Hawk Talk: Toews, Kane, Sharp line making impact

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Hawk Talk: Toews, Kane, Sharp line making impact

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

By Chris Boden
CSNChicago.com

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.

Blackhawks notebook: A busy draft, free agency and RFAs

Blackhawks notebook: A busy draft, free agency and RFAs

Eight draft picks in about 3 ½ hours. It was a busy Saturday for the Blackhawks, and when general manager Stan Bowman talked that afternoon about the team’s Day 2 haul, he came prepared.

“I have my little cheat sheet,” Bowman said of the paper on which he had written the Blackhawks’ eight newest prospects.

After a few days’ worth of moves the Blackhawks focused on the future, taking nine players over two days at the NHL Draft. It was a successful weekend for the Blackhawks, who hosted the draft for the first time and built up assets, especially on the blue line. Five of the Blackhawks’ nine selections were defensemen.

“One of the things we talked about was looking at the market. There’s a high value on defensemen. We’re not necessarily looking at the draft but our team this year and over the next couple of years; those are the assets that are valuable around the league,” Bowman said. “Look at the trade Calgary made [for Travis Hamonic], defensemen are a valuable commodity. That was a priority coming in and we were able to accomplish it.”

What comes next

The Blackhawks got what they wanted at this weekend’s draft but the focus will soon shift, as free agency opens on July 1. It remains to be seen what the Blackhawks will have cap-wise come a week from now. Currently, according to CapFriendly.com, they’re $1.445 million over the $75 million cap. It’s doubtful the Blackhawks apply the long-term injured reserve tag on Marian Hossa during the offseason. It’s possible they could still trade Marcus Kruger to gain some space. Bowman said, one way or another, “there will be some movement.”

“We’ll bring some players in, I don’t know how many, what position or what level,” he said. “This is where there’s a lot of activity, the couple weeks in the middle of June until the middle of July. That’s when the most changes happen. We’ll go to work, now that we’re past this.”

Wait for it

The Blackhawks also have to decide whether or not to qualify restricted free agents Dennis Rasmussen and Tomas Jurco. Bowman said that’ll be decided by Monday.

“I’ve had discussions with both agents,” he said. “I don’t have an answer right now but we’ll have that worked out in the next day and a half.”

Niklas Hjalmarsson reflects on time with Blackhawks: 'I had the best time in Chicago'

Niklas Hjalmarsson reflects on time with Blackhawks: 'I had the best time in Chicago'

Niklas Hjalmarsson heard some of the rumors, but not to a large degree. The former Blackhawks defenseman wasn’t spending a lot of time on the internet reading up on his potential fate. He figured he’d still stay put in Chicago.

“But when my agent called me about the 10-team list, I understood it was serious. Stan [Bowman] wouldn’t ask for that unless they made up their mind already,” Hjalmarsson said via conference call on Saturday. “That’s when it hit me that I’m probably not going to put the Hawks jersey on anymore.”

Indeed, Hjalmarsson’s next jersey will be that of the Arizona Coyotes, who acquired him in exchange for defenseman Connor Murphy on Friday. Hjalmarsson’s departure marks the end of the line for another Blackhawks core player, and this one is jarring in how it will change the team’s defense.

Speaking of change, Hjalmarsson faces a lot of it himself now. Sure, there’s the obvious change for a guy who’s played his entire career in one place. It’s new surroundings and a new team, on which he knows former Blackhawks teammate Antti Raanta and fellow countryman Oliver Ekman-Larsson.

But the Coyotes have dealt with a lot of upheaval lately. Goaltender Mike Smith is gone. So is veteran Shane Doan. On Thursday, head coach Dave Tippett and the Coyotes parted ways.

“They’re on a rebuild, a lot of new faces, lot of changes,” Hjalmarsson said. “It’s tough to know what to expect but I think they’re a hungry organization that wants to win like other teams. I’m looking forward to try to contribute with playing my game, just try to get the organization back in the playoffs.”

Hjalmarsson should find chemistry with Ekman-Larsson – the two were teammates in the Winter Olympics in Sochi – and Hjalmarsson will likely play a bigger role with the Coyotes. Arizona will probably look to Hjalmarsson a lot during its rebuild, given his Cup-winning history.

The first 24 hours were full of mixed emotions of Hjalmarsson. With his limited no-move clause, he was always a likely candidate to be moved from a Blackhawks team laden will full no-move clauses. He’s turning a page, but he won’t forget his time in Chicago anytime soon.

“I’m trying to always be a positive guy,” Hjalmarsson said. “I spent my whole 20s in Chicago, 10 unbelievable years. I didn’t think I’d win three Cups. Hopefully I can get one more before my career is over. I had the best time in Chicago, enjoyed every single year, playing in front of the best fans in the league. I’ve been spoiled. Now it’s time for me and my family to move on and seize the opportunity in Arizona and create some new fond memories.”