Hawk Talk: Shut down and score? Check

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Hawk Talk: Shut down and score? Check

Thursday, Dec. 23, 2010
6:22 PM

By Tracey Myers
CSNChicago.com

The Chicago Blackhawks checking line has one big concern when they take to the ice: theyre supposed to stop the oppositions best scorers. And lately, that has been working just fine for Bryan Bickell, Dave Bolland and Fernando Pisani.

But looking at those box scores lately you notice something else. Those guys who are stalling scorers on one end have been the big offensive producers on the other.

Yes, the checkers are on a hot streak. Theyre generating turnovers. Theyre spending as much, if not more time, in the oppositions zone scoring than in their own defending. And the results are speaking for themselves.

So why is the checking line so score-happy right now?

Were just playing it simple and smart, said Bolland, who had a goal and an assist in the Blackhawks 4-1 victory over Nashville on Wednesday. With Bick and (Pisani), we just keep it simple. We dont make anything too flashy out there. We just get the puck and go.

Theyve been going at a clip lately, with Bickells productivity garnering the most bells and whistles. The rookie who went from fourth liner to healthy scratch back to fourth liner to emerging checker has points in seven of his last eight games, including goals in four of his last five. When asked whats led to his offensive outburst, Bickell said whats quickly becoming the Blackhawks mantra: Im keeping it simple.

Bolland has three points in his last two games. Pisani - whos been back for three games - has a point in each one of them. Troy Brouwer, who was on that right side when Pisani was hurt, had points in three of his last four games with the then "Killer Bs" line.

Playing simple has gotten the Blackhawks through this stretch without top scorers Marian Hossa and Patrick Kane, and its benefited that checking line, too. It doesnt hurt that Bickell, Bolland and Pisani had built up some chemistry earlier this season before Pisani was sidelined through early December. The three feed off each other and off whatever the opposition is giving them, which right now seems to be quite a bit.

When you get that assignment you get quality ice time and you get juicier opportunities when youre going out there against top guys, coach Joel Quenneville said. Theyre finding the net.

Bolland said Wednesday night that were finding our way right now, were finding our roles. He was talking about the Blackhawks as a whole right now, but he couldve easily been talking about his own line.

Be it the Red Wings, Kings or Predators offensive threats, Bolland and company are shutting them down. Theyre comfortable with each others game and it shows. And that lines scoring has balanced the Blackhawks and taken pressure off the top line to be the game-in-game-out contributors.

There will probably be some line changes when Hossa and Kane return. That Bickell-Bolland-Pisani line shouldnt be one of them.

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

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The Blackhawks’ starts have been all over the map this season but their finishes have usually been strong. That was the case again on Sunday night as the Blackhawks took a lead, lost a lead and regained a lead for good in their 4-2 victory over the Vancouver Canucks.

This one featured a little bit of everything. So let’s just get to the Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ victory over Vancouver.

1. Jonathan Toews breaks through. If the Blackhawks captain’s confidence was a little shaken with his lack of scoring this season, it should’ve gotten a boost with his Sunday outing. Toews’ goal and three assists were as big for him as they were the Blackhawks, who needed every bit of it late against the Canucks. In his last 12 games Toews has three goals and eight assists. He’s getting there. Said coach Joel Quenneville, “it seems like he was around the puck way more and when he does that, usually good things happen.”

2. Great start. This hasn’t been written very often but it was more than evident on Sunday night. If this wasn’t the Blackhawks’ best opening period of the season it was pretty close, as they broke out to a 2-0 lead against the Canucks. The Blackhawks, outside of a 3 ½-minute sequence without a shot on goal, were tenacious and ready to shoot, taking an 18-9 shots-on-goal edge in that first.

3. Corey Crawford rebounds. Quenneville considered Scott Darling for this game, an understandable thought with Darling coming off a 30-stop shutout. But he wanted Crawford to get back to where he was prior to his appendectomy, and Crawford took a step in that direction on Sunday night. In stopping 25 of 27 shots Crawford got his 18th victory of the season and 200th of his career. Quenneville said Crawford “looked like he was in control.”

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4. Michal Kempny’s tough stretch. When Kempny has been good this season he’s been very good. When he’s been bad... The defenseman was in the penalty box when the Canucks scored their first goal and he was beaten by Bo Horvat on the Canucks’ second goal. Kempny didn’t play the final 14 minutes of the game. Quenneville, who liked what Kempny brought on the team’s road trip, said Kempny just has to work through some things. “Coverage with awareness and knowing sometimes it’s man coverage, sometimes it’s playing the puck and clearing the loose stuff,” Quenneville said. “Defenseman is a tough position as you’re growing and learning it, but the more you play the better you play and I still think he’s making progress.”

5. Brian Campbell gets to keep No. 500 this time. Campbell thought he had his 500th point against the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday night but it was taken away. Well he got it back on Sunday night, setting up Richard Panik’s 11th goal of the season in the first period.