Hawk Talk: Second season off second chance

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Hawk Talk: Second season off second chance

Monday, April 11, 2011Posted: 7:10 p.m.

By Chris Boden
CSNChicago.com

No matter how much it hurt, the sun was still going to come up Monday.

Turns out, even though it was still overcast in the Chicago area this morning, the new day, and new life, couldnt have been shining any brighter for the Blackhawks. Consider their thank-you note in the mail for the Minnesota Wild, whose coach (Todd Richards) was still fired after their 4-3 win Sunday night over Dallas punched the defending champs ticket back to the post-season. Monday, there was a plane to catch for Vancouver for Wednesdays opener of the best-of-seven first-round playoff series.

Obviously, youre praying Minnesotas gonna win. It was tough after our game, said Patrick Kane, who watched the game at home with his parents, who were in town. You feel like you kind of gave it away, and to have second life, maybe its one of those things we can appreciate now.

I was at home, watching TV with my brother, added last Junes Conn Smythe winner, Jonathan Toews. I was kinda texting Sharpie, and hes like, Whats wrong with you? How come youre not watching the game? I started watching the second half. I honestly couldnt believe it.

For Duncan Keith, the phrase backing-in doesnt apply.

I definitely feel fortunate they (Dallas) didnt win, but at the same time, looking at the standings we deserve to be in. You go by points, we have more points than Dallas. It was definitely nerve-wracking watching that game, hoping they wouldnt get two more points. Having said that, we want to make the most of this opportunity.

The Blackhawks have been the Canucks demon the last two years, sending them into the off-season. Its Vancouvers pressure-cooked opportunity to exorcise the ghosts of the last two springs. Its the Hawks opportunity to approach this series with a nothing-to-lose, underdog mentality. Theyve been dealing with their own pressures the last three months in the wild West just to get back into the playoffs.

We dont spend every day in Vancouver, but definitely when youre there you get the feeling that they feel this is the year for their team, according to Toews. They had a great regular season. Youve got to think theyre putting a lot of pressure on themselves to win the whole thing. We dont feel like the underdog, but its easy to play that role a little bit go out there and try to make things as tough as we can for their team.

Theyre first in the league, and we just snuck into the playoffs, so obviously theyre the team I thinks got more pressure than us as far as trying to get through and win the Cup, offered Keith.

Chris Kamka from our Comcast SportsNet staff researched that since the NHL went to its current playoff format in 1994, there have been nine 8 over 1 seeded upsets, including one in each of the last two years. Back in 2006, the Edmonton Oilers made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final, only to lose in the seventh game to Carolina, still the last team not to make the playoffs the season after winning the title. The only time the Blackhawks were an 8th seed in that format was in 1997, when they lost, four games to two, to Colorado.

If the Blackhawks are to make it ten, theyll have to do it without at least two key ingredients to their success against the Canucks off-season departures Andrew Ladd and Dustin Byfuglien. The latter, in particular, was the Nucks Nightmare. Byfuglien collected six goals and nine points in the last eight playoff encounters, and screened and jostled his way onto goalie Roberto Luongos doorstep, leading to many other goals.

Its a new look, its a new team, said head coach Joel Quenneville. But certainly being around the guys who have that experience theres things that can be related to these guys. Getting (them) exposed to the excitement and the emotions of playoff hockey can raise the pace of that 82-game grind and find that one more hurdle I think that can help us across the board, as well.

Another crucial component was Dave Bollands defense on the high-scoring Sedin twins, increasing their frustration factor as those series have gone on. Bolland missed the last 14 regular season games with a concussion, but returned to non-contact practice Saturday. Troy Brouwer, the Vancouver-area native whos capable of providing a net presence, missed the final three games after sustaining an upper-body injury last Tuesday in Montreal. Both traveled with the team to British Columbia Monday, and Quenneville said he expects both to play at some point in the series.

Other things to Mull-et

Kane said the first thing he did after the Wild win was call his barber, get him to open his downtown shop, and get a fresh mullet, his signature styling during last springs Stanley Cup run. Yes, he has the steps carved into the sides, above the ears. Toews claimed Viktor Stalberg was particularly excited about growing a playoff beard. He might be a candidate for strongest facial showing in this group, following the departures of Ladd and John Madden. But Kane had an interesting theory, stating 20-year-old Nick Leddy sports whiskers of a 38-year-old. Kane thought another 20-year-old, Marcus Kruger, might have the toughest time growing one.

The Hawks recalled four players from Rockford to have available for injury insurance in the playoffs: Forward Jeff Taffe, who played in one regular season game for the Hawks, defenseman Jassen Cullimore, who played in 36 games with the big club before Leddys recall after the first of the year, veteran defenseman Garnet Exelby, and goalie Hannu Toivinen.

The Hawks signed defenseman Joe Lavin, a fifth-round draft pick in 2006 (126th overall) to a two-year contract, beginning with the 2011-2012 season. The 21-year-old captained Notre Dame to the Frozen Four this past weekend.

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

Five Things from Blackhawks-Rangers: Duels and denied goals

Five Things from Blackhawks-Rangers: Duels and denied goals

There are a lot of similarities between the Blackhawks and the New York Rangers. Both have a nice record to start this season and both are getting through recent injuries as best they can.

And thanks to their goaltending, they had a pretty fun little battle on Friday night.

Antti Raanta edged Scott Darling as the Rangers took a 1-0 overtime victory over the Blackhawks on Friday. It was surprising that Raanta got the start, only because he had started for the Rangers on Thursday against Winnipeg. But he’s been hot, he’s good at the United Center in his career and obviously it was the right decision.

The Blackhawks are back at it on Sunday against another team going through its injury issues, the Dallas Stars. Before then, however, let’s look at the Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ overtime loss to the Rangers.

1. A familiar goalie duel. Two seasons ago Scott Darling and Antti Raanta were fighting for the Blackhawks’ backup goaltending spot. So it seemed fitting that they face each other on Friday night. They didn’t disappoint. Each goaltender had his share of stellar stops, many coming in the second period as each team looked for an edge. Raanta got the victory, running his record at the United Center to 15-0-3. The two had a quick, good-natured talk at the end of the game. “It was all friendly,” Darling said. “We were just saying, ‘good job’ and we’re happy for one another.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

2. Kane alright. Patrick Kane got the concussion protocol call in the second period a few moments after he was hit into the glass by Nick Holden. After Kane was called for high-sticking he was sent to the locker room, returning as the Blackhawks went on their first power play of the night at 17:28 of the second period.

3. The Rangers’ successful challenge. Just when you thought the Blackhawks were taking a 1-0 lead the third period (Marian Hossa), the Rangers challenged for offside. They won, nullifying Hossa’s attempt at his 15th goal of the season. Hossa was disappointed, and is frustrated at how some of the rule changes are taking away goals when the league is trying to increase scoring. Coach Joel Quenneville, when asked if he’d like the rule changed if he could, laughed. “Right now? Sure.”

4. A better all-around game. We may be harping on the Blackhawks’ injury situation but when you’re missing three key guys (Jonathan Toews, Brent Seabrook and Corey Crawford) it’s going to alter your game. But the Blackhawks played a strong all-around game against the Rangers and had some good scoring chances. All things considered, and against a very good Rangers team, Quenneville liked what he saw. “We know they’re a dangerous team off the rush, a lot of guys can make plays, a ton of speed. You have to respect that in ways and they check well in their own end,” Quenneville said. “I thought we did some good things. I think on the rush game we did a good job of taking away that danger.”

5. When will the Blackhawks return to health? Yeah, we’re looking ahead a little bit on this one, and we may have a clearer picture by Saturday morning. If Toews and Seabrook are skating and come out of the session well, there’s a chance they could play on Sunday. The Blackhawks have done alright despite the injuries. But you have to wonder when they start feeling a bit depleted.

Rangers win riveting goaltending duel over Blackhawks in overtime

Rangers win riveting goaltending duel over Blackhawks in overtime

When Scott Darling and Antti Raanta vied for the Blackhawks’ backup goaltending job two seasons ago, there was definitely a strong competition. But it was still one built on respect.

“We had no bad blood in that situation,” Darling said on Friday. “We’ve remained friends. He’s having a great season and I’m happy for him.”

On this night, Raanta may have been just a bit happier.

Raanta stopped all 26 shots he saw against his former team, notching his first shutout of this season, and Nick Holden gave the New York Rangers a 1-0 overtime victory over the Blackhawks on Friday night. The Blackhawks are 1-2-1 in their last four games but remain atop the Western Conference with 38 points.

The Blackhawks were missing Jonathan Toews, Brent Seabrook and Corey Crawford in this one. Nevertheless, it was a tight game, one in which both goaltenders were stellar. Darling stopped 36 of 37 shots – Holden’s overtime winner was the first goaltender allowed to New York in two games against them.

Considering the players missing, the Blackhawks will take the point.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

“With or without Toews, you’re always thinking when it’s in the third period and it’s close and getting inside 10 minutes, let’s get it to overtime,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “We’ve seen a ton of overtimes in the league. You gotta get the one point. We’ve had some success trying to get the extra one. Tonight, not, but that’s got to be the mindset.”

The Blackhawks were close to taking the 1-0 lead six minutes into the third period, when Marian Hossa thought he scored his 15th goal of the season. But the Rangers challenged for offside. Upon further review, the goal was nullified.

“Well, obviously that’s a tough one,” Hossa said. “I mean, I didn’t notice it was close to offside but obviously with today’s technology, with this new rule, it’s a game of inches. It’s slowing the game down, I think. You’re getting confused, what exactly the coaches are looking for. They created this new rule and we just have to deal with it. But sometimes it’s more frustrating because the league wants to increase the scoring and right now, I think more goals are disallowed because of this.”

Hartman, who had the pass to Hossa, was also disappointed but agreed with the review’s ruling.

“You get your excitement up a little bit and you try not to get too ahead of yourself when you know they are reviewing it. You just try to see it as both ways, if they do call it a goal, if they call it back,” Hartman said. “Obviously it was the right call. It was just a tough one.”

The Blackhawks will take the point out of this one. Despite the players they were without they played a solid game. They had good, quality scoring chances. Their current backup was just slightly bested by their previous one.

“Both [goalies] were great, both [teams] had excellent looks at the net,” Quenneville said. “We missed some good opportunities on 2-on-1s and they had some good looks around Darling as well. Both guys got their teams to overtime, got a point. It’s a good point if you want to look at it like that. I didn’t mind the way we played but Darls was excellent.”