Youth movement serves Wild

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Youth movement serves Wild

Jimmy Hayes and Andrew Shaw have been playing so well that coach Joel Quenneville admitted theyre both very deserving of staying a while.

That trend continued on Thursday.

Hayes had a power-play goal and an assist and Shaw added his second goal this season as the Chicago Blackhawks beat the Minnesota Wild 5-2 at the United Center on Thursday night. The Blackhawks, who moved back to first place in the Central Division and second in the Western Conference, have won two straight and have gotten points in their last three games.

Dave Bolland had two goals a power-play score and an empty netter and an assist. Viktor Stalberg added his 13th goal of the season, a new career high.

It was another impressive night for the rookies, who continue to log good minutes and contribute in every capacity the two combined for seven of the Blackhawks 24 hits.

That was a big goal by Shaw early on. He was dangerous off the rush, hes smart and keeps himself in the play, coach Joel Quenneville said. Jimmy scored a big one for our power play which wasnt pretty up to that point. We liked our contributions.

The Blackhawks will have to make choices soon, however, as Marcus Kruger should be back this weekend. But Shaw and Hayes are nevertheless making statements to stay.

After Devin Setoguchi gave the Wild an early 1-0 lead the Blackhawks turned it up offensively, scoring four consecutive goals. Shaw started it, and Hayes added his power-play goal off a pretty Bolland pass.

Jimmy is a big body in front, as you guys can tell, Bolland said. When he stands in front I think its tough to move him around. And I know when youre playing against a big guy in the defensive zone it is tough.

The Blackhawks got those across-the-board contributions theyve been looking for tonight. Whether it was good defense, different names on the score sheet or scoring on that struggling power play they went 2 for 3 tonight the Blackhawks were doing all the right things.

It was one of our more complete games from start to finish and a sign that were learning from recent mistakes, said defenseman Steve Montador, who had two assists. Theyre a tough team to play because they make you play a patient game and we wanted to not sit back and wanted to play an energetic game.

Michael Frolik also had two assists, as 10 different Blackhawks garnered a point against the Wild.

The Blackhawks have a tricky weekend coming up, with back to backs against Detroit on Saturday and San Jose on Sunday. Theyve been playing the team game with Patrick Sharp, Marcus Kruger and Daniel Carcillo out of the lineup, and theyre feeling more confident in it.

Things are working in the offensive zone, but youve got to also work in the defensive zone to get those offensive chances. I think were coming back, were helping our defensemen there, and were getting some quick outs to get in their zone quicker, Bolland said. I think right now were rolling and its a good thing.

In wake of first-round playoff sweep, Patrick Kane talks about the Blackhawks' 'reality check'

In wake of first-round playoff sweep, Patrick Kane talks about the Blackhawks' 'reality check'

It’s been just over a month since the Blackhawks were eliminated from the playoffs in swift fashion. And as Patrick Kane told WGN Radio on Tuesday morning, the bitter taste hasn’t gone away.

“I think a lot of us didn’t figure we’d be in the situation we’re in right now,” Kane told Steve Cochran and Dave Eanet on Tuesday. “All of us can work this offseason to get better. It’s a long time to wait to get back to that opportunity to play in the playoffs again, so we’ll have a sour taste in our mouth for a while.”

The Nashville Predators, who made quick work of the Blackhawks in the first round, eliminated the Anaheim Ducks on Monday night to earn the first Stanley Cup Final appearance in franchise history. Kane told WGN he’s been watching the playoffs and said Nashville “has a pretty good system going.”

“They come at you, they play aggressive. I don’t think any of us would be a big fan of the way they defend in the neutral zone, just sitting back and playing that 1-3-1. But at the same time they come at you,” said Kane, who added that the Blackhawks “weren’t even close in that (first-round) series.”

“Maybe we had a chance in Game 3 when we were up 2-0, but it was a clean sweep and that’s probably how it should’ve been,” he said. “So now it’s time to regroup.”

When the Blackhawks had their wrap-up media session on April 22, general manager Stan Bowman was asked if some players, having won three Stanley Cups since 2010, had lost some of the hunger. Bowman didn’t buy that and neither did Kane.

“Four sounds a lot better than three, right?” he said. “It’s a long time away and a lot of work, but sometimes you go through those situations and you realize you won three Cups and it’s almost like you’re going to be there again. That’s where the reality check is for us now, realizing how hard it is to get back in that situation, how hard it is to win a Cup or go deep in this league. There’s a lot of work to be done.”

Should Blackhawks' next assistant coach be Joel Quenneville's choice?

Should Blackhawks' next assistant coach be Joel Quenneville's choice?

On April 22, Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman vented his frustrations on the team’s all-too-abrupt exit from the postseason, adding that he and coach Joel Quenneville, “are going to work together to make sure that this never happens again.”

There will be plenty of decisions for the two to mull between now and September, when the Blackhawks convene for training camp. When it comes to the assistant head coach vacancy, however, that might need to be decided with a more one-sided approach. That choice ultimately should be made by Quenneville.

In a recent podcast, Pat Boyle and I discussed the Blackhawks’ need to work together on some upcoming decisions. But with the assistant coach, the head coach has to have the loudest voice. The head coach probably should even have the final vote. The relationship between coaches has to be there because they’re around each other constantly. They’ve got to be on the same page. There has to be trust from Day 1.

As for when the Blackhawks name that assistant, there appears to be nothing imminent. A source said Monday that the Blackhawks and Ulf Samuelsson have been in communication about the job — Chris Kuc of the Tribune first reported on Samuelsson on Sunday. On paper it looks like it would be a great fit. Samuelsson and Quenneville played several seasons together with the Hartford Whalers, along with current Blackhawks assistant coach Kevin Dineen. The relationship with Samuelsson has been there for a long time and it would make for a smoother transition. It might also provide somewhat of a panacea for Quenneville after former assistant Mike Kitchen, whose friendship with Quenneville also went back to their playing days, was fired last month.

Earlier this month Bowman told the Sun-Times that Quenneville will have a big role in the Blackhawks’ finding their next assistant coach, with the final choice being a “joint collaboration.” We get that there’s an order to these things and everyone has to be in agreement with the final decision. But in the end the head coach has to be 100-percent happy with his immediate staff. So whoever the next assistant coach is, the decision has to be 100 percent Quenneville’s.