Hawk Talk: Sly leaders emerge, wake up troops

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Hawk Talk: Sly leaders emerge, wake up troops

Monday, Jan. 17, 2011
9:45 PM

By Tracey Myers
CSNChicago.com

Theres something to be said for a good, honest chat. Airing grievances, getting things off your chest, venting; whatever you call it, it can lead to good things.

Just ask the Blackhawks, who got the most out of a little player pow-wow they had after a lousy first period against Nashville on Sunday night. They talked, they hashed things out, heck they couldve screamed at each other for all we know.

Bottom line is, whatever was said worked. The Blackhawks came through with a good second period and a better third period, one that came with four goals and a victory over a division opponent. And heading into this five-day break, they needed that.

Yeah, its something for guys to be loud and to speak their mind in this room, Dave Bolland said. Having guys speak and know whats wrong and whats bothering them is good.

Some players talked. Troy Brouwer said that, but wouldnt specify who exactly the talkers were. Those who werent talking were apparently listening; the words ruffle feathers as much as they stoked team morale.

We just got excited about going out there and getting something done, said Jonathan Toews, who not surprisingly was one of the vocal players. We all knew we had to be better after that first period.

Maybe the Blackhawks have had these players-only discussions in others games this season. Im sure they had their talkers during last seasons Stanley Cup run. Maybe its the same guys. Maybe some of the veterans acquired in the offseason piped up. Maybe guys who were hesitant to talk last season have no problem doing it now.

Whatever the scenario, it worked on Sunday. After a myriad of offseason changes and in-season injuries, the Blackhawks are starting to find their team identity and line chemistry. Theyve also found their voices. Theyll need hard work and health to keep them in the Western Conferences top eight.

Theyll also have to keep talking. When youre trying to get the most out of each other and go on another playoff run, silence wont be golden.

More musings

--Nick Leddy was reassigned to the Rockford IceHogs on Monday morning, but with the Blackhawks not playing again until Saturday, it looks like this was just a salary-cap move. The 19-year-old defenseman has earned nothing but praise from coach Joel Quenneville since being recalled on Jan. 7.

--The checking line guys keep adding offense while denying the opposition. Bolland is on a four-game points streak after adding two goals on Sunday night. He now has four goals and two assists in these past four contests. Bryan Bickell added his 12th goal of the season on Sunday night.

--The NHL All-Star game captains are going to be named soon. Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said earlier this week that he would select Sidney Crosby and Steven Stamkos as the respective team captains. But am I the only one wondering if Crosby even plays in this game? Hes been sidelined with concussion since Jan. 6. The All-Star game is less than two weeks away. Even if Crosby is concussion symptom-free and playing again, does he play in Raleigh? Just wondering .

--Brouwer, who had the tying and game-winning goals against Nashville, was the NHLs third star for Sunday night.

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

Resilient Wild make statement with comeback win over Blackhawks

Resilient Wild make statement with comeback win over Blackhawks

The Minnesota Wild have been chasing the Blackhawks for a long time.

They may not be so far away now.

After falling behind 2-0, the Wild scored three unanswered goals to beat the Blackhawks 3-2 at the United Center on Sunday night, and moved into sole possession of first place in the Central Division and Western Conference with 61 points, and still have four games in hand.

But even the Wild had to remind themselves that they're on the same playing surface as the Blackhawks, who eliminated Minnesota from the playoffs for three consecutive seasons from 2013-15, two of which were en route to Stanley Cup wins.

"We were pretty slow," coach Bruce Boudreau said about the team's first period. "I thought we were in a little bit of quick sand. We watched them play. I think it was a little bit more [we were] in awe. It's the Chicago Blackhawks, we're supposed to be in awe."

When they snapped out of it, the Wild looked like the team that has become one of the NHL's best, having now won 17 of their last 19 games.

Wild nemesis Patrick Kane scored the game's first two goals, but Minnesota displayed the type of resiliency every contender needs by evening it up in the second period thanks to a power-play goal by Nino Neiderreiter — his third goal in as many games — and Chris Stewart, who found the back of the net for the second consecutive contest.

Jason Pominville, who hadn't scored in 19 straight games, registered the game-winner early in the third period to cap off a Wild victory. It's Minnesota's eighth straight win against Chicago, a feat that even its coach can't explain.

"To beat this team eight times in a row is really something," Boudreau said. "I don't understand how you could do it. I wish I would have had that knowledge a couple years ago. But it's a new year and it's just one in a row right now."

That's one of many reasons why the Wild have been so successful this season. They're taking it one game at a time, and no matter what the score is, they continue to play the same way and have the belief they can win any game.

Less than 24 hours before their win over the Blackhawks, the Wild jumped out to a 4-0 lead in Dallas and squandered it in the third period. They found a way to bounce back, however, to take home a 5-4 victory in regulation.

So, how do they keep doing it?

"I don't know," Boudreau responded. "We're supposed to. If you want to win, you've got to come back, right? You got to believe. I think the biggest thing is believing you can, and that's the first step. If you don't believe you can come back, you never come back. If you always believe there's a chance, there's a good chance you can do it."

Said Stewart: "I just think we're a confident bunch. We believe in ourselves. We know we didn't get the start that we wanted, but we got one to crawl back in it and all this team needs is a little bit of life."

There's no better measuring stick than to beat a team in your division that's won three championships since 2010, and has been powerhouses in the West for nearly a decade.

And it's something the Wild hope — and believe — they're in the process of achieving.

"It's always a big rival," Neiderreiter said. "You always want to beat the Hawks. They won a few Stanley Cup in the past few years, and that's something we want to accomplish someday. To do that, we have to make sure we beat top teams like that."

Five Things from Blackhawks-Wild: Start strong, finish fizzles

Five Things from Blackhawks-Wild: Start strong, finish fizzles

Well, that weekend didn't go as planned.

The Blackhawks played a lot better on Sunday night but suffered the same fate as Friday, coming away with no points and losing first place in the Western Conference in their 3-2 loss to the Minnesota Wild.

Let's dispense with the frivolities. Here are Five Things to take away from the Blackhawks' loss to Minnesota.

1. Strong start. The Blackhawks needed to come out strong in this one, mainly because their Friday game against the Washington Capitals was so bad but also because the Wild were coming off a frenzied 5-4 victory over the Dallas Stars on Saturday night. The Blackhawks got the appropriate start, outshooting the Wild 14-8 and leading 1-0 on Patrick Kane's goal. Speaking of which… 

2. Kane with the great evening. The Blackhawks dressing seven defensemen meant one thing: Kane was probably going to get a lot of ice time. That he did, double-shifting with the second and fourth lines in the first period and giving the Blackhawks a 2-0 lead with first- and second-period goals. Kane finished with a career-high 12 shots on goal in 27:09 of ice time. "You know you're going to play a lot. I don't know if [27] minutes is that amount you want to be playing, but at the same time, you're not going to say no when he calls you to go out there too," Kane said.

3. The Wild respond in the second. Minnesota didn't have the best start but they regained momentum and erased a deficit in the second period. It's not that their chances were that much better than the Blackhawks – it was a fairly even period in every way, from shots on goal (16-15 Blackhawks) to overall play. But coach Joel Quenneville didn't like how the Blackhawks played on Nino Niederreiter or Chris Stewart's goals, calling the mistakes made on them, "cardinal sins."

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

4. Quiet night for the top line. Outside of Marian Hossa, the Blackhawks' top line didn't do much on Sunday night. Hossa had two shots on goal. Jonathan Toews had none, as it was another too-quiet night for the Blackhawks' captain. 

5. Minnesota keeps the rivalry edge. Remember those three consecutive springs in which the Blackhawks dispatched the Wild? Well, the past two seasons may not be equal in payback terms but the Wild are nevertheless tilting the rivalry – at least in regular-season games – in their favor. The Wild won all five games last season and took the first of this season, as well. Minnesota made some good offseason moves, including acquiring Eric Staal in July. Full marks to the Wild: right now, they are the cream of the Western Conference crop.