Hawk Talk: Calm Hawks ooze optimism

Hawk Talk: Calm Hawks ooze optimism

Sunday, June 6, 2010
5:48 PM

By Brett Ballantini
CHICAGO With the momentum of the Stanley Cup Finals having swung completely to the side of the Philadelphia Flyers, is there anything that can comfort the Chicago Blackhawks?

Theres a lot to hearten the team, actually, as the Redshirts reflected during Sundays morning skate and postgame media session.

Every Blackhawk was smiling on the ice. Forward Dustin Byfuglien chirped throughout drills, goaltender Antti Niemi reacted demonstratively toward scores in two-on-one drills at the end of practice, and the chorus of shooters during the drill was loud with cheers and boos for goals and misses.

Hey, one Blackhawk even demonstrated the good sense to chuck a puck 20 rows up in the direction of unpopular anti-Hawks analyst Pierre McGuire.

All year, if you watch us in practice, there are a lot of smiles out there, Chicago winger Patrick Kane said. It shouldnt be any different now.

It wasnt all just grins and giggles on the ice, however. Coach Joel Quenneville kept prospective line changes (including the possibilities of Kane and Jonathan Toews being split up on the top line, Byfuglien and Troy Brouwer flipping spots and Colin Fraser, Adam Burish, or Jordan Hendry being reintroduced to the lineup) well obscured, beginning drills with his standard Finals lines and mixing it up randomly as the skate went on.

Brouwer admitted afterward that the team hadnt been told anything regarding possible line changes for Game 5. Andrew Ladd and Duncan Keith didnt skate, but both are expected to be in the lineup for Game 5.

Kane and his teammates didnt feel that a lineup shuffle would harm the Hawks in any way. Weve all played with different people all year, Crazy 88 said. Splitting up me and Jonny Toews gives Philadelphia more to have to pick and choose from on defense.

As for the pressure the club was supposed to be feeling, it wasnt evident on the faces of the Hometown Heroes.

Theres only as much pressure on us as we want to put on ourselves, Brouwer said. This is a big swing game. Theres no room for nerves.

The Flyers probably feel they have pressure on themselves, too, said Kane, who was at his most subdued in this pregame media session.

Meanwhile, a defensive leader and a slice-and-dice winger kept the circumstances in the proper perspective.

Were in a great situation, defenseman Brian Campbell said. Were playing hockey in June. Its a lot of fun. The veteran they call Soupy also rather charmingly offered a betrayal of how immersed hes been in hockey by pegging todays date as June 4.

If you would have told us before the season that wed be in the Stanley Cup Finals and tied 2-2 with two games still to play at home, we would have been pretty happy with that, Kane said.

And if theres no comfort in the words of the Hometown Heroes, how about a factoid that is undeniably heartening if youre a Blackhawks rooter: In the history of best-of-seven Stanley Cup Finals, teams winning Games 1 and 2 at home as the Hawks did and losing Games 3 and 4 again, Chicago did this are 9-0 in Game 5.

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:

Together again: Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane reunite on top line vs. Devils

Together again: Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane reunite on top line vs. Devils

When coach Joel Quenneville has put Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane together it’s usually been during the postseason.

It’s rare when it happens in the regular season and when it does, it seems like an in-case-of-emergency move. But in this case, it may be more of a get-the-captain’s-production-going move.

The Blackhawks made a few more line changes on Thursday, including combining Toews and Kane, as they prepared for Friday night’s game at the New Jersey Devils. Marian Hossa moved to right wing on the second line with Artemi Panarin and Artem Anisimov. Marcus Kruger and Nick Schmaltz flip-flopped as third- and fourth-line centers. Tyler Motte and Ryan Hartman were the third-line wings while Dennis Rasmussen and Jordin Tootoo were on the fourth line.

Coach Joel Quenneville said the line changes, including Kane’s move to the first line, were because the Blackhawks continue to look for balance. To a point, that’s true; the Blackhawks still haven’t come close to getting that four-line rotation with which they’ve found so much success. But considering how successful the Toews and Kane combination has been for each, you’d have to think it’s to help bolster Toews’ point totals. Toews has just two assists through the first seven games.

“Right now I think Jonny, his production isn’t where you look at his play – we still always like the way he plays, he’s so useful in so any different ways,” Quenneville said. “I think maybe we get more balance on both lines. We’ve been trying a number of different looks in our top two groups there. over seven games we still need to be better in a lot of ways. hopefully we can find it.”

Still, if you can get your top players producing points, it’s worth a try. And Kane and Toews, regardless of how long they’ve been apart, usually click immediately upon reuniting.

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“Yeah, I guess change can be good in this sense. We can probably produce a little bit more offense and have the puck a little bit more throughout the game,” Kane said. “I’ve played with Jonny a bunch before. Obviously, not as much lately. But I’m looking forward to it. It’ll be a fun way to play hockey. Obviously he’s one of the best players in the game, and probably in my mind, the easiest player to play with. It’ll be fun to get back out there with him and try to create something, try to produce and have some fun with it.”

As for that usual second line of Panarin, Anisimov and Kane, remember: as we’ve seen before, it can be put together again fast.

“They get a lot of shifts and a lot of looks. It’s not like we’re too far away from going back to it at any time. It’s always close and available,” Quenneville said. “Maybe we get more balance and a little more scoring across the board.”


- Defenseman Gustav Forsling (upper body) did not skate on Thursday and will not travel to New Jersey. Quenneville is still hoping Forsling can play on Sunday vs. the Los Angeles Kings.

- Forward Andrew Desjardins (lower body) continues to improve. Quenneville said Desjardins could be skating in the next day or so.

- Corey Crawford will start vs. the Devils.