Boden: The hot line shouldn't be interrupted


Boden: The hot line shouldn't be interrupted

Friday, March 4, 2011
12:30 p.m.

By Chris Boden

One glance out at the United Center ice at this morning's game-day skate brought a sense of...Hmmm. If not, "Uh-oh."

The league's hottest player right now, Jonathan Toews, and the left wing on the league's hottest line, Patrick Sharp, were nowhere to be found. Patrick Kane skated with whomever would take him along.

Not to worry, however. Head Coach Joel Quenneville indicated afterward that both, along with defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson, were just nursing some aches and pains and are expected to face the Carolina Hurricanes tonight.

"Both of them are just taking a rest from practice, nursing some things," Kane said. "I expect 'em both to be back and be in there."

Corey Crawford will make his NHL career-high 10th consecutive start, though Quenneville admits with three back-to-backs over the next seven games, his workload will be something that's addressed game-by-game.

It's also the beginning of a five-game stretch against the East after playing the last five weeks exclusively against the West, except for one game. The Hurricanes come to town following an emotional home overtime win against Buffalo, which inched them up to 7th in that conference. Tomorrow night, the Hawks open a four-game trip versus a Toronto team that's surged back into contention by going 10-2-4 since the All-Star break. Since the Hawks haven't faced the Canes since last January, when goalie Cam Ward stood on his head against them, newcomer Chris Campoli faced them three times this season with Ottawa.

"It's a young team, high-paced, aggressive. They come at you in waves and you definitely can't take them lightly. This game's just as big for them as it is for us. They've got some guys to key on. If we give them low-percentage chances we'll have success."

"Look at the standings," Campoli's defensive partner, Brian Campbell, said. "We've won six in a row and two points up in the playoffs and we know how quickly it can be taken away. Obviously Carolina's fighting for the playoffs too, so it's a big contest for us.."

"It's a different style out there in the East," Kane added. "A little bit different than what we're used to here in the West. Carolina needs to win, we need to win. It comes down to getting two points."

That's the message Quenneville hopes everyone in his locker room understands.

"You look at where they're at - the same boat. It's a fast team with guys who make plays and score goals. The approach has to be the same as the last four games - the same intensity and attitude. These other teams have a lot at stake as well."

Eighteen-year-old Jeff Skinner leads all rookies in scoring with 48 points, including 22 goals. The 7th overall draft pick last June is tied for the league lead in rookie power play points with 16.

One Week from Today

The Blackhawks will be hanging with President Obama next Friday after the official announcement came down yesterday.

"It's pretty cool," Campbell said. "We're all excited about it and getting to shake hands with the President will be something special. I've got a picture with President Clinton and I want to add to the collection, so I'm looking forward to it."

Kane will be reunited with an old friend.

"For some reason he wanted to talk to me after the (Stanley Cup-clinching) game, and I remember we were doing our team photo with the Cup (at the United Center two days later), and we had to interrupt it for about two minutes. It's pretty exciting. I'll probably bring my FlipCam and take it all in. We should have some good memories."

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

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.”