CSN Sets Record


CSN Sets Record

Monday, April 19, 2010
8:31 PM

By Chris Boden

Game 1 lived up to the concerns about this matchup I wrote about last week.

Game 2 lived up to my belief the Blackhawks will win this series.

But just as the Hawks and their Nation had to tell themselves after Friday night it was just one game, they must also keep that perspective after two games. It's the Hawks' job to do here in Music City in either Game 3 or 4 what those pesky Preds managed to do in the Windy City opener.

Sunday night's game reminded me of another recent 2-0 game viewed by many as "must win." Back on March 23rd, after losing a third period lead and fallng in Phoenix three nights earlier, they rematched with the 'Yotes at the UC and locked down to halt their nine-game winning streak and open up a four-point lead on the hard-charging Dogs in another Antti Niemi shutout.

Speaking of whom...

Is it possible to be any more impressed with how the two playoff rookies in the net have performed? The Twin Finns have each allowed two goals over two games. The NHL playoff stats through the weekend listed Niemi and Rinne as 1-2 in both goals-against average and save percentage. Our soft-spoken shy guy has mental toughness that seems to grow every game, bouncing back after Friday's funky game-tying goal, and the winner many argue wasn't really his fault. He keeps to himself, but after sharing with reporters last week he isn't into media or public opinion, he's probably pretty smart, too.

His counterpart is either on an unbelievable roll, or he's turning into one of the best in the West. His reflexes and glove hand for a guy who's 6'5 are freaky fast. I've written before how I'm not a card-carrying member of the Luongo and Nabokov Fan Clubs. If I had a second choice right now in the conference after Ilya Bryzgalov, I might just take Rinne. Quick and Anderson have joined Niemi and Rinne in not letting any first-time post-season jitters interfere with their performances. Like his teammates around him, Rinne gets to settle in to a more comfortable crease at Bridgestone Arena for 3 and 4. The way he's performed so far, I wouldn't mind seeing the Hawks try to make him a little uncomfortable - not just with traffic, but as Joel Quenneville calls it, a little "abrasiveness" to see if it gets him off his game. Maybe see Big Buff down thereat least on the power play to reprise the role he so effectively filled last season. Don't be surprised if the Preds try that strategy out on Niemi, too.

Lost in some of the relief over the Game 2 win was the fact that Nashville's leading sniper didn't play, and was pretty invisible in Game 1. 30-goal scorer Patric Hornqvist is still working through the effects of one of teammate Shea Weber's triple-digit-speed slappers into his his chest a couple of weeks ago. If his health returns, and his scoring touch follows before it's too late, he's a key factor the Hawks must account for defensively. Just one of his goals came versus the Hawks in the season series, but 18 of his 30 came after their sixth and final meeting.

Got lots of other stuff I'd love to write about but time for me to dash as fast as I can to the Grand Ole Opry, the Country Music Hall of Fame, and Dollywood.


Rookies finding their way with Blackhawks

Rookies finding their way with Blackhawks

Since joining the Blackhawks, Tyler Motte’s been all over the place in the lineup: third line, second line, top line and back to the third line.

For the rookie, that’s no problem.

“They keep you on your toes, keeps the guys loose. No one gets too comfortable in their spot,” Motte said of the line changes. “Especially me, as a young guy, I like that. coming in every day, you may get a little different taste. Keeps you on your toes, keeps you working hard.”

No, this is not a story about line changes — we’ve had plenty of those and there will likely be more in the future. This story is about how the rookies are handling things in this very early season, be it taking on responsibility handling the ups and downs and working through those line changes.

For the most part, the young forwards and defensemen have done all right. Michal Kempny has been solid, and should be back in the lineup Friday night when the Blackhawks face the New Jersey Devils. Gustav Forsling was doing fine prior to suffering an upper-body injury against Calgary on Monday night. He’s out against the Devils but could be back on Sunday vs. the Los Angeles Kings.

As for the forwards, Motte, Nick Schmaltz and Ryan Hartman have been in the lineup for most or all of these early games. Be it the higher level of play or the speed, they’re adjusting as they go.

“I just think obviously the first couple of games you’re nervous. Playing against the best players in the world, it’s definitely a big step. But as the games go on you get a better feel of what to do with the puck and you realize you have a little more time than you think when you have it,” Nick Schmaltz said recently. “I think I’m just slowing the game down and just trying to play my game. I feel more comfortable out there every shift, every game.”

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Growing pains are expected. Coach Joel Quenneville said it’s about how the young guys adapt to everything.

“With all of them, basically, we’re looking for consistency. That’s how their games are going to get better, because they do have some good attributes that have them here,” Quenneville said. “From there, let’s get to where they’re getting better, and that’s with the little things and with the pucks and that intensity that grows knowing that’s what this league’s all about. The guys who work harder come up with more pucks.”

Hartman already knew what to expect, given he made his NHL debut in February 2015. He certainly knew the physical requirements of the game immediately — just YouTube his big hit, on his first NHL shift, on former Devils forward Dainius Zubrus.

“You start to learn what to expect,” Hartman said. “If it’s a certain team you’re playing against you know how the game’s going to go. The speed of the game and the systems, too, are a big thing with Joel. After playing however many games I’ve played now, it all comes together.”

Every player, regardless of experience level, has to adjust and roll with changes, be it lines or responsibility. For the veterans, maybe it becomes a bit of old hat. For the rookies, they’re learning. And contributing. They’ll get there.

“Starting from the preseason the games were fast, physical. You get a little different taste, a little different strategy every night, depending on who you’re playing where you’re playing,” Motte said. “It’s been fast, it’s been intense. We’ve had some tight games which is all expected. There are no easy games in this league. You just have to go compete, do your best to win.”

PHOTOS: Blackhawks hit the road sporting Cubs attire

PHOTOS: Blackhawks hit the road sporting Cubs attire

The Blackhawks hit the road on Thursday, and they did so in style.

In support of the Cubs participating in the World Series for the first time since 1945, each member of the Blackhawks sported a Cubs jersey and World Series hat as they hopped onto the plane and traveled to New Jersey.

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It may not have been as whacky as Joe Maddon's themed road trips, but it's still a perfect excuse for breaking the dress code just this once.

Check out the photos below: