Blackhawks adjusting to life without 'fireball'

  • Article by: CHRIS HINE , Chicago Tribune 
  • Updated: May 12, 2014 - 11:19 PM

For those Blackhawks desiring a little peace and quiet in their dressing room, the past five games had to have seemed like paradise beside the ice with Andrew Shaw not present.

“He’s a little fireball out there,” winger Bryan Bickell said.

“I know when we see him in the locker room he doesn’t want to shut up.”

But truth be told, the Blackhawks miss their little fireball, especially on the ice, where Shaw is adept at creating havoc in front of the net and providing scoring chances from in close, something the Chicago has lacked at times against the Wild.

Someone else will have to play traffic cop in front of the net in Game 6 on Tuesday, with coach Joel Quenneville saying Shaw won’t make the trip to Minnesota because of a lower-body injury he suffered in Game 1. It will be Shaw’s fifth consecutive game out.

“We said he’s day to day at the beginning of the series. But now he’s a little closer to day to day,” Quenneville said with a laugh.

But the Blackhawks weren’t laughing at their inability to create chances in front of Wild goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov, a deficiency they corrected enough for Sunday’s 2-1 victory in Game 5, when both goals came as a result of havoc created in front of the net.

That element was absent from the Blackhawks’ attack in Games 3 and 4 with Shaw back in Chicago recuperating and the Blackhawks failing to generate significant chances on Bryzgalov. Perhaps they are missing Shaw a little more than they thought they would.

“He’s got a really good knack for being in that right spot on the power play,” Quenne-ville said. “In talking about his regular shifts, he brings an intangible that you appreciate when you do have him in your lineup, that feistiness, that competitiveness. You lose a little bit of that.

“I don’t think there are too many Shaws around the league.”

The Blackhawks might have found the blueprint for beating the Wild without Shaw on Sunday night. Take Jonathan Toews’ go-ahead goal. Toews fought through the riffraff in front of Bryzgalov and started whacking away at the Wild and at the puck.

Eventually the puck popped loose and Toews was able to backhand a shot into the net. A gritty, greasy goal, but in essence one that could not have been more pristine for the Blackhawks.

“We got some bodies to the net and made it hard on their goalie to see pucks,” goalie Corey Crawford said. “It’s a lot harder to control rebounds when guys are coming hard to the net and you’re kind of thinking about the guy crashing the net.”

That blueprint is what the Blackhawks would like to follow Tuesday night. Without Shaw, that becomes even more imperative.

“There’s not going to be fancy goals,” Quenneville said. “It’s going to be second opportunities, it’s going to be tip shots, it’s going to be screen shots, it’s going to be guys determined in the rebound area — ugly goals.”

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  • Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews (19) went to the high-traffic area in Game 5 and was rewarded with the winning goal.

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