Faceoff circle improvement key for Hawks

CHICAGO -- The return of Ryan Johnson to the Chicago Blackhawks lineup saw a return of dominance in the faceoff circle for the home team in their 3-2 overtime win against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday.

The Hawks won 63 percent of their draws and Johnson did even better, winning 75 percent.

“It starts with the faceoffs,” coach Mike Haviland said after the game. “RJ came in and did a great job.”

Just two nights earlier, Haviland had been lamenting the Hawks’ woes in the faceoff circle. Two easy faceoff losses had led to power-play tallies by the Columbus Blue Jackets in a 4-3 Hawks’ defeat. Against the Penguins, Johnson and Jonathan Toews took most of the draws when the Hawks were killing penalties, like a four minute high-sticking call late in the first period, and a crucial, overtime kill.

“The other night we weren’t that great on faceoffs, especially on the penalty kill,” Toews said. “We were better on that tonight. He definitely helped us.”

The Penguins were 0-for-4 with the man advantage and between his penalty-kill and faceoff prowess, expect to see more of Johnson in the lineup.

“It was fun to see him sliding across the ice blocking shots,” Toews said with a smile. “We haven’t had too much of that from our forwards. He’s the type of guy we can learn from. He definitely gave us a boost.”

Crawford shines: Corey Crawford was 1-3 in career shootouts before Sunday. Now he’s 2-3, thanks to a perfect afternoon against Penguins’ shooters.

“First one, I got a little impatient,” Crawford said of the Pascal Dupuis try. “I was thinking they were going to try and outwait me.”

With the game on the line, Crawford stopped Tyler Kennedy for the win. But not before Kennedy slow-played it as he approached Crawford.

“Our guys do it in practice sometimes,” Crawford explained. “It’s a different look but you have to be ready for it.”

Like any goalie, Crawford hated giving up the late, regulation-tying second goal to Pittsburgh but shook it off after a moment.

“Pissed off,” Crawford said about the goal. “You think about something you could have done to avoid it and then move on. Our guys didn’t hang our heads. That was a key for us, not to get down after they scored like that.”


  • Bryan Bickell scored a huge goal early in the third period. The rookie has surprised many with his touch. It was his 14th of the season.

    “I was just trying to put it low,” he said. “I saw [Marian] Hossa going to the net and I got a fortunate bounce and hit [the defenseman’s] stick. [Marc-Andre] Fleury didn’t see it for a second and it went in.”

  • The Hawks had 23 blocked shots in the game, led by Brent Seabrook who registered six. Niklas Hjalmarsson and Nick Leddy had four apiece.

  • Toews was asked how he thought Joel Quenneville, resting at home after being hospitalized with ulcers this week, reacted when the Hawks gave up the tying goal late in the third period.

    “He’s probably cussing at the refs or something,” Toews joked. “That’s not a goal he would be happy about.

  • Toews has a simple philosophy when it comes to scoreboard watching.

    “Prepare for the worst and hope for the best,” he said.

  • Mike Haviland did not name a starting goaltender for Monday’s game against St. Louis.