Blackhawks to meet President Obama next week

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Blackhawks to meet President Obama next week

Thursday, March 3, 2011Posted: 11:00 AM Updated: 5:52 p.m.
By Chris Boden
CSNChicago.coThe President Meets The President

When the NHL schedule was released, the Blackhawks' trip to Washington to play the Capitals was be one of the dates circled for the matchup alone. But it was also believed to be the perfect time in the team's hectic season and off-season, and President Obama's even busier schedule, for the 2010 Stanley Cup Champions to be recognized by the nation's Chief Executive from Chicago.

Now, it's official. The Blackhawks will follow in the recent footsteps of the White Sox and Bulls with a ceremony at the Oval Office next Friday, March 11th, at 2 p.m., Chicago time.

Members of the Cup-winning team, along with Chairman Rocky Wirtz, Team President John McDonough, Executive Vice President Jay Blunk, General Manager Stan Bowman, and Head Coach Joel Quenneville will be honored by President Barack Obama during a formal presentation.

Its a great honor for this franchise, McDonough told Comcast SportsNet Thursday afternoon, as the Blackhawks took a day off from practice. Its been an amazing roller coaster the last year and a half, but its really the culmination of this. Weve invited all of the players, all of the coaches. Obviously, were going to have people no longer with the team that wont be able to make it. Its going to be memorable for every member of this organization.

Kris Versteeg, Nick Boynton and Brent Sopel would be the ex-Hawks with the best chances of attending, as Philadelphia is off that day between games at Toronto, and home to Atlanta. Montreal is off between road games at St. Louis and at Pittsburgh. While San Jose is off next Friday, its the only day between home games for Antti Niemi and Ben Eager. Atlanta (Andrew Ladd and Dustin Byfuglien) hosts New Jersey that night. Minnesota (John Madden) is at Dallas (Adam Burish). Edmonton (Colin Fraser) has a date in Detroit. The Blackhawks estimate their traveling party could be up to 120 members of the organization.

We visited the White House a few weeks ago and it was really a once-in-a-lifetime experience, added McDonough. But I think one of the highlights of this trip, if not the highlight, is going to be visiting Walter Reed Veterans Hospital. We had a chance to visit there a few hours before, and our players will be going and participating in that, honoring the veterans whove served our country.

Following the ceremony, First Lady Michelle Obama and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman will preside over a street hockey workout and clinic for local younsters on a rink set up on the South Lawn of the White House. conducted by members of the Blackhawks and Capitals. It's part of the collaboration beteen Mrs. Obama's "Let's Move!" initiative, the NHL, and USA Hockey which encourages children to lead active and healthy lifestyles.

Wednesday Night Leftoversand Friday Appetizers

One stat the Blackhawks actually won back in that February 7th loss in Calgary was in the Hits column. Theyd been outhit in all but one game since, but the Hawks were still 7-1-2 in those games. They had a 29-23 edge in hits Wednesday night (Bryan Bickell with a team-high five), but seemed to exhibit just the right balance between the physical edge necessary, without making trips to the penalty box.

Niklas Hjalmarsson may have just one point over his last 20 games, but hes gone from a minus-9 rating over the first 13 games of the season (without a single game with a plus rating), to a plus-11 now, second among the teams blueliners (Brian Campbell, 24).

Just because the next five games are against the East doesnt mean theyll be easy, and the Blackhawks will be challenged by not seeing one of their Western Conference enemies across the ice from them, wrestling for playoff position. Carolina will be playing the second of back-to-back games, trying to protect its last Eastern Conference playoff spot against surging Buffalo Thursday night. Torontos rallied its way back above .500 and within just four points of 8th place, entering Thursday night. Florida will probably look at Tuesdays game as their Stanley Cup. Tampa Bay was in a three-way tie for second in the conference, and only three points ahead for the Southeast lead over next Sundays Hawks opponent following the White House bash, Washington.

Joel Quenneville and his staff have to decide when to give Corey Crawford a breather in the net after nine consecutive starts. As much as his play, and the importance of the games, dicatates it, he cant be sent out there every night. The next six games consist of three back-to-backs.

Chris Boden is the host of Blackhawks Pre and Postgame Live on Comcast SportsNet.

Fast Break Morning Update: Blackhawks blank Bruins; Bulls fall in Atlanta

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Five takeaways from Blackhawks' shutout win over Bruins

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' shutout win over Bruins

Here are five takeaways from the Blackhawks' 1-0 victory over the Boston Bruins on Friday night:

1. A sluggish start.

The Blackhawks have gotten off to some solid starts lately, scoring the game's first goal in the opening frame in five of their last six contests heading into Friday. But they were lucky to get out of the first in a 0-0 tie this time.

They had 15 shot attempts (six on goal) through the first 20 minutes while the Bruins had 30 attempts (17 on goal). Fortunately for the Blackhawks, Scott Darling stopped all of them that came his way.

Boston's third line of Ryan Spooner, Riley Nash and David Backes dominated possession, leading all skaters with a plus-12 Corsi in the period.  

2. Scott Darling steals two points.

Joel Quenneville decided to go with Darling in an effort to give a slumping Corey Crawford a chance to reset, and the Lemont native an opportunity to play in front of his father away from home, where he's used to watching him shine. It's safe to say he made his papa proud by putting on a great show.

Darling turned aside all 30 shots he faced, including 17 in the first period, for his second shutout of the season and fourth of his career. He has now allowed two or fewer goals in eight of his last 12 starts. 

Asked after the game whether he will earn a second straight start Sunday when the Blackhawks host the Vancouver Canucks, Quenneville responded, "We'll see."

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

3. Special teams not a factor.

In a game that featured only one goal, you'd think the way to crack the scoresheet would be on the man advantage. That didn't happen.

The Blackhawks went 0-for-3 on the power play, while the Bruins failed to cash in on their only two opportunities. Boston entered the contest by going 7-for-17 on the power play in their previous five games, good for a 41.2 success rate.

It was a nice bounce-back game for the Blackhawks' penalty kill unit, which allowed a goal on the man advantage in their previous two games.

4. Third line steps up at crucial moment.

The Blackhawks' third line of Vinnie Hinostroza, Marian Hossa and Tanner Kero had the worst possession numbers among all skaters, each registering a 24 percent Corsi or below. But when their team needed them the most, they stepped up.

With 1:26 left in regulation, Hossa ended his 10-game goal drought by burying home a terrific feed from Kero to snap a 0-0 tie and give the Blackhawks their second consecutive win. It's Hossa's 17th goal of the campaign, which ties Artemi Panarin for second on the team, and his fifth game-winning goal of the year. His 83 career game-winning goals now ranks 24th in NHL history, surpassing Mike Bossy, and remains fifth among active players.

Hossa's goal also moved him within a tie of Pierre Turgeon for 37th on the all-time goals list with 516.

Kero has six points in his last six games, while Hinostroza has two goals and one assist in his past two.

5. Despite recent struggles, Bruins in good hands with Claude Julien.

It seems like this is a discussion every year, but firing Julien would be a huge mistake for a Bruins team that fell to 3-5-2 in their last 10 games. They're still the No. 1 possession team in the NHL, controlling 55.42 percent of the even-strength shot attempts, and give up the fifth-fewest high danger scoring chances with 326, according the naturalstattrick.com. They average the second-most shots on goal per game at 33.9, and allow the second-fewest at 26.5.

To back it up, their PDO is 97.5 percent, the sum of a team's even-strength save percentage and shooting percentage that usually works it way toward 100, which indicates they're due for a fairly large correction. They're not getting bounces right now, but they're playing the right way and a change behind the bench would be a step in the wrong direction, considering Julien is easily a top-five coach in the NHL.