INSIDE HOCKEY » Chicago Blackhawks Get Inside! Sat, 20 Sep 2014 02:40:28 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Jonathan Toews, Selke and Messier Nominee Tue, 24 Jun 2014 18:26:47 +0000

Jonathan Toews is nominated this year for both the Selke Trophy and the Mark Messier NHL Leadership Award.

For the Selke Trophy, he is up against Patrice Bergeron (Boston Bruins) and Anze Kopitar (LA Kings).

“When you’re talking about defensive forward,” Toews said of the aspects of the Selke. “It doesn’t sound right. You consider yourself an offensive player. What those guys [Kopitar and Bergeron] mean to their teams, and the Cups that those guys have won, it’s huge to be nominated, first of all, with those two guys. It definitely adds some value to it.”

For the Messier Award, he faces off against Dustin Brown (LA Kings) and Ryan Getzlaf (Anaheim Ducks). This Award is bestowed upon the player that best exemplifies great leadership qualities both on and off the ice during the regular season.

Not too many people ask him about his work off the ice in the community, and when they do, he’s a little shy to talk about it.

“It’s something I’m bashful to talk about,” he said. “Because I think there are a lot of hockey players out there that do great work off the ice that maybe don’t get that recognition. They’re showing their leadership not only with their teammates and their team, but also with that community that they’re a part of and mean a lot to.

“For myself, I haven’t really developed any charity or non-profit foundation, per se. At this point, I have some thoughts and plans for the future, but just contributing little things where I can…hopefully it adds up to something. [I do] some hospital visits. There is one place called Misericordia in Chicago. It’s basically a campus where disabled people can develop their skills. There’s a big creative school. There’s artwork. It’s an amazing place for them. To be part of that, for me, was very special, too. I brought the Stanley Cup there last fall.

“It’s just little things. Hopefully, it pays off for someone else.”

One of the reasons why he is nominated for the Messier NHL Leadership Award is for his assistance in the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Prior to the NHL Stadium Series, a couple of kids came out to skate with the team.

“The Blackhawks have always been very great about that sort of thing, too. Right before our Stadium Series game, we had a couple of Make-A-Wish children come out on the ice with us for our practice. I think small things like that go a long way for some people that are going through some really tough times.”

The NHL Awards will take place on Tuesday, June 24 at 7:00 p.m. (ET).

]]> 0 What Ails the Blackhawks? Tue, 27 May 2014 06:19:37 +0000

So what had to happen for the Blackhawks to get back into their series with LA on Monday night? If you believe what the papers from both towns say, Patrick Kane had to get it going.

He didn’t, though others did. Still, it wasn’t enough as the Blackhawks dropped a 5-2 game to the Kings and now face elimination in their own arena Wednesday. It’s feeling a bit like a done deal, but like Justin Williams of LA said after Monday’s game: “I don’t think it’s hard at all not to look ahead. Every team has been in positions where they’re down, and that can make them better. . . . We just know that we don’t want to be in that position, but character comes out a lot more when your backs are against the wall. That’s why the games get harder, every game you win. Going into game five, we’re obviously going to try our best to finish it off.” In other words, it’s not going to be automatic, which is what you might think looking at how they handled the Blackhawks at Staples Center.

What happened to Chicago?

Someone got it going for the team in period one, but it wasn’t Kane. It was Marian Hossa. They problem was that even with him doing that, the Hawks as a whole didn’t have anything to offer LA. The Kings outscored them by a total of three goals (to none) in the first frame, with just eight shots recorded in so doing.

Yet for everything the Hawks did well, they did something dumb. Hossa was in the slot all period. Early on during a power play, a point shot came from Sharp, and Hossa found a rebound for a bloop shot. Quick grabbed it. But on the same shift, Hossa gave the puck away at the blueline. Late in the period, Sharp sent a diagonal pass to him and Hossa ripped a shot on Quick, who made a blocker save. Well and good, but the first goal had been his fault, as he had crossed through the crease and whacked Quick on the head to draw a penalty that Jake Muzzin scored on.

He wasn’t the only one with problems. The Hawks were offside at the LA blueline on the power play. They had a puck stripped (from Duncan Keith) to allow for the Kings’ second goal. And altogether in the period, they allowed two power play goals on two Kings’ chances with the extra man.

Hossa did fire a shot from the slot late in the period that looked dangerous, and the stats on the period showed that of the seven shots the Hawks took, he had three of them. No other player had more than one.

But still, where was Kane? Well, in period one, he had no stats recorded on the official sheet except for time on ice, of which he had a bunch: 7:32. What’d he do with it?

Same thing as he did in period two. At least on the scoresheet, he was held off. My personal iso-cam revealed the following about his game: he’s trying, but no one’s giving him much help. He made a weak jab at a loose puck at the boards in his own end and saw Kopitar take the puck. He was on a power play and cruised across the slot with his stick down on the ice, but no pass came to him.

He took a shot from the high slot, but it was easily blocked by the crowd in front. He was in the mid-slot with his stick raised waiting for a pass. The puck came out from Bickell near where he was, but not to Kane, and the Kings swallowed it up.

So if you look at that, you can see that Kane was trying, and the numbers at the end of the period bear that out. Rather than the straight run of zeros he’d had after one, he had a string of ones: one shot, one attempt blocked, one missed shot, one giveaway. But again, no production.

The issue wasn’t so much him as that one person can’t do it without help, and nobody was able to get him the puck when he needed it. Why didn’t he just carry it the length of the ice? That goes back to what the Kings have said they’d do, and what they’ve in fact done, which is shut him down by playing him tight, staying on him, getting that little bump in that harasses him.

After the game, standing in front of his dressing stall, he looked positively downcast. He talked at length, but he had no answers for why the team is frustrated. “We all know that we’ve done it before, so we have to try and win the next game and see what happens.” That was near the start. He later talked about other matters, commenting on the slow start, getting down 3-0 and having a weak power play.

“We’ll keep trying to do the right things, five-on-five . . . and try to come out with some success.” He said he was not frustrated and talked about going home to the crowd in Chicago. He also commented on confidence, “We’ve just got to find it. It doesn’t help when you get off to the start we did tonight.” He did say, “We feel that we can beat anyone.”

When he finally got around to talking about his personal frustrations (in period three, he had another shot, another shot attempt blocked, but also another giveaway), he said, “They’re doing a good job of taking away space, and when you go through that, you want to work as hard as you possibly can and just try to look for any type of breaks you can. There’s still some chances to get on the offense and make some plays, and it’s just up to me to do it.”

Period three brought about a much greater effort from the visitors. It was almost like their coach had told them between two and three that their season was on the line. Check that. Of course he didn’t. He didn’t have to. Chicago had their first goal at fourteen minutes of period two, and they took until ten (nearly) of P3 to get the second. They then took over the game, working the Kings over and testing Quick with low shots that he made leg saves on. They pulled goalie Crawford with about three minutes to go and then largely controlled play, but LA had a two-goal lead and could afford some tries at th empty net. The one that went in was about the third or fourth, and it came with 1:02 left, sealing it for LA.

They Hawks were, in fact, better in both periods two and three than they had been in the first, and LA Coach Sutter reflected that fact in his post-game comments. When asked how his team could put Chicago away, he said, “We’ll have to play a hell of a lot better than we did tonight. We had really good special teams and a really good start.” But that latter is deceptive. It was answered in response to a question about what he did not like about the game. The answer essentially was, “everything except these two elements.”

When pressed, he said, “I think our five-on-five play certainly could be better. I know it can be better.” When asked if there was anything else, he said, “That’s a lot.”

The Chicago coach had a similar read on things: “In the last two games [two and three] we had a great forty minutes and the last twenty killed us. Tonight we started out decently, but they scored early. That got them going. But I thought we fought back in the second half of the game. We got some good looks and some good zone time. Things to be excited about for next game.”

Meanwhile, the Kings, having found the lineup that works, kept rolling it as the periods went along. The lines are solidified and the contributions are coming from everyone. The Kings got five goals including an empty-net one, and all were from different players. Two were first-line players, Gaborik and Brown, though Brown got his on the PP. Two were defensemen, Doughty and Muzzin. And one came from the youngster, Pearson, which was the empty-net goal that happened with just over one minute to go.

But as suggested, Chicago came on steadily. They had seven shots in period one, but 17 in the next two. They were on the defensive in terms of being shorthanded twice in each of the first two periods, including at the end of the second, but LA could not score.

Don’t take lightly the opportunity that the Kings have. Last year, they lost game five in this round to this same team to be eliminated. Williams, for one, hasn’t forgotten. “Winning is tough, and sometimes you have to lose again to get that fire back, and last year stuck with me for a long time. Losing game five, and we had the Cup, and they knocked us out, and took it. Knowing that a team got the better of us doesn’t sit well with me.”

Nor with others on his team, one would surmise, and that’s what might motivate them in Illinois on Wednesday night, despite Sutter’s admonition that they must play one game at a time. “Don’t look behind; don’t look ahead,” he said at the first of his comments.


The Kings have outscored opponents 53-30 since being down 0-3 to San Jose.

They are 8-0 when leading after two periods.

Follow me on Twitter @growinguphockey. Please!

]]> 1
Only When They Want To Sun, 25 May 2014 05:15:07 +0000

The Chicago Blackhawks can be awfully good when they want to be. Saturday night, the Kings were coming off a thrilling and dominating win in Chicago. They’d laid into the Hawks to the tune of 6-2, and they’d been faster, stronger, and better in winning that way. Then they came out that same way on Saturday night. Then Chicago took the game back over. Then they just stopped playing, letting the Kings get the win and gain a 2-1 advantage in the series.

Is that so surprising? Of course the Kings were going to buzz having evened the series, ruined the home ice advantage by winning away, and being that they were once more at home. But why did the Hawks simply cave in to the LA way of playing?

First, some description to set up the point. The very first shift of game three of their Western Conference Final showed LA’s resolve. Kopitar, Gaborik, and Brown went down, got Crawford to his knees, and saw him spin awkwardly around while the puck squirted out into the corner to a whistle.

Next shift, the line on (not line two—Sutter doesn’t like to label them), which was Richards, Williams, and King, made a cross-ice pass, Williams, to King, right in the slot. They didn’t score. But it looked like the Kings were rolling.

They got the benefit of a dumb penalty by Michal Handzus, who closed his hand(zus) on the puck in the offensive zone. Things looked to be going their way. But on the power play, Toews took the puck down the left side. Now watch this: the Kings had been hard on defense even in the early going, always having a guy where a Blackhawks player was. And they did in this case. Two, in fact, stacked up diagonally between Toews and the net. But he was smarter than they. He waited, faded across the slot to his right, and did a fake shot/shot combination that was so fast Quick couldn’t keep up with it. It went in long side, shorthanded.

All was not immediately lost, as on that power play, the Kings scored, Voynov moving in from the high left slot, and waited, reloaded, and fired. It went past Crawford on his left side, and it looked like not a great goal. Not a horrible one, either, but he had a lane to see it.

So it was 1-1, then 2-1 Chicago when Toews, who appeared determined to take over the game, scored at 13:19. He, Hossa, and Brian Bickell actually worked together to smother the Kings, move the puck around their zone and get it low, dig it out from the wall, and put it in the net almost like there was no defense there.

But Toews didn’t keep it up, and Patrick Kane was ineffective all night, and so LA slowly took over, then really took over for good in period three. They were so convincing that the Chicago coach said afterwards, “Forty minutes of the game were the same” as in game two. Then, too, Chicago sustained the action through two (or all but two minutes of two, in game two). But then they just flopped. Quenneville added, “They’ve had two big third periods on us, and that’s the difference in us being down 2-1.”

Toews said after, “Clearly they want it badly and are playing really hard. For us, I think it’s just a matter of continuing that effort that we started with in the first period.” If you take out the “we” and replace it with “I,” you’d have a statement that’s closer to the truth. His coach said that his work ethic is contagious but that all of the Blackhawks need to work as hard as that.

So why were the Kings so good? This might surprise you. Their depth player, Kyle Clifford, was a difference-maker. He played only 9:20 on a line with Stoll and Lewis, but he seemed to be everywhere. He carried the puck for much of the time he was on the ice, forcing it down deep in the Chicago end. If he ran out of talent a couple of times, such as in period three when he took it across the Chicago slot and held it far too long, getting forced to the corner, then at the least you can say that when you’re playing good defense, you’re playing good offense, and holding the puck in the other guy’s end is good offense.

Clifford had one shot and one hit, but his game might have been the best he’s had in his NHL career. The Kings’ second goal, though he was not on the ice, should have a little bit of his name attached to it. Why? He and Lewis showed the Hawks how pressure works, keeping the puck in their end. Clifford passed it to Lewis, who could not get a handle. Even on the second try he missed. But the pressure got into Chicago’s head, and they allowed the Carter line to get into the zone in exactly the same way on the next shift, and it produced a goal.

LA managed to exploit the weaknesses that Chicago portrayed. The two middle goals, Carter’s just mentioned and that of Toffoli just after, both took advantage of the same Chicago mistake. Carter got himself positioned at the edge of the crease between two defenders, and slammed a puck home. Toffoli got the puck as it slid between two, took it to the net, deked, and slid it under Crawford’s left leg. Not the same goal, but exploiting the same kind of gap. There aren’t a ton of mistakes in the games of either of these teams, but LA pounced on Chicago’s.

They did the hard, dangerous stuff like it was routine. Sutter said after the game, “Screens, tips, and rebounds are still the best way to score goals,” and the Kings did that. Their fourth goal, by Doughty, had Dwight King right in front, waving at it to distract Crawford.

The Kings also slowed down the speedy Chicago players, Toews and Kane. Dustin Brown commented on how they had played Toews hard in the neutral zone. “Grabbing him, making it hard, grinding him through the neutral zone. It helps not only our defensemen, but it allows a couple of other guys to get back in the play before he can do what he does.” Doughty said that Kane likes to build up speed doing fancy stuff in the center of the ice, and that the Kings’ strategy was to shut him down before he got started. He did get three shots, but he didn’t seem to have the puck much. He wasn’t all that noticeable in any zone.

Drew Doughty said that they were “trying to frustrate them, give them no room, be physical on Kane and Sharp” in response to a question about the latter.

The Kings won because they’re getting good netminding, though it didn’t have to be great this night. Quick had 27 shots on him. The three goals were good ones, but he also made enough saves. None were super-spectacular, but he was there when he needed to be, including taking some pucks up high off the chest.

And finally, the LA Kings shut down the Blackhawks because they believe they’re the better team. Drew Doughty said after the game, “We’re not here to win a few games. Our ultimate goal is to win the Stanley Cup. We’ve got a lot of obstacles before that happens. Chicago’s a good team and they’re not going to go away easy. We’re only up 2-1.”

Which means, “We think they’re going away easier than we thought, and we are the ones up 2-1, after all.”

On the other side, it is distinctly seeming like Chicago is starting not to believe. Duncan Keith looked downcast in his dressing stall as he commented on the lack of a power play goal and other matters. “With LA, they got some young guys that have speed and skill . . . . They work hard. They skate hard, and I think they’re a little bit quicker than last year. We just have to move the puck and play our game.” He finished, “We need everybody if we’re going to beat this team,” not just the captain, Toews.

They’ll get their chance again Monday, 6pm local time.

Carter has ten points in the last four games, and seven in the last two.

Youngster Tanner Pearson has points in four straight games, with one goal and four assists.

Toffoli also has points in four straight on three goals and one assist.

Forget not being able to score—the Kings have outscored their opponents 48-28 during the last 14 games.

Let me know you’re reading @growinguphockey. Please!

]]> 1
Capitals Dominate in Game that Doesn’t Count; Capitals win 4 to 0 over Blackhawks Sun, 13 Apr 2014 00:20:18 +0000

In a game played more like a preseason game, the Capitals won on both sides of the ice and dominated the Chicago Blackhawks 4 to 0. Goalie Jaroslav Halak may have played his best game for the Capitals.

The home fans enjoyed the game, and gladly welcomed the Capitals back to the Verizon Center even though the Capitals were eliminated from the playoffs earlier in the week. When asked if they were worried about the fan reception, players and Coach Adam Oates admitted they were not sure. In the end, “these fans are loyal” and “always showing good support” said Nicklas Backstrom.

For much of the end of the season, players and Coach Oates lamented over missed opportunities and mistakes. Last night was different, however. The Capitals clearly seemed more relaxed and were having more fun than past games down the playoff stretch. When asked if playoff pressure was getting to the team, the players reluctantly admitted pressure may have been a factor.

When asked, Backstrom answered “maybe.” “Nerves [are a factor] when games are more important.” After being eliminated from the playoffs, he admitted that the “last two games we moved the puck better than the whole year.”

“[Pressure] snuck in a little bit,” according to Eric Fehr.

Halak admitted, “it could be.” If there is pressure, “you make more mistakes.” Last night’s game was different. It was a “more enjoyable game…I think everyone should enjoy. That is why we play the game.”

In the end, Fehr was probably right. You can’t take too much from a “closer to preseason game.” But with nothing on the line, last night night’s victory was at least enjoyable. Sunday, the long off season begins.

]]> 0
Photo Gallery: NHL March Photos of the Month Thu, 03 Apr 2014 01:12:50 +0000

Here are the March 2014 NHL Photos of the Month from the photographers at Inside Hockey.

]]> 0
Bruins Honor Fallen Heroes, Shut Out Blackhawks Fri, 28 Mar 2014 11:11:01 +0000

Traditionally, the first star of a hockey game is awarded to the best player on the ice. But the Boston Bruins broke with tradition in their 3-0 win over the Chicago Blackhawks Thursday night as they awarded the game’s first star to the Boston Fire Department.

The honor came one day after a nine-alarm blaze on Beacon St. claimed the lives of Firefighter Michael Kennedy and Lieutenant Ed Walsh. The Bruins made a point of recognizing the Boston Fire Department and the two fallen firemen throughout Thursday night’s game.

In addition to the first-star honors, the Bruins wore BFD hats in the pregame warm-up, held a moment of silence before the national anthem, distributed a limited amount of free tickets to firefighters and donated all proceeds from the 50/50 raffle to a memorial fund established in honor of Walsh and Kennedy.

And — perhaps best of all — the Bruins won the game. Last season, when the Bruins took the ice after the bombings at the Boston Marathon and the subsequent manhunt for the bombing suspects, they were able to lift the spirits of the city by playing but were not able to record a win. After Thursday’s shutout victory, Bruins coach Claude Julien said the team made it a point of emphasis to win for the fire department and a hurting city.

“I think for us it was important,” Julien said. “It’s been a sad day. It was a sad night last night and it’s a sad day today. We were trying to bring something very positive. We know that doesn’t make things any better, but to just try and do the best you can to help heal and again put some excitement into the people that were here tonight and our fans out there, that’s all you can do.”

The Bruins struggled early in the game to create much positivity. Chicago dominated in shots (6-1) and puck possession early, but Patrice Bergeron seemed to breathe life into the Bruins when, 11:50 into the game, he tipped a Matt Bartkowski shot past Chicago goaltender Corey Crawford to give the Bruins a 1-0 lead. The goal extended Bergeron’s goal-scoring streak to a career-best five games.

After a scoreless second period, Boston doubled its lead 5:28 into the third period when Carl Soderberg scored on a rebound. Bergeron made it a 3-0 game 13 seconds later when he scored on an empty net after Crawford misplayed the puck behind the net and could not get back to the crease in time to stop Bergeron’s shot. While Bergeron took the shot, Crawford appeared to push the net forward in frustration to either knock it off its moorings or use the momentum to get back to his crease. But while the initial call from the referee closest to the play was no goal, the officials quickly conferred on the ice and ruled it a good goal. Video review confirmed the net was in place when the puck crossed the goal line.

The Blackhawks were frustrated on the other end of the ice as well. The Bruins defense limited a Chicago offense which ranks second in the NHL in shots per game (33.2) to just 28 shots on Thursday, and Tuukka Rask finished the job by stopping all 28 of those shots to earn his NHL-leading seventh shutout of the season.

By virtue of the win, the Bruins are now one point or a Tampa Bay Lightning loss away from clinching the Atlantic Division title.

But for a Boston team that already clinched a playoff spot, it was clear their thoughts remained on Thursday night with the Boston Fire Department and the Kennedy and Walsh families.

“It was very sad what happened yesterday,” Bergeron said. “We feel like we’re part of the community now as a whole, and it was an important game, we thought, for us to win for all of them. They put their lives at risk and obviously with what happened, our thoughts and prayers are with their families.

“Like I said …,” Bergeron said as he trailed off, glassy eyed, before finding the words to continue. “You never want to hear that. They’re the heroes and we’re just here to … obviously it puts things in perspective, I guess, if I want to put it that way. Tonight was a well-deserved first star.”

]]> 0
Photo Gallery: Blackhawks vs Flyers (03/18/14) Wed, 19 Mar 2014 15:40:50 +0000

The Philadelphia Flyers defeated the visiting Chicago Blackhawks by a score of 3-2 in overtime.

1st Claude Giroux (#28 PHI)
2nd Scott Hartnell (#19 PHI)
3rd Patrick Sharp (#10 CHI)

]]> 0
Photo Gallery: NHL Stadium Series Chicago Wed, 05 Mar 2014 00:40:00 +0000

CHICAGO, IL – MARCH 01: Chicago Blackhawks fans cheered their team on for a 5-1 win in the Stadium Series game against the Pittsburgh Penguins on March 1, 2014 at Soldier Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Dennis Pajot/Inside Hockey)

]]> 0
Photo Gallery: Stadium Series Chicago Practice Wed, 05 Mar 2014 00:39:17 +0000

CHICAGO, IL – FEBRUARY 28: Practice day for the NHL Stadium Series game for the Pittsburgh Penguins and Chicago Blackhawks at Soldier Field in Chicago, IL on February 28,2014 (Photos by Dennis Pajot/Inside Hockey)


]]> 0
Blackhawks Dominate Pens in Stadium Series Finale Sun, 02 Mar 2014 14:35:30 +0000

At a place normally reserved for football, a hockey game was played Saturday night.

The Chicago Blackhawks and Pittsburgh Penguins took the ice at Soldier Field for the fourth and final game of the Coors Light NHL Stadium Series amid the heavy falling snow and swirling wind. Chicago cruised to a 5-1 victory in what some considered a potential Stanley Cup Finals preview.

“Probably the greatest setting you could ever want,” said Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville. “It was a very memorable night for our guys.”

“It honestly did feel like we were just playing shinny hockey in the back yard,” added Jonathan Toews.

An opening period controlled by Chicago saw just one goal on a rifle from Patrick Sharp from the side of the net. After Toews made a pinpoint pass from behind the net, Sharp rattled home his team-leading 29th goal of the season off the pipe. An already electric crowd of 62,921 erupted, as did the Blackhawks bench.

“We were just excited to score a goal,” said Toews. “Great feeling to be that team to get on the board and the excitement just carried on for the rest of the game. I kind of got caught up in it.”

The second period saw more of the same, with the Blackhawks adding two more goals in the frame to open up a comfortable three-goal lead after 40 minutes. Toews made a move that very few can in the snow, weaving around Brooks Orpik and finishing on a backhander through Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury five-hole to put Chicago up two. Just under six minutes later, Kris Versteeg extended the lead to three, putting home a tap-in on a three-on-one rush led by Patrick Kane.

“Some great finishes and great plays by really special players,” said Quenneville.

“It wouldn’t have mattered if we had played this game inside, outside, snow, no snow,” said Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma. “They were better and more prepared to play whatever the conditions were.”

James Neal gave Pittsburgh some life in the final period, throwing a puck off of Brent Seabrook’s stick and in to cut the deficit to two goals. It was Neal’s 22nd goal of the season. However, Bryan Bickell would respond for Chicago and put the game away with six minutes remaining. Bickell stuffed home a second chance opportunity off a beautiful cross-ice pass from Brandon Saad.

As he embraced Bickell in front of the net, it was a special moment for Saad, playing against his hometown team for the first time in his NHL career.

Toews would add insult to injury a few minutes later, scoring his second goal, and third point of the game and the Blackhawks eased to a 5-1 victory.

“I think it was a great night for Chicago hockey fans and sports fans,” added Toews.

With fireworks sounding, Chelsea Dagger blaring, and the snow continuing to blanket the ice at Soldier Field after the final horn, it was a sight to see.

]]> 0