saturday’s game, they’d been outscored 6-1 in that frame. But for 17-plus minutes of the third it didn’t look like the Blackhawks were going to take advantage of that stat. But they would, salvaging a point out of nowhere with two goals within a minute (Artem Anisimov at 17:32 and Richard Panik at 18:32). Better late than never.

2. The Richard Panik show continues. The forward said he doesn’t think about Toronto anymore, that it’s all about the team he’s with now. But looking at his celebration on his game-tying goal late in the third period, there had to be a little motivation to score against the Leafs, right? The Blackhawks don’t care who the opponent is, and Panik now has six goals to start the season.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

3. Power play fizzles. Ah, thought we were going to talk about the other special teams? In a second. The bigger problem on Saturday was the Blackhawks’ advantage, on which they went 0-for-6. It took until overtime, when their fifth power play was a 4-on-3 for them to really generate anything against the Leafs.

4. Late-period goals hurt. The Blackhawks looked set to enter first intermission with a 1-0 lead but Tyler Bozak scored with just 14 seconds remaining. They could’ve had a 2-2 tie entering the second intermission but James van Riemsdyk scored with 1:44 remaining in the second. Again, the Blackhawks overcame that. But coach Joel Quenneville talked about the loss of momentum in games, and here are two examples of it.

5. The Auston Matthews show. The Leafs phenom didn’t score a goal on Saturday but there’s no doubt he had his effect. His speed was especially on display on William Nylander’s goal; Matthews drew several Blackhawks and Nylander had a rather open net on the rebound.

Blackhawks rally to beat Maple Leafs in shootout

Blackhawks rally to beat Maple Leafs in shootout

As the clock ticked down to under three minutes remaining in regulation, the Blackhawks were looking at more negatives than positives.

Their power play wasn’t working. Their penalty kill was 1-for-2 and they were trailing 4-2 to the Toronto Maple Leafs. But just when it looked like the Blackhawks were headed for their second consecutive loss, they pulled out a comeback.

Richard Panik scored the game-tying goal against his former team and Artemi Panarin scored the shootout winner as the Blackhawks came back to beat the Leafs 5-4 on Saturday night.

Tyler Motte scored his second goal in as many nights and Artem Anisimov had two goals. Scott Darling stopped 30 of 34 shots through regulation and overtime. The victory didn’t erase some of the issues the Blackhawks still have, some of which showed in this one, too. But it brought some needed relief.

“It was a big win in a lot of different ways,” said Duncan Keith, who had two assists, including the primary one on Panik’s goal. “I know it’s still early but I think we were able to put some pressure on there. And anytime you get big goals like that late in the game when they’re needed, it’s a confidence boost and something we can build off.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

The end looked like it was going to be frustrating, especially after William Nylander’s second goal of the night gave the Leafs a 4-2 lead about five minutes into the third. But Anisimov scored his second goal of the evening with 2:28 remaining to pull the Blackhawks to within 4-3. Just one minute later, Panik scored his sixth of the season to tie it 4-4.

Panarin’s shot in round three of the shootout, coupled with Darling stopping Mitchell Marner’s wrist shot, sealed it.

“Obviously we were down 4-2 and came back against a great team. That helps our confidence,” Panik said. “Everybody’s pumped about a win so that’s a good sign.”

The Blackhawks will take it but they know they had their problems in this one. Their power play went 0-for-6. That included two 4-on-3 opportunities in overtime. They allowed another goal on their penalty kill, although they did snuff out another Toronto power-play opportunity in the third period.

“It’s one,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “We need several, several, several to get excited. But certainly that was, we’ll say, timely.”

The Blackhawks still have a long way to go this season. That penalty kill still needs work. They want more consistent play. But considering how this was looking with about three minutes remaining in regulation, they’ll take it.

“We’re certainly fortunate to come back in a game like that,” Quenneville said. “There have been a lot of comebacks in the league this year and we’ve given up some leads ourselves. That was a little different way of going about it. There are some positives but more so how we played in the third period. But we still lose a lot of momentum in the game. That’s what we’ve got to shore up.”