Hawk Talk: Tension rising in playoff hunt


Hawk Talk: Tension rising in playoff hunt

Thursday, March 31, 2011Posted: 5:25 p.m.
By Chris Boden

Last years Blackhawks were the NHLs best. And they had guys who could irritate with the best of them, either through words, or actions.

Burish. Versteeg. Byfuglien. Eager. Dave Bollands still around, but he wasnt there in the first period on Tuesday night in Boston.

But its that-first period incident against the Bruins that has brought into question whether the Blackhawks are Yap-hawks. Champion Chirpers. Thats Shawn Thorntons claim after he tried to wheel away from an official guiding him and his bloody face towards the Boston bench and get to someone on the Hawks bench, who verbally pushed his button. Thorntons charge comes four weeks after Calgarys Brendan Morrison said the same about players on the Hawks bench as he struggled to get off the ice with a knee injury, from which he has yet to return.

Everybody talks, everybody tries to get under each others skin, said Fernando Pisani, whose skate inadvertently caused the gash as both he and Thornton fell behind the Hawks net. Its that time of the year. Emotions are high, everybody knows whats at stake and guys are just trying to bring an edge to the game. Every team theres always a few guys that do it. Thats part of the game, to try to agitate and get under the skin. To say we have more than any other team? Every team does it.

I think every team does, agreed Bryan Bickell, who works out with Thornton in the off-season and wishes him well. Everyone has their grudges against other teams and different players. They like to joke around with each other. Its all in good fun, but there are times it gets heated. I dont think our teams any different than any other team.

Joel Quenneville seemed pretty surprised by the charge, based on what he sees and hears.

I would say were pretty quiet on the bench," Quenneville said. "I probably yell a lot and Im not yelling at the other players. Thats the voice I hear a lot, getting line combinations going. I dont hear too much other stuff.

Where Quenneville wants to hear a little more noise is from his team scoring goals. In the six games dating to the 5-0 loss in Dallas, his teams managed 10 goals (four versus Florida). His desire for a defensive mindset has paid off, allowing just eight goals since. Marian Hossa, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Jonathan Toews and Brent Seabrook have combined for 21 points, the rest of the roster just nine. So the best players are carrying this team in its victories, but probably need a little help lifting. With Patrick Sharp now remaining off the ice until at least Monday, Bickell became the latest Left Wing Experiment at Thursdays practice, following the brief stints of Viktor Stalberg and Troy Brouwer.

Whether its production, consistencyI dont mind trying things until you think its exactly what youre looking for, explained Quenneville. Hes played there in the past, some big games, important games last year, and gives us some size as well.

You cant sit there and rely on one, two or three guys to provide offense for the whole team. Everyone has to contribute, everybody has to bring something to the table, whether its scoring goals, finishing checks, playing good defense, said Pisani, who is scoreless in a dozen games wrapped around an injury sustained seven weeks ago.

Quenneville knows with two of the top six forwards down at this time of the year, you may not necessarily get all your wishes answered, so hes had to pick a priority for the time being.

We havent scored many goals (the last five games) but weve only given up eight. I like the way were playing defensively. 'Crows' solid in net. Were going to be playing close games, and whether its a timely goal, whether its the power playthere is some production throughout our lineup that were gonna be looking for. Its a tight game and were not gonna have stretches where were scoring five or six every night. Those are good nights, but its tough to get those right about now.

While Columbus played in Washington Thursday night, the Blue Jackets are one of the two division rivals the Hawks face in the last six who wont make the post-season and who will undoubtedly look to make Chicago's road even tougher.

Ya see last night with Detroit and St. Louis (a 10-3 Blues win in Detroit)were fighting for a playoff spot right now and Im sure the Blue Jackets want to pop our bubble, said Bickell. We cant take them lightly. We know theyre out. We just need to stay focused

Corey Crawford will make his 22nd straight start in goal Friday, but is 0-2 with a 3.50 goals-against average this season versus the Jackets, while Marty Turco is 3-0.

I dont think theyre gonna give us anything," Crawford said. "We definitely know he have to go in there with our best game. Its running short here, so we dont have much time.

Last year, they beat us a couple of times this late in the season, Quenneville remembered. They play Thursday night in Washington, so we want to make sure we have a hard pace against them right off the bat. They can score goals and Im sure theyll be excited about playing us. Weve got to be ready and take care of business.

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

Blackhawks still trying to solve penalty kill issues

Blackhawks still trying to solve penalty kill issues

When considering the Blackhawks’ penalty kill, you can look at their 3-3-1 record in two ways: their record is mediocre because of it, or they’re still getting points despite it.

No matter how you look at it, however, the penalty kill’s malaise has to stop.

In seven games this season, the Blackhawks’ penalty kill has allowed 14 goals on 26 opportunities. Through their first seven games last season the Blackhawks were shorthanded 18 times, allowing three goals.

Looking at seasons overall, the Blackhawks allowed 46 power-play goals over 82 games last season. The kill allowed a scant 35 goals during the 2014-15 season and 46 goals in 2013-14.

Yes, the Blackhawks know it’s a big problem and they’ve talked about it and worked on it. So far, they just haven’t seen the results on it. Some have come off faceoffs. Some have come from long distance. Some have come off rebounds. It doesn’t seem to matter what they do: goals get scored. The Blackhawks will keep going back to the drawing board until they restore that penalty kill to its normal success rate.

“We talk a lot about the way we’re forcing it up ice, how we’re forcing it in the neutral zone, forcing entries, how we’re moving together as units, the personnel changes,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “We’ve tried a number of different looks on the back end, as pairs up front. We’re trying to find something that clicks. we haven’t gotten that confidence yet where we’re comfortable with just about any pairs right now. hopefully we can get that stabilized.

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“We know the importance of that influencing the outcome of games and sometimes it can win a game for us. But it’s been a real negative so far,” Quenneville added. “We got through three in a row there. hopefully that’s the start of something positive.”

The Blackhawks killed off the final three penalties they took against the Calgary Flames on Monday night. It was a shot of confidence for a group that needed it, and now they have to repeat that more often.

“We just kept our feet moving. We were working. Our shifts were 20 to 30 seconds tops,” Jonathan Toews said. “When you go that short you have the energy to outwork the power play and make up for being down one man. Yeah, I mean, I think that’s the key right there, and I think our systems fall into place when we’re all moving and we’re all skating the right way.”

Artem Anisimov said those three successful kills were “intense.”

“We were skating. We didn’t give so much time to set up in our zone,” Ansimov said. “It was like, always clear. We cleared the puck 200 feet and it was successful.”

The Blackhawks have been talking “baby steps” regarding their penalty kill the past few games. Killing three in a row off on Monday night could be one, but it means nothing if they allow another one in their next game. The penalty kill is broken. The Blackhawks will keep trying to fix it.

Check out Jonathan Toews' scary Halloween costume

Check out Jonathan Toews' scary Halloween costume

Jonathan Toews isn't doing himself any favors of trying to drop the Captain Serious nickname that has stuck with him since 2008.

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The Blackhawks captain and his girlfriend dressed up for a Halloween party on Tuesday night, and their costumes were on point:

Mr. and Mrs. Dead Serious. 💀👻☠️#happyhalloween

A photo posted by Jonathan Toews (@jonathantoews) on

We wonder how long it took to wash that paint off their face.