Goals and fisticuffs: Hawks finish trip on a throne

325896.jpg

Goals and fisticuffs: Hawks finish trip on a throne

Sunday, Nov. 28, 2010
Updated 2:05 AM

By Tracey Myers
CSNChicago.com

LOS ANGELES -- The Chicago Blackhawks had a few items they wanted to get done on this circus trip. Obviously they needed points. They needed to come together on and off the ice and they needed confidence moving forward.

Done, done and done.

Patrick Sharp and Patrick Kane each had a goal and an assist and Corey Crawford won his second game in as many days as the Blackhawks beat the Los Angeles Kings 2-1 at the Staples Center on Saturday night. The Blackhawks wrapped up this long trip with a 4-2-0 mark. They collected eight of a possible 12 points as well as a surge of confidence they want to take back to home ice.

"That was probably our best team game as far as getting through it, sticking together and battling," coach Joel Quenneville said. "Crow was big in the net for us. We met both goals in Canada and California so it was a productive trip."

Crawford was strong once again, stopping 21 of 22 shots -- the only one allowed was on a Kings 5-on-3 power play -- for his fourth consecutive victory. Crawford won three games on this road trip and has certainly earned consideration for more playing time. That could come sooner than later, too.

"We'll consider who's starting on Tuesday vs. St. Louis, but there's a chance he could go again," Quenneville said.

Crawford said he's gained confidence with his recent work but credited his teammates' help.

"They make my game so much easier, taking away passing lanes and pushing it to the outside. That makes a huge difference for me," Crawford said. "We want to start climbing the standings now and this was big for us."

While Crawford was stoic on one end, the Blackhawks' offense did what it needed to on the other. Sharp's 15th goal of the season came on a 2-on-1 with Kane, whose well-timed pass drew Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick out of position and left a gaping hole for Sharp.

Sharp said Saturday was a big step in the right direction.

"There are a lot more games to be played, but we won't be satisfied with winning one night and losing the next," he said. "Friday was a big afternoon, wanted to follow that up with one here. It's something to feel good about."

Kane later scored while crashing the net, as a Tomas Kopecky centering feed went off him and past Quick for a 2-0 lead.

"It wasn't one of my prettiest goals but I'll take it," Kane said of the game-winner. "It hit my stomach and went off. When I see the puck going toward the net I try to get there."

The Blackhawks got what they wanted from this trip. They're definitely feeling more confident now than when they embarked on it. Now they want to continue that trend.

"More than anything we bonded as a team as a group of guys," said Duncan Keith, who assisted on Sharp's goal. "We're just playing better as a team. We're getting contributions from everyone, whether it's a big block, a big save or a timely goal."

Bowman talks

Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman said teams are always talking to each other, and that the Blackhawks are no different there. But as far as making a trade, Bowman said it's not likely right now.

"We're looking more to improve with the group that we have here. We've seen a lot of good signs over the last couple of weeks," he said prior to Saturday night's game. "It's a difficult league to trade in now, mainly because of the salary cap Teams that have cap space don't have a lot of money to spend and teams that have the ability to spend money financially don't have a lot of cap space. It's a bit of a mismatch with moves to be made.

"You make your calls to see how GMs are doing, what's going on with teams. In general, sometimes they'll bring up things they're looking to do," Bowman continued. "I wouldn't say you're calling to make a trade. It's more conversation than anything. Over the course of the year that's how you find out which players on other teams are available."

John Scott gets ready to throw a punch at Kings right winger Kevin Westgarth. Scott left Westgarth with a bloody face as a result of their second period altercation. (AP)Great Scott

John Scott was certainly ready to fight when Kings right winger Kevin Westgarth challenged him to one in the second period. After a few seconds and a dominating Scott performance, Westgarth was bloodied. The 6-foot-8 Scott seemed to tower over the 6-4 Westgarth, and Scott's reach didn't hurt, either.

"It's the height advantage and I have long arms. It's kind of like a monkey-armed baboon," Scott said. "I just swing away. I don't like doing left jab. I just throw big rights. Those jersey jabs don't do anything anyway."

Briefly

Fernando Pisani was out with an upper body injury on Saturday. ... Jordan Hendry was the Blackhawks' lone healthy scratch.

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

Connor McDavid believes Blackhawks prospect Alex DeBrincat will succeed in NHL: 'He's a special player'

Connor McDavid believes Blackhawks prospect Alex DeBrincat will succeed in NHL: 'He's a special player'

Blackhawks prospect Alex DeBrincat is putting up video-game numbers in the Ontario Hockey League.

He ranks first among all players with 49 goals and 104 points, and has done so in only 50 games. That's an average of more than two points per game.

DeBrincat, the Blackhawks' second-round draft pick (No. 39 overall) in 2015 thanks to the Andrew Shaw trade, became the Erie Otters' all-time leading goal scorer earlier this year and on Saturday, he tied Brad Boyes for second on the team's all-time points list with 309. The only player he's chasing now is teammate Dylan Strome, who has 329 and counting.

Connor McDavid, who ranks fourth in Otters history with 285 points, was there for DeBrincat's rookie season when he scored 51 goals and 50 assists. The 20-year-old Oilers captain very much still pays attention to the Otters, and isn't surprised by the heightened success of his former teammate.

"He’s having another amazing season," McDavid said. "No surprise there."

It was easy to suggest DeBrincat's numbers were inflated because he benefited from having a player like McDavid centering his line. But McDavid insists that wasn't the case.

"Honestly, we helped each other," McDavid said. "It was not a one-way street by any means. He finds a way to score goals. My year they were saying, 'Oh, he was just playing with me.' Then the other year, he’s playing with (Strome). He’s playing with Stromer again. To score 50 three seasons in a row is absolutely incredible no matter who you’re playing with or what you’re doing. Absolute credit to him."

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

The numbers back it up, too.

DeBrincat's points per game average has increased in each of the last three seasons: 1.53, 1.68 and 2.08, a significant jump from his second to third season. It's especially impressive when you factor in that he's scored only eight of his 49 goals on the power play this year after combining for 34 goals on the man advantage in his first two. 

Initially, McDavid was a little skeptical when informed that newly-signed winger DeBrincat, who's now listed as 5-7, 170 pounds, would be his new linemate. It didn't take long for that to change.

"He kind of just came out of nowhere," McDavid said. "I remember us signing (him) and looking, and it said he was 5-2, 140 pounds, whatever. The GM at the time, Sherry Bassin, said 'I found you a new winger.' I’m like, ‘That guy is going to play with me?’ Sure enough, he comes in and we kind of have that chemistry right away.

"He knows where the net is. He finds a way to score basically every night. He’s got a great shot. He’s one of the feistiest guys I’ve ever played with. It’s really remarkable about what he’s been able to do."

Size is surely to be the biggest concern for DeBrincat at the NHL level, but players such as Cam Atkinson (5-7), Johnny Gaudreau (5-8) and Mats Zuccarello (5-7) are proving that you can be among the league's best despite being undersized. And the game is evolving into more of an up-tempo style where teams built on speed is becoming the new norm.

DeBrincat's willingness to stick his nose into dirty areas combined with his offensively-gifted ability is a big reason why McDavid believes his former linemate will succeed at the highest level.

"I think well," McDavid said when asked how DeBrincat's game will translate into the NHL. "He’s just got such a drive and such a nose for the net that I don’t think he’s going to be stopped. He takes on guys much bigger. I don’t really know how he does it.

"Especially when he was a rookie and I was playing with him, he’s going into scrums against guys that are 6-5, and you’re on the ice thinking, ‘How the hell am I going to help you?’ He definitely picks his fights. He’s a special person and special player."

Ryan Hartman defends teammate, but fight proves to be turning point in Blackhawks loss to Oilers

Ryan Hartman defends teammate, but fight proves to be turning point in Blackhawks loss to Oilers

The NHL implemented the bye week for the first time this season in an effort to give teams a five-day break before the stretch run of the regular season.

Entering Saturday's game, teams were 3-10-3 coming out of those games with many of those losses coming in convincing fashion.

Despite a 3-1 loss to the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday night, the Blackhawks weren't one of those teams. They appeared to be reenergized more than rusty, and it showed in the opening 20 minutes of the game when they fired off 30 shot attempts (12 on goal) compared to the Oilers' 10 (four on goal).

But early in the second period, momentum shifted after Ryan Hartman came to the defense of teammate Tanner Kero, who was leveled by Oilers defenseman Eric Gryba in the neutral zone.

Hartman skated over to Gryba and dropped the gloves near the goal line, afterwards getting tagged with a two-minute penalty for instigating, five minutes for fighting and another 10 for a misconduct.

"It's kind of a no-brainer for me," Hartman said of sticking up for Kero. "I tried waiting long enough so it wasn't an instigator but it's kind of a judgment call I guess, some refs call it different ways. Unfortunately it ended up in a power play for them, but it's something you've got to do."

Hartman said he and the official had a discussion about the instigator penalty for clarity, which was handed to him due to the distance traveled after the hit.

Hartman said after the game that he respects the decision, but teammates and coaches didn't necessarily agree with the call.

"Thought they both had an agreement," Jonathan Toews said of the fight. "It looked like they were both going to go at it. Don’t think Hartsy jumped him by any means. But I guess just because there’s a previous hit immediately before that, then he got the instigator there."

Said Joel Quenneville: "I don't necessarily know that he was going to start the fight. I think he went over there to talk to the guy, so you lose Hartsy there."

And it proved to be the turning point.

Less than two minutes later, the Oilers capitalized on the power play after Matt Benning's shot ricocheted off Blackhawks defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk's skate and into the net, putting Edmonton out in front first.

They wouldn't look back, hanging on to beat the Blackhawks 3-1, and getting revenge on a team that beat them last week 5-1 in their first game out of the bye.

While it may not have been an opportune time to do it, the Blackhawks appreciate Hartman's game and know more times than not, his energy will result in a positive outcome.

"We haven’t seen a lot of fights this year so, no matter what, it always gets us going, especially in our own building," Toews said. "I think the fans love that sort of thing, too, and Hartsy’s been going after guys who are a lot bigger than him this year. We love that fearless play and definitely helps our guys feed off it."

"Hartsy's a competitive guy," Quenneville said. "We like him to have that a little bit of abrasiveness and unpredictably so there's nothing wrong with that. We like the way he competes and what he brings us."