Blackhawks begin with a dud in Dallas

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Blackhawks begin with a dud in Dallas

Box score Highlights
Coach Q: Only a few guys impressed
VIDEO: Toews, Hossa Crawford comment

DALLAS -- Season openers can be a mixed bag. The Chicago Blackhawks had as much of that as anyone on Friday night.

Some great scoring chances bested by better goaltending. A few mistakes that proved costly. And a couple line changes.

Hey, it's Game 1. It's not a bad time to tinker.

Coach Joel Quenneville switched up some lines to start the second period and the Blackhawks generated everything but goals in a 2-1 loss to the Dallas Stars. No matter which of the Blackhawks were firing, no one could really solve Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen, who was stellar in stopping 37 of 38 shots.

Defenseman Nick Leddy broke through with 13.6 seconds remaining in regulation to deny Lehtonen the shutout. Alex Goligoski and Jamie Benn scored for the Stars.

Corey Crawford stopped 31 of 33 in the loss. He was particularly sharp early, which couldn't be said for the rest of the Blackhawks. The Stars got prime chances, some breakaways, but Crawford turned away 13 in the first period.

"Crow kept us in the game in the first. You could say they could've had a bigger lead on us the first 20 minutes," said Jonathan Toews. "That's not the way we wanted to start the season score-wise, but the way we played there were a lot of mistakes and we gave up too many quality chances."

So the Blackhawks changed up some lines. It wasn't a total surprise; with injuries (Dave Bolland, Viktor Stalberg and Ben Smith) and a suspension (Daniel Carcillo), the Blackhawks were down a forward and not running four full lines anyway. Michael Frolik was with Toews and Patrick Sharp for a while, and Patrick Kane joined Toews and Sharp toward the end.

The changes generated opportunities, as the Blackhawks outshot the Stars 22-12 in the second period.

"We shook up the lines a little bit and it seemed like we finally found some jump and some things were going," said Marian Hossa, who was double-shifting and finished with a team-high eight shots on goal. "We were creating more chances and spent more time in the offensive zone."

Quenneville said, "we're still trying our lines to begin with so we were just looking for something that sparked us. I think that was a tough first goal (by Goligoski) because Crow had a great first start. It was one of those nights; we got behind 2-0 and couldn't get that first one until it was too late."

The goals, however, didn't come. They didn't even materialize on the power play, on which the Blackhawks went 0 for 4. The Stars did find a way. Goligoski's came off a Blackhawks turnover and Benn got the rebound goal when Crawford couldn't hold on to Sheldon Souray's initial blast.

"I didn't see the first one right off the stick. The second one was a bullet there and I just couldn't hang onto it," Crawford said.

A mixed bag, some good and bad. The Blackhawks tinkered but came up short. They won't have long to wait to try and right the wrongs.

"Some mistakes we need to get better at and we left too many guys wide open and gave them too many quality chances," Toews said. "We'll tighten it up tomorrow, relax and let everyone do their own job. We'll have more energy and speed going into their zone tomorrow night."

Briefly

Quenneville is "optimistic" that Bolland (upper body) will play tomorrow vs. the Stars.

Kane, who Quenneville thought was just fine at center, won six of nine faceoffs.

John Scott was the lone healthy scratch for the Blackhawks.

Tracey Myers is CSNChicago.com's Blackhawks Insider. Follow Tracey on Twitter @TramyersCSN for up-to-the-minute Hawks information

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Expectations for John Hayden in the playoffs

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Expectations for John Hayden in the playoffs

On this episode of the Blackhawks Talk Podcast, Tracey Myers and Pat Boyle breakdown Tuesday's controversial ending with Vancouver. They discuss whether Darling was interfered with on the game winning goal and did Toews deserve a penalty for running into Ryan Miller?

They also discuss the expectations for John Hayden and the tough lineup decisions at forward, that Joel Quenneville will have in the playoffs.

Tracey weighs in on who has been the more impressive goalie tandem, Crow and Emery in 2013 or this year's pair, Crow and Darling?

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below:

Blackhawks want to finish strong while staying fresh for postseason

Blackhawks want to finish strong while staying fresh for postseason

Every team has goals it wants to hit at various parts of the season. At the start you want to be strong so you can save yourself a mad scramble to get into the postseason. In the middle, you want to just keep pace, get through that drudgery known as games 40-60.

But what about the end? If you're a playoff-bound team it's about reaching balance: you want to play your best hockey but also want to get your rest and conserve energy for the "next season."

The Blackhawks are in this mode right now. The postseason berth has been wrapped up. They've hit the 100-point mark and still maintain a six-point lead in the conference/division. So with nine games left the Blackhawks will try to get that overall play they had through most of February while being mindful of rest.

"We have [nine] to go and want to make sure we're fresh. At the same time, we want to be competitive," coach Joel Quenneville said. "We're looking to play games and in games, if we have a chance to back off a little bit, that'll be dictated by the score, the time of the game."

Entering their last two games trailing by two, the Blackhawks haven't had the chance to back off. They've had to do the opposite. Quenneville has said the team's four-line rotation, which was great in February, hasn't been there the past few games. Part of that could be due to injury. Artem Anisimov has missed the last three-plus games with a left-leg injury and is still expected to miss another 2-3 weeks. The Blackhawks have found ways to win despite that, but want to get back to more consistent hockey.

"Obviously we still want to try to win our division you want to be playing well," Brian Campbell said. "The last [few] games have been OK, spurts and stuff, so we want to ramp it up. There are some guys who can probably back off if they need or want to, there are those situations. It's a good situation to have. But this team's been around, they know how to prepare and get ready for it."

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So does Quenneville. We've reached that time of the season when the Blackhawks won't practice much, if at all. They're playing every other day and their morning skates are their versions of practice. As for in games, the Blackhawks know how to keep their energy up there, too.

"I think just playing good hockey and taking short shifts is key. You're not extending shifts to a minute and a half, two minutes," Ryan Hartman said. "You're conserving some long-term energy."

The Blackhawks are nearing the regular-season finish line but another race awaits them. They want to be ready for the postseason but they don't want to get too relaxed down the stretch.

"It's still the regular season. Nobody's taking the foot off the gas pedal. We're still trying to win hockey games and you want to come into the playoffs with a winning atmosphere and winning attitude," Hartman said. "Take every game one at a time and don't try to play conservative. Play good and winning hockey."