Hawk Talk: Sabres victory was a learning experience

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Hawk Talk: Sabres victory was a learning experience

Sunday, Oct. 17, 2010
2:20 p.m.
By Chris Boden
CSNChicago.com

As works of art go, it was more crayons-on-construction paper than Chagall. More finger painting than Van Gogh. But the beauty of Saturday night's 4-3 win over Buffalo was in the way the Blackhawks found a way. They loaded up their lunch bucket, rolled up their sleeves, and when it was time to punch the clock, they had themselves four points in 24 hours. That's one point more than they had in their first four games.

They went up against an expected Eastern playoff team that's struggled out of the gate, desperate for a win, and kept them down. Most of the game, the Blackhawks' offense that was poetry in motion last season struggled to just pass the puck. Clarification: Pass the puck to a teammate. They were outshot 41-21, not a common sight lately. And they'll have to be better this week, with three games against two teams anxious to prove something against the defending champs -- St. Louis Monday and Friday, sandwiched around Vancouver Wednesday.

The puck possession game and the big advantage in shots on goal that was one of their trademarks last season will take awhile to evolve until the new faces have more time to work together with the guys who've been in this system awhile. This first month that features 13 games in 24 days doesn't allow for a lot of practice time, either. Still, they found a way against a team they should've beaten Saturday night, creating some momentum they hope to build upon this week. Cup returnees set up and scored all four goals. Dave Bolland was stopped on a breakaway in the third, then tried a different move to score on another seven minutes later. Marian Hossa may be one of the NHL's leading scorers, but he also won an incredible battle with three Sabres for a puck in a corner during that third period.

After their three one-goal losses, let's see if that ugly, grinder victory gives them and the other newbies a template for how to get it done when the passes aren't clicking, the bounces and calls aren't going their way, and they're facing extra attackers in the final minutes. With the game on the line, Marty Turco was at his best, too.

There's something to be said about finding ways to win, and it's something this year's favorites like Vancouver and San Jose have to discover consistently. The Canucks went into Sunday night's game with Carolina 1-2-1 and struggling to score despite their depth and firepower. Then, watching San Jose at home versus Atlanta Saturday night, the Sharks jumped to a 2-0 lead, only to lose 4-2. Who helped lead the comeback against Antti Niemi and company? Andrew Ladd scored the first goal, short-handed, charging the net for a rebound and added an assist. Ladd leads the Thrashers with five points and is a plus-3. Dustin Byfuglien scored the game-winner on a power play. And oh, Brent Sopel was a plus-3 on the night. Byfuglien's goal came while Dany Heatley was in the penalty box. Patrick Marleau was sent off after that, hampering the Sharks' attempt to tie. Atlanta was playing the second of back-to-backs on the road.

Two other ex-Hawks are enjoying 4-0 starts with their respective teams: Adam Burish (0 points, plus-3) with Dallas, and Kris Versteeg (one goal, one assist) with Toronto. John Madden? Not so much (0 points, minus-5).

Sunday's demotion of 19-year-old Nick Leddy may indicate a couple of things. The Hawks are still managing the salary cap, unfortunately, and they might be looking for a little more muscle and "jam" against the Blues and Canucks. Leddy didn't seem to do anything too harmful his first six NHL games, and it's plain to see he's a big part of the future. Everyone's been impressed and liked, overall, what they've seen. Still, his Cap hit's over a million dollars, and Jassen Cullimore's is about half of that. Cullimore was drafted into the NHL the same year Leddy was born, but played pretty well Friday and Saturday in a year-and-a-half-long journey back to the NHL since his last game. That leaves three spots on the blueline, at least for this week, for Cullimore, Boynton, Hendry and Scott to battle for. It'll be two when Brian Campbell returns in about three weeks. And maybe one whenever the Hawks decide it's time to bring Leddy back up, no matter what he's making.

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

First goal with Blackhawks 'a release' for Tomas Jurco

First goal with Blackhawks 'a release' for Tomas Jurco

Tomas Jurco's reaction to his first goal on Monday night was as much celebration as a little bit of relief. The forward, acquired by the Blackhawks about a month ago, had had a few great scoring chances in recent games but just couldn't capitalize.

Finally, he got that first of the season against Tampa Bay.

"It's kind of a release, you know?" Jurco said on Wednesday. "I've had a lot of good chances and it would just never go in for some reason. Obviously I'm very happy that it went in and hopefully this is the start of, I would say, more luck for me."

Looking for consistency in his own game as well as a consistent spot in the lineup, Jurco was looking for a boost of confidence. Getting that first goal could be part of it, as a bit of a weight disappears with that zero in the goal column. 

"That's a hurdle that can be in the back of your mind a lot and all of a sudden it could be a nice release," coach Joel Quenneville said of that first goal. "He's progressing in our team game, technically. Whether it's his pace of play or going to the right areas quickly, we're looking for progression. We saw it [Monday] night and I think he'll continue to get better off that. But certainly that should help him get confidence as we go along here."

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Jurco's been around the net, something the Blackhawks always encourage, for most of those scoring opportunities. Perhaps some of that puck luck wasn't quite there. But Jurco is gaining confidence in recent games, and getting that goal could boost it that much more.

"I've always said, especially in my case, scoring helps that confidence come easier. It brings that fun to the game," Jonathan Toews said. "Maybe if you're not feeling it or not playing with high energy, at a certain point in a game when you score, for some reason you get that jolt, you get that jump. For [Jurco], he's been playing well when he's been in, and no doubt that scoring a goal like that can help boost confidence and help him find his game, which we know he has and will continue to show."

The scoring hurdle has been cleared and Jurco is gaining confidence. Will he carve out a consistent spot in the lineup? Quenneville has some options through the bottom six. That, coupled with the Blackhawks playing inconsistent hockey lately and missing that four-line rotation, Jurco's been one of several who have been in and out of the lineup. But Quenneville said on Wednesday, "I don't see making constant changes once the [playoffs] begin." If Jurco keeps getting chances and capitalizing on a few, and if he ends up as part of a rotation that's successful again, he could stick.

Jurco waited a little bit for that first goal. He hopes it's just the start.

"You know eventually it's going to go in but it was just frustrating. Another game and another and another with good chances and it just wouldn't go in. So it's a big release," Jurco said. "Hopefully I'll keep going, keep producing."

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