Blackhawks survive see-saw affair in shootout

602906.png

Blackhawks survive see-saw affair in shootout

The Blackhawks defensive game still isnt where it needs to be; but sometimes you take the two points and go from there.

Jonathan Toews scored a short-handed goal in regulation, then added the shootout winner in the Blackhawks 5-4 decision over the New York Islanders at the United Center. The Blackhawks have now won three of their last four games and are tied with Detroit for the second-most points in the Western Conference (33).

But it got interesting in the third period, when a determined Islanders team outshot the Blackhawks 23-7. The Blackhawks had given up just 15 shots in the previous two periods.

The first 10 minutes we took it to them; then that third period we got away from it again. Its something we need to address, said defenseman Sean ODonnell, who assisted on Andrew Brunettes goal in the first period. The win was nice, but its not the kind of hockey we want to play.

Coach Joel Quenneville said the better defense was there in the first two periods but panic seemed to set in during that third.

We have to be more composed, particularly when the games on the line in our own end, he said. The D-zone coverage got way out of sorts. We need to tighten it up and trust we have to play our own positions. We really ran around there in the third. We didnt like the way we played in our own end for sure.

The Blackhawks got enough offense on the other side to force shootout. Ben Smith scored his first of the season and Patrick Sharp added a power-play goal in the third. Toews, who has been stellar this past month, bested Islanders goaltender and Chicago-area native Al Montoya with a wrister in the shootout.

Corey Crawford, who stopped 37 of 41 in regulation -- including 21 of 23 in the third period stopped two of the Islanders shootout attempts. Matt Moulson hit the post on his shot.

No, it wasnt a comfortable victory. The Blackhawks are still giving up a lot of offense to teams that usually dont score much. The Islanders are currently ranked last in the league in goals per game with 2.04, and thats including tonights game.

They found a way to win on Friday. But they know defensive problems still exist. The more they tighten things up, the less theyll be sweating these out.

(There were) just a couple little mistakes that we have to get after and learn from, especially late in that game where were protecting a lead. If we do that, well be a little more relaxed, a little more comfortable in the third period trying to go for two points, Toews said. Either way, we found a way to win, and get two points. We just have to be better in those certain areas.

Blackhawks re-sign defenseman Ville Pokka to one-year deal

Blackhawks re-sign defenseman Ville Pokka to one-year deal

The Blackhawks signed Ville Pokka to a one-year contract on Tuesday.

The 23-year-old Pokka played in all 76 regular-season games for the Rockford IceHogs last season, recording six goals and 24 assists.

The Blackhawks’ defensive depth has already taken a hit this offseason, with Niklas Hjalmarsson traded to Arizona – Connor Murphy came here in the deal – and Trevor van Riemsdyk, selected by the Vegas Golden Knights, then traded to the Carolina Hurricanes. While the Blackhawks will probably explore free-agent options this offseason, Pokka could vie for an opportunity at training camp.

Blackhawks don’t extend qualifying offer to Dennis Rasmussen

dennis_rasmussen_qualifying_offer_slide_photo.jpg
USA TODAY

Blackhawks don’t extend qualifying offer to Dennis Rasmussen

Dennis Rasmussen was not tendered a qualifying offer by the Blackhawks, a source confirmed on Tuesday. Rasmussen will become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.

Rasmussen was coming off a one-year deal worth $575,000. He was expected to be among those the Blackhawks extended qualifying offers – the deadline was Monday afternoon – but he was not.

The 26-year-old played 68 games for the Blackhawks this past season, recording four goals and four assists. He gave the Blackhawks some options, as he also played some wing and was part of the penalty kill. But he was a surprise healthy scratch more often than not as the regular season continued.

The Blackhawks will enter this season without Rasmussen and, if Marcus Kruger is traded, the team will have some holes to fill at center.