Hawks united, centered with mind games on


Hawks united, centered with mind games on

Friday, April 22, 2011Posted: 8:10 p.m.
By Chris Boden
If the Canucks were going to go back to Vancouver after Game Four, the Blackhawks thought they might as well go with them. If the Hawks were coming back home after Game Five, why not make the Presidents Trophy champs add to their miles, too?

Thats a lot cuter and easier-sounding than the reality, but the mind games have certainly begun.

WATCH: Luongo shaves playoff beard

Before we start crowning the defending champs as the next Miracle on Ice, lets keep in mind 44 other teams in NHL history have turned 3-0 deficits to 3-2, and only three have overcome. And besides the 10-1-2 stretch that bridged February into March, the Hawks havent been very consistent this season. They have to be now.

On paper, most NHL executives might take Vancouvers roster over these Hawks. The question now becomes if Jonathan Toews and company can keep a firm hold on momentum while continue raising the doubts of the team theyve KOd from the past two post-seasons.

You compare the last two games to the first three its definitely more fun now, said the captain Friday afternoon upon returning from Vancouver. Weve been in a battle a long time. Things have tilted our way and were playing our best hockey of the year when it counts. Every single guys buying into that. Were saying we have the potential to do something special if we keep going that way, and were not holding anything back.

While Toews has yet to score a goal (three assists) in this series, he continues doing everything else in his job description, and doing it quite well. Hes not letting the personal offensive snakebite get in the way of other things, but as Tracey Myers accurately indicated in her in-game Tweets during Game Five, the chances hes been getting the last couple of games would seem to bode well to join Marian Hossa and Duncan Keith with multiple mentions on the scoresheet.

Hossa started having a greater presence in the Game Four rout, before scoring twice and setting up another in Game Five. Hed already been reminded about scoring a total of three goals in his 26-game Blackhawks career before Thursday night.

Then theres Keith, who has four goals and two assists the last three games. The Norris Trophy winner has alluded to not quite being himself this season, but he provided some clarity upon getting off the team plane at OHare.

This year for mes been frustrating. Ive felt Ive had really good stretches and times where I dont want to say lose my focus, or not interested, but just good stretches and bad stretches. More inconsistency than I wouldve liked. Im trying to have a good playoff here and do what I can to help the team keep going.

Keiths known for his devotion to conditioning, and is a creature of habit during the season, and in the off-season. Last summer was hardly your typical off-season, even if he had the best possible reason for it not being typical.

I like to work out and train a lot, and Im not making excuses but I didnt feel excited coming back to start a season. Once you get a bad start that you dont like or arent happy with, it kind of snowballs in some ways. You think youre getting out of it, and it comes back and becomes a mental thing. It makes you appreciate having a good start.

Hes playing his best hockey, Toews says. Its been awhile since weve seen him play that well. He was just all over the place. There isnt anything he wasnt doing (Thursday night). He was getting into the mix after the whistle. He wasnt afraid to get in there. Hes been deadly with his shot from the point. Whether its the power play or the penalty kill, hes our top guy right now.

Part of the bad start to this series was Raffi Torress Game Three hit on Brent Seabrook, which has sidelined Keiths best friend, frequent defensive partner, and fellow Olympian.

Keith and the Hawks arent admitting to the non-suspension of Torres being a rallying point, just topping off the embarrassment of being on the brink of elimination so quickly. The team hopes to have a better idea of Seabrooks possible return when he takes to the ice Saturday morning, probably before the regular practice.

Were still realistic and know were in a tough spot and facing elimination, said Keith. A lot of our motivation comes from that.

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

PHOTOS: Blackhawks hit the road sporting Cubs attire

PHOTOS: Blackhawks hit the road sporting Cubs attire

The Blackhawks hit the road on Thursday, and they did so in style.

In support of the Cubs participating in the World Series for the first time since 1945, each member of the Blackhawks sported a Cubs jersey and World Series hat as they hopped onto the plane and traveled to New Jersey.

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It may not have been as whacky as Joe Maddon's themed road trips, but it's still a perfect excuse for breaking the dress code just this once.

Check out the photos below:

Together again: Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane reunite on top line vs. Devils

Together again: Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane reunite on top line vs. Devils

When coach Joel Quenneville has put Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane together it’s usually been during the postseason.

It’s rare when it happens in the regular season and when it does, it seems like an in-case-of-emergency move. But in this case, it may be more of a get-the-captain’s-production-going move.

The Blackhawks made a few more line changes on Thursday, including combining Toews and Kane, as they prepared for Friday night’s game at the New Jersey Devils. Marian Hossa moved to right wing on the second line with Artemi Panarin and Artem Anisimov. Marcus Kruger and Nick Schmaltz flip-flopped as third- and fourth-line centers. Tyler Motte and Ryan Hartman were the third-line wings while Dennis Rasmussen and Jordin Tootoo were on the fourth line.

Coach Joel Quenneville said the line changes, including Kane’s move to the first line, were because the Blackhawks continue to look for balance. To a point, that’s true; the Blackhawks still haven’t come close to getting that four-line rotation with which they’ve found so much success. But considering how successful the Toews and Kane combination has been for each, you’d have to think it’s to help bolster Toews’ point totals. Toews has just two assists through the first seven games.

“Right now I think Jonny, his production isn’t where you look at his play – we still always like the way he plays, he’s so useful in so any different ways,” Quenneville said. “I think maybe we get more balance on both lines. We’ve been trying a number of different looks in our top two groups there. over seven games we still need to be better in a lot of ways. hopefully we can find it.”

Still, if you can get your top players producing points, it’s worth a try. And Kane and Toews, regardless of how long they’ve been apart, usually click immediately upon reuniting.

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“Yeah, I guess change can be good in this sense. We can probably produce a little bit more offense and have the puck a little bit more throughout the game,” Kane said. “I’ve played with Jonny a bunch before. Obviously, not as much lately. But I’m looking forward to it. It’ll be a fun way to play hockey. Obviously he’s one of the best players in the game, and probably in my mind, the easiest player to play with. It’ll be fun to get back out there with him and try to create something, try to produce and have some fun with it.”

As for that usual second line of Panarin, Anisimov and Kane, remember: as we’ve seen before, it can be put together again fast.

“They get a lot of shifts and a lot of looks. It’s not like we’re too far away from going back to it at any time. It’s always close and available,” Quenneville said. “Maybe we get more balance and a little more scoring across the board.”


- Defenseman Gustav Forsling (upper body) did not skate on Thursday and will not travel to New Jersey. Quenneville is still hoping Forsling can play on Sunday vs. the Los Angeles Kings.

- Forward Andrew Desjardins (lower body) continues to improve. Quenneville said Desjardins could be skating in the next day or so.

- Corey Crawford will start vs. the Devils.