Patience replaces panic during Blackhawks surge

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Patience replaces panic during Blackhawks surge

When the Blackhawks were in Nashville last week, coach Joel Quenneville talked about the Blackhawks response, or lack thereof, when they trailed.

We havent responded to being scored on, he said at the time. Lets try to be tight in that area. If we do get scored on, lets not get distracted.

At the time, the Blackhawks were plenty distracted by that winless streak. When teams struck first they werent responding well or sometimes even at all. But as the Blackhawks have built another winning run they have been responding the right way.

The Blackhawks have trailed 1-0 in their last three games but have won each of them; in fact, theyve held their opponents to just that first goal in each, too. Its a distinct change since the Blackhawks losing streak, when a quick one-goal deficit usually turned in to much more, fast.

So whats been the difference in this winning streak?

Weve done a better job of just sticking with the system and playing our game, defenseman Brent Seabrook said. Wed think we had to get it back right away and wed get off track and loosen everything up. And if we didnt score theyd get quality chances and it seemed like it snowballed from there.

Quenneville said the Blackhawks have practiced patience more.

Weve stayed with it and maybe we dont have to chase and feel we need a goal right away. When we do that we get on the wrong side of pucks, he said. Theres confidence in our team now, where before when we were in that stretch and wed get scored upon, you could see and feel the team sag. It was noticeable on the ice and the bench. But weve kept our composure in our games.

It took a little longer to get leads on some of these guys, Quenneville said. But we got the response we like.

Yes, it took the Blackhawks until the third period to take leads on both the St. Louis Blues and Detroit Red Wings. But they got them eventually, and what helped them greatly was not giving up more than that one goal to each team.

You look back at bad losses: in Edmonton we get down a goal or two and we try to play a chuck-in game, run-and-gun, and thats not how we want to play, Viktor Stalberg said. The last couple of games weve been sticking to the system and it seems to be paying off. Were slowly taking over games, getting momentum and chances and getting scoring from all our lines which has helped out a lot.

The Blackhawks have been finding the right answers in their victories. Sure, theyd love to avoid any deficit, even a 1-0 one. But when theyve fallen behind lately, they havent been panicking.

Theyre responding.

Through those nine games we were taking high risks and they werent paying off, Bryan Bickell said. Even though were down one or two we just have to stick to the system. Its been working out great and hopefully we keep on doing it. Its a lot more fun to win than lose.

Ed Belfour reflects on fulfilling 'childhood dream' of playing for Blackhawks

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AP

Ed Belfour reflects on fulfilling 'childhood dream' of playing for Blackhawks

While Troy Murray was attending summer school at the University of North Dakota he was also working out in offseason skates and practices there. Getting goaltenders for those skates wasn't easy. But a guy from Carman, Manitoba would drive down to Grand Forks, N.D., play in those games and then drive back home that night.

That guy was Eddie Belfour.

"He'd come in, put his gear on, and we thought this was just some kid that came from somewhere and, ‘Hey, thanks for coming, kid.' Little did we know, that's how he was making himself better," said Murray, who would later play with Belfour with the Blackhawks. "He walked onto UND, made there and the rest is history in how good he was at the collegiate level and as a pro."

The drive was there for Belfour then and it lasted throughout his career, which included eight seasons with the Blackhawks, a gold medal with Team Canada in the 2002 Olympics and a Stanley Cup with the Dallas Stars in 1999. On Thursday night the Blackhawks honored Belfour in their latest installment of "One More Shift."

For Belfour, it was a chance to be back where it all started – "it's always emotional coming back to Chicago. I had a lot of great times here," he said – with his favorite childhood team.

"The fans are always fantastic for me here in Chicago. I'll never forget the "Eddie, Eddie" chant. They're the ones who started it," Belfour said prior to taking his shift. "For me, getting a chance to play in Chicago stadium in front of the fans and how close they were and how loud the building was and the anthem was amazing. It was boyhood dream come true."

Ask Belfour's former teammates how best to describe the goaltender and the answer was pretty unanimous: intense.

"Intense is a good word. I think competitive is a really good word, too, because he was one of the few guys, few goalies who took working out very seriously [then]," Steve Konroyd said. "He used to train for triathlons, and this was in the late 80s, early 90s. For NHL players that was probably odd, but for NHL goaltenders that was crazy. He was ultra-competitive, different in ways but in a good way. He was a real character."

Denis Savard said Belfour's preparation for games was, "second to none."

"He always came prepared for a game, from focusing on that night and sharpening his own skates. He'd work on his own skates after practices sometimes for two hours. He was very meticulous about everything," Savard said. "We already know goaltenders are on their own program with how they prepare, but he was a special one. He was a battler, he was a winner and he was a great goalie for a long time."

Murray would face Belfour in 1996, when Murray was with the eventual Stanley Cup-winning Colorado Avalanche and Belfour was still with the Blackhawks. Patrick Roy got the best of that postseason series (Belfour led the Stars past the Avalanche in 1999 and 2000 playoff matchups). But Murray remembers Roy's confidence no matter who was in the other net, and Belfour had that same mentality.

"You need that as a goaltender. You want that challenge," Murray said. "You have to have that mindset because if you think you're second best, you're not going to succeed. That's what drives all these great players and Eddie had that mindset."

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For Belfour, those Chicago days were bittersweet. His first trip to the Stanley Cup final came with the Blackhawks. There were a lot of great times. There were a lot of tough times. But it was all worth it.

"Going to the Stanley Cup final was awesome to do in my first couple of years. Unfortunately, we didn't win and that's probably my biggest regret is that we didn't play well. It still haunts me some days," Belfour said. "But that happens sometimes when you're a younger player and you learn from it and get better. That's what I tried to do."

Belfour's body of work speaks for itself. The kid who first started honing his craft in pickup games at North Dakota had a tremendous NHL career. As for that competitiveness, he's still got it – even in jest.

"I was joking, ‘If I'm doing this [One More Shift], I gotta play at least five minutes,'" he said.

Blackhawks, Tanner Kero agree to two-year contract extension

Blackhawks, Tanner Kero agree to two-year contract extension

The Blackhawks have agreed to terms with Tanner Kero on a two-year contract extension that runs through the 2018-19 campaign, the team announced Thursday.

Kero, 24, has five goals and seven assists in 38 games with the Blackhawks this season, along with six goals and nine assists in 55 games across two seasons.

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He has become a reliable, versatile forward on the bottom six for Joel Quenneville and has also played a role in the team's penalty-kill unit that has been terrific in March after a rough start to the year.

Kero signed a two-year deal that carries a $667,500 cap hit with the Blackhawks on April 2, 2015, as an undrafted free agent.