Hawks make it eight straight with win over Leafs

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Hawks make it eight straight with win over Leafs

Saturday, March 5, 2011
Posted: 9:11 p.m. Updated: 10:15 p.m.

By Tracey Myers
CSNChicago.com

TORONTO You dont win eight consecutive games without doing a few things right.

Right now, the Chicago Blackhawks are doing a lot of things right.

The Blackhawks got goals throughout their lineup again and Corey Crawford was stellar again as the Blackhawks won again, this time a 5-3 decision over the Toronto Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre on Saturday night.

The Blackhawks, who have now collected points in 12 of their last 13 games, are still fourth in the Western Conference with 80 points. Theyre two points ahead of Phoenix and just two behind San Jose, which played late Saturday against Dallas.

If there was any uncertainty coming out of Saturdays game it was the status of defenseman Duncan Keith, who took a shot to the right hand in the third period and missed the last several shifts.

Im feeling like I would have played if I felt better, said Keith, who remained on the bench through those final minutes. Were going to look at it (Sunday) and see how it is.

The Blackhawks were on the offensive attack early and often again on Saturday. And after so many games where just their top line was scoring, now its everyone. Marian Hossa scored 70 seconds into the game off a bad Toronto pass, and Michael Frolik converted another Leafs miscue about three minutes later. Jonathan Toews continued his torrid streak, scoring his 27th goal to put the Blackhawks up 3-0 after one.

Toews now has a nine-game points streak and seven goals in his last five games.

Viktor Stalberg and Bryan Bickell scored for the Blackhawks, who took a 5-1 advantage after two.

Our guys, its incredible the way were scoring goals, said Crawford, who stopped 30 of 33 for his eighth consecutive decision. The only thing is, when we get up by a couple, not to just let it go and try and stay focused and battle for every shot. This is another huge win for us.

The Blackhawks did have their skittish moments in this one, as would be somewhat expected for a team thats played five games in seven days. When they made mistakes, Crawford was there to clean up the mess.

He was great, especially in the third period, said coach Joel Quenneville. (He made) big saves, the save on the (Mikhail Grabovski) penalty shot and a couple right down the gut. He was huge.

Crawford said he was feeling a little fatigue on Saturday.

I was a little tired tonight. It was really hot on the ice so that played a little factor, said Crawford, who started his 11th consecutive game. It affects everyone. You just have to battle through it and keep working. I feel good.

The Blackhawks are generating offense from everyone and getting great goaltending along with it. They knew this latest stretch was going to be a challenge. With five games in a week complete, its so far, so good.

All year long weve said we needed a roll. Right now were on it, Quenneville said. Lets try to sustain it.

Stalbergs return

Stalberg was rewarded for his work in the second period, when a goal originally given to Tomas Kopecky was later changed to Stalbergs. The left wing, who was traded from Toronto for Kris Versteeg this past offseason, deflected Kopeckys shot for his 10th goal of the season.

I think it was pretty obvious. Kopy would probably like to have it but Im not that nice of a guy, Stalberg said. I dont get too many of those. If I get one, Ill take it.

Ring-ing endorsement

Blackhawks president John McDonough presented a 2010 Stanley Cup ring for the Cup display at the Hockey Hall of Fame here on Saturday afternoon. The ring will is displayed alongside the first Stanley Cup ring from 1893, former Blackhawk and current HHoF chairman Bill Hays 1961 ring, Daryl Seamans 89 ring with the Calgary Flames and Bob Johnsons 91 ring with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Sopel headed to White House

Defenseman Brent Sopel will join his former Blackhawks teammates when they visit the White House on Friday.

Sopel, who was traded from Atlanta to the Montreal Canadiens a few days before the deadline, told canadiens.com on Saturday I got my invite and the team was nice enough to let me go since its between games. Im quite excited for that experience. Ill make my way down to Washington on the 11th and have some fun at the White House. I dont know what the details are yet, but anytime I can see the Stanley Cup with my name on it, it never gets old.

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

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks look to bounce back vs. Lightning tonight on CSN

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks look to bounce back vs. Lightning tonight on CSN

Watch as the Blackhawks take on the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com. Coverage begins at 6 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live. Then stick around after the final buzzer to watch Blackhawks Postgame Live for highlights and analysis.

Click here to watch the game or download the NBC Sports App, your home for live streaming coverage of the Blackhawks.

Five Things to Watch:

1. How will Blackhawks respond to worst loss of season?

The Blackhawks suffered their worst loss of the season on Saturday in a 7-0 rout at the hands of the Panthers. It was the first time they've lost by at least seven goals since 2011 when Edmonton beat them 9-2 and the first time they lost 7-0 since 2001 against San Jose; the Blackhawks lost to Washington 6-0 earlier this year. But by no means was Saturday their worst effort of the season. A questionable interference penalty by Marcus Kruger led to a two-man advantage, which Florida cashed in on with a goal and another shortly after, and it opened up the floodgates. Expect a big bounce-back against a hungry Lightning team.

2. Lightning fighting for playoff lives.

Every game is a must-win for the Lightning with eight games remaining on their schedule. They're three points out of the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference with a game in hand on the Bruins, who currently occupy that spot, but still have to jump the Islanders. The Lightning didn't do themselves any favors by losing three straight in regulation last week, but they've won two in a row and tonight will be the first of a four-game homestand for them.

3. Keep the puck off Nikita Kucherov's stick.

There isn't a hotter player in the NHL right now than Kucherov, who has seven goals and two assists in his last four games. He's had two hat tricks in the past month, and he ranks sixth in the league with 78 points and second in goals with 38. You know how lethal Artemi Panarin's slapshot is from the left faceoff circle? That's Kucherov, but on the right side.

4. Staying disciplined.

The Blackhawks are the second-least penalized team in the league, but they acted out of character Saturday by racking up 30 penalty minutes. They were also slapped with a pair of unsportsmanlike penalties, which isn't something you normally see from Joel Quenneville's teams. Ryan Hartman, who along with Marcus Kruger was penalized for "yapping" at the officials, accepted responsibility for it after the game, and insisted it "won't happen again."

5. Special teams to play key factor?

On the flip side, the Lightning are the second-most penalized team, averaging just over 11 penalty minutes per game. Power plays will be key for the Blackhawks in an effort to keep Tampa Bay's collection of talented young goal scorers off the ice. The Lightning also boast a top-five power play unit with a 22 percent success rate. Both teams would be better served staying out of the box and making this a 5-on-5 battle.

- Check out the latest stats and standings to make sure you’re ready for action

- Channel Finder: Make sure you know where to watch

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- Latest on the Blackhawks: All of the most recent news and notes

- See what Blackhawks fans are talking about before, during and after the game with Blackhawks Pulse

Will lopsided loss shake Blackhawks from their slumber?

Will lopsided loss shake Blackhawks from their slumber?

The Blackhawks have talked the past several games now about how they need to play better, how they need to get back to their 60-minute game. But even when you tell yourself you have to improve the message doesn't always translate into immediate action. That's especially true if, despite so-so play, you're still managing victories or still eking out a point.

Sometimes, you need a jolt to realize you have to get better. Well, that thud the Blackhawks made in South Florida ought to get their attention. 

The Blackhawks' 7-0 loss to the Florida Panthers on Saturday night, that "ugly, ugly game," as coach Joel Quenneville, is the latest in what's been a mediocre stretch for the team. They've been leaning on their goaltending again (please see Minnesota, Montreal, Ottawa and Dallas games). Or they've been leaning on their ability to wake up in the third period after sleepwalking through the first two. Sixty-minute games and four-line rotations, such a big part of the Blackhawks' success through February and early March, have been absent.

Call it the Blackhawks' mid-March malaise.

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It hasn't been more painful because the Blackhawks have still found ways to get points. Or at least they did until Saturday night, when two "yapping" penalties – Quenneville's (accurate) description of Ryan Hartman and Marcus Kruger's unsportsmanlike calls – started the Blackhawks' demise against the Panthers. Players told the traveling media following the game that this was a wake-up call. It ought to be.

Granted, the Blackhawks' late-season issues aren't as bad as some of their fellow Western Conference teams. The Minnesota Wild are 3-10-1 in March. The San Jose Sharks have lost six in a row. This also isn't the first time the Blackhawks have gone through this late-season mediocrity.

Entering the 2015 postseason they struggled to score goals and lost four in a row (five goals in those four games). It turned out alright. Still, best to avoid bad habits.

Perhaps the Blackhawks are in a bit of a swoon because, really, there's not much for which to play in these final few games. They don't care if they win the Presidents' Trophy (and they probably won't). They're currently in first place by seven points following the Wild's 3-2 overtime loss to Detroit on Sunday. Whether the Blackhawks finish first or second, they'll start this postseason at home. 

So is this panic-inducing? No. Is it a concern? Certainly. The Blackhawks can't start thinking they'll automatically flip the switch as soon as the postseason begins.

The Blackhawks want to get their four-line rotation going again. Artem Anisimov returning in the next week or two will certainly help that. They want to get their overall game going again. The Blackhawks have been telling themselves what needs to be done for a few games now. Maybe they needed a wake-up call. On Saturday, they got it.