Hawks have right formula behind 6-0 start
Through six games, Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville has made all the right moves and found the right minutes for his players. The Hawks will try to extend their strong start to 7-0 Wednesday night at Minnesota.
You don't get to be 6-0 by pure luck.
The Blackhawks have had a few bounces go their way for sure, but their franchise-record 6-0 start can be traced to a number of things they've generated themselves — starting with goaltending.
Hawks game day
Blackhawks vs. Minnesota Wild at Excel Energy Center, 7 p.m. Wednesday
TV: NBC Sports Network
Radio: WGN 720-AM
The skinny: While the Hawks are off to their best start at 6-0, the Wild was 2-2-1 after their first five games heading into Tuesday clash with Columbus on home ice. This is the Hawks' first look at the Wild with Zach Parise and Ryan Suter in their lineup. Parise had 5 goals in the first five games. Corey Crawford starts in goal for the Hawks looking for his sixth win. Marco Scandella (groin) is out for Minnesota while defenseman Michal Rozsival is doubtful for the Hawks.
Season series: First meeting.
Next: Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena, 9 p.m. Friday.
— Tim Sassone
Corey Crawford is off to a 5-0 start with a 1.78 goals-against average and .933 save percentage. He was named the NHL's second star of last week and deservedly so.
Crawford has changed his pregame routine, and it's working so far.
"A little bit," Crawford said. "I just go off in a corner and think about the game, do a little bit more stretching, sit there quietly and focus on the game more. It's nothing drastic, just a little change."
Crawford also has given up the pregame two-touch soccer matches with his teammates.
"No more soccer," Crawford said. "I gave that up. I thought it was time to forget about it."
Hawks coach Joel Quenneville has seen a change in Crawford from last season in how he prepares.
"He's always been pretty confident, but he seems to be excited by where he's at and where we're at," Quenneville said. "Expectations at that position are different than others.
"I like how he has taken charge at critical times of the game. He has stepped up and made big saves. The goaltending is something I leave to (assistant coach) Stephane (Waite), the mental makeup and the chemistry between the two of them. They've got their union."
Special teams also have improved dramatically. The power play has 7 goals, and the penalty killers have handled 22 of 23 short-handed situations.
"Special teams have been good, but let's not get satisfied," Quenneville said. "We still think we can be better."
The penalty killers can't get much better than 22 of 23 kills.
"Everybody welcomes more ice time, and I think having that kind of role added to your regular shift, guys take pride in filling that role," Quenneville said. "(Marcus) Kruger and Michal Frolik have done a nice job together as a pair. The more you play the better you play."
Quenneville has been able to roll four forward lines and six defensemen with regularity.
"Right now we're playing four lines and everybody has got some type of job and everybody is doing so well at their jobs," Marian Hossa said. "Four lines gives the first two lines so much energy and more offensive power than we've had before, I believe. The other guys, they're not sitting on the bench, but they're playing as well.
"You have to be smart with the ice time. (Quenneville) has done an excellent job spreading those minutes throughout the team."
Playing everyone has allowed Quenneville to rest his top players more and keep them fresh for later on.
"Everybody playing the four-line game is something that will hopefully keep our team game at a higher level," Quenneville said. "We'll try to monitor things so it doesn't get away from us."
The Hawks' best players have been their best players in the first six games. Hossa has 5 goals, Patrick Kane has 9 points, Patrick Sharp has 2 goals and 4 assists, and Jonathan Toews has 3 goals and 6 points.
"I try to bring my best to the game," Hossa said. "Just try to use my instincts when I jump on the ice to help Johnny any way I can."
The trick now for the Hawks is to keep it going on a six-game road trip that starts Wednesday night in Minnesota.
"We're pleased and happy with a lot of parts of our game," Quenneville said. "Crow's been good in net, our defense has been stable, our four lines have had a nice rotation, and special teams have been good. We like the balance we've seen over six games."
•Follow Tim's Hawks reports on Twitter@TimSassone.
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