Hawk Talk: Toews, Kane, Sharp line making impact


Hawk Talk: Toews, Kane, Sharp line making impact

Tuesday, March 1, 2011
12:27 p.m.

By Chris Boden

Three weeks ago today, here we sat, the Blackhawks still Stuck-In-A-Rut. They'd just put forth a flat effort in Calgary in a game that was pretty important coming off an encouraging effort, but a loss, in Vancouver.

So Joel Quenneville did two things: He skated his team up and down the ice for about an hour in Edmonton on an off-day, giving them a workout they didn't provide the night before. And, amidst a season of inconsistency, he went with something he could pretty much bank on. He put Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and Patrick Sharp together on the same line.

READ: Blackhawks acquire defenseman Campoli

The risk in putting all those proverbial eggs in one basket was not getting enough production from the other three lines. It was also about that time he shuffled his defensive pairings to ease some of massive workload off Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook.

That gut move probably has nothing to do with the bleeding ulcer that soon victimized the head coach. If anything, the decision has to have him feeling better with the results he's received. It hasn't been the lone cause of this recent warm-up and season-high five-game win streak, but as they prepare to face Calgary for the first time since, they're 7-1-2 in the ten games since walking out of the Saddledome saddled with continuing frustration and uncertainty.

The way the West is, they're not out of the woods, but things have gotten fun again as the Blackhawks have answered the pressure - their best players have started being their best players.

In the 10 games, Toews, Sharp and Kane have combined for 14 goals and 40 points. The rest of the roster's contributed 18 goals, which will do the job if that pace should continue. Marian Hossa has a four-game goal streak. But there's no question the leaders of a stretch that also includes banking 10 of a possible 12 points on the road is the Toews Trio.

READ: High Five: Red-hot Hawks, Toews fly by Wild

Let this also be an all-points alert for every February to come in Toews' career: He has 49 points in 41 NHL games in the second month of the calendar year, not to mention an Olympic Gold medal on a team in which he was named the tournament's Outstanding Forward. Dating back to the January game prior to the All-Star Game in which Kane teased his team selection and Sharp was named MVP, he's piled up 23 points over 14 games, nine multi-point contests. Since one two-game blip when he slipped off the scoresheet, Toews has 11 points over six points. Tuesday, the NHL named him the league's 1 Star of the Month.

With numbers like that, do we really have to March on to a new month?

Deadline Doings

...or maybe not doings...

Besides the Kings' acquisition of Dustin Penner, no other West contenders were really active, save for the Columbus-Phoenix trade.

Alex Goligoski has had an impact in Dallas, but they were shutout on a Deadline Day in which there was about half the activity of a year ago. They held onto Brad Richards, and maybe they think that'll be a positive vibe in the room, removing any doubt whether he'll be there the rest of the way.

Nashville made a strong move awhile ago with the acquisition of Mike Fisher, but surprisingly, nothing else for a team needing a jolt, not to mention a banged-up roster needing bodies.

Minnesota also did nothing, perhaps hoping the return of Mikko Koivu and Guillaume Latendresse in a couple weeks will provide a boost. They're hoping they're still in it by that point.

San Jose was cash-strapped and sat tight after some earlier depth moves has coincided with them playing better, along with Antti Niemi doing a flashback to 2010.

Vancouver decided to tinker with depth up front, including acquiring an agitator. Was it necessary? Will they really need that at the time of year they're pointing towards?

Anaheim made several moves over the past few weeks, but the bottom line is, they need Jonas Hiller healthy.

The Hawks are a stronger, deeper team with Chris Campoli out there. Now they need to avoid further injuries (is that possible?), and Michael Frolik to find the net. Once he does, let's see what happens after that.
Remember -- 8:00 start Wednesday night, 7:30 Pregame on Comcast SportsNet

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

Five Things from Blackhawks-Maple Leafs: Richard Panik stays hot

Five Things from Blackhawks-Maple Leafs: Richard Panik stays hot

This Five Things was headed for a lot of negativity before the final three minutes of regulation. But thanks to the Blackhawks’ third-period comeback, this one won’t sting as much as Friday’s installment.

So while you all celebrate the Cubs going to a World Series, let’s look at Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ 5-4 shootout victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs.

1. Waking up just in time. The Maple Leafs haven’t played their best hockey in third periods – entering Saturday’s game, they’d been outscored 6-1 in that frame. But for 17-plus minutes of the third it didn’t look like the Blackhawks were going to take advantage of that stat. But they would, salvaging a point out of nowhere with two goals within a minute (Artem Anisimov at 17:32 and Richard Panik at 18:32). Better late than never.

2. The Richard Panik show continues. The forward said he doesn’t think about Toronto anymore, that it’s all about the team he’s with now. But looking at his celebration on his game-tying goal late in the third period, there had to be a little motivation to score against the Leafs, right? The Blackhawks don’t care who the opponent is, and Panik now has six goals to start the season.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

3. Power play fizzles. Ah, thought we were going to talk about the other special teams? In a second. The bigger problem on Saturday was the Blackhawks’ advantage, on which they went 0-for-6. It took until overtime, when their fifth power play was a 4-on-3 for them to really generate anything against the Leafs.

4. Late-period goals hurt. The Blackhawks looked set to enter first intermission with a 1-0 lead but Tyler Bozak scored with just 14 seconds remaining. They could’ve had a 2-2 tie entering the second intermission but James van Riemsdyk scored with 1:44 remaining in the second. Again, the Blackhawks overcame that. But coach Joel Quenneville talked about the loss of momentum in games, and here are two examples of it.

5. The Auston Matthews show. The Leafs phenom didn’t score a goal on Saturday but there’s no doubt he had his effect. His speed was especially on display on William Nylander’s goal; Matthews drew several Blackhawks and Nylander had a rather open net on the rebound.

Blackhawks rally to beat Maple Leafs in shootout

Blackhawks rally to beat Maple Leafs in shootout

As the clock ticked down to under three minutes remaining in regulation, the Blackhawks were looking at more negatives than positives.

Their power play wasn’t working. Their penalty kill was 1-for-2 and they were trailing 4-2 to the Toronto Maple Leafs. But just when it looked like the Blackhawks were headed for their second consecutive loss, they pulled out a comeback.

Richard Panik scored the game-tying goal against his former team and Artemi Panarin scored the shootout winner as the Blackhawks came back to beat the Leafs 5-4 on Saturday night.

Tyler Motte scored his second goal in as many nights and Artem Anisimov had two goals. Scott Darling stopped 30 of 34 shots through regulation and overtime. The victory didn’t erase some of the issues the Blackhawks still have, some of which showed in this one, too. But it brought some needed relief.

“It was a big win in a lot of different ways,” said Duncan Keith, who had two assists, including the primary one on Panik’s goal. “I know it’s still early but I think we were able to put some pressure on there. And anytime you get big goals like that late in the game when they’re needed, it’s a confidence boost and something we can build off.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

The end looked like it was going to be frustrating, especially after William Nylander’s second goal of the night gave the Leafs a 4-2 lead about five minutes into the third. But Anisimov scored his second goal of the evening with 2:28 remaining to pull the Blackhawks to within 4-3. Just one minute later, Panik scored his sixth of the season to tie it 4-4.

Panarin’s shot in round three of the shootout, coupled with Darling stopping Mitchell Marner’s wrist shot, sealed it.

“Obviously we were down 4-2 and came back against a great team. That helps our confidence,” Panik said. “Everybody’s pumped about a win so that’s a good sign.”

The Blackhawks will take it but they know they had their problems in this one. Their power play went 0-for-6. That included two 4-on-3 opportunities in overtime. They allowed another goal on their penalty kill, although they did snuff out another Toronto power-play opportunity in the third period.

“It’s one,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “We need several, several, several to get excited. But certainly that was, we’ll say, timely.”

The Blackhawks still have a long way to go this season. That penalty kill still needs work. They want more consistent play. But considering how this was looking with about three minutes remaining in regulation, they’ll take it.

“We’re certainly fortunate to come back in a game like that,” Quenneville said. “There have been a lot of comebacks in the league this year and we’ve given up some leads ourselves. That was a little different way of going about it. There are some positives but more so how we played in the third period. But we still lose a lot of momentum in the game. That’s what we’ve got to shore up.”