Chicago Blackhawks rollover Winnipeg 4-1 - FOX 10 News | fox10phoenix.com

Blackhawks rollover Winnipeg 4-1

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Going into Wednesday night's game, my feeling was the Winnipeg Jets would put up a better challenge than they did last Saturday. That wasn't so as the Chicago Blackhawks cruised to a 4-1 victory at the United Center on Wednesday.

The Hawks top players led the charge and the Jets did not have the correct answers. Make no mistake, the Chicago top guns were dialed on high but Winnipeg made many costly mistakes. Fundamentally, the Jets fell short and they seemed to be caught watching the puck on more than one occasion. If not for a solid goaltending performance by Al Montoya, Winnipeg would have suffered a more lopsided defeat.

Michael Frolik made his first appearance at the UC since being traded and he played over 19 minutes and wasn't on the ice for any Chicago goals. Frolik was honored with a scoreboard video presentation showing highlights from last year's playoffs. Frolik acknowledged a standing ovation from the crowd as it was a nice tribute. Former Blackhawks Andrew Ladd and Dustin Byfuglien were each a minus three for the game as their night was as memorable.

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Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Brandon Pirri and Patrick Sharp scored for Chicago. Kane electrified the crowd and mesmerized the Jets on more than once occasion with great stick handling displays. Marian Hossa didn't stain the scoresheet but was credited with a game high five shots. Hossa is playing some great hockey and is a treat to watch.

The Blackhawk defensemen were about as good as the forwards. They were very active and helped set the pace for the transition game. Duncan Keith recorded two assists on the night but he has yet to score a goal this season.

Last season, Keith was credited with 91 shots on goal in 47 games and he notched three goals. This year in 16 games he has already recorded 47 shots but has not dented the twine.

When Keith won the Norris Trophy in 2010 he had 14 goals and 55 assists while being credited with 213 shots. Keith shot percentage that season was a strong 6.6%. Keith is shooting a lot and it will be interesting to see if his goal production ever kicks in.

The Blackhawks will enjoy another day off Thursday before traveling to Dallas to face the Stars on Saturday. My guess is Nikolai Khabibulin will get that start. Corey Crawford would then get the nod on Sunday when the Edmonton Oilers come to town.

Al's Shots

During a SiriusXM radio interview on Wednesday, I mentioned that Joel Quenneville only stays patient with younger players to a point. If they make mistakes that end up as goals against, Quenneville won't hesitate to cut their playing time. I don't have a crystal ball but Jeremy Morin not dressing Wednesday night did not come as a shock.

It is hard to say exactly why Morin was a healthy scratch in favor of Sheldon Brookbank. Judging by what Quenneville mentioned after the game he felt Brookbank deserved to play and so did Michal Rozsival. So by default that's saying Morin did not deserve to dress.

Although my thinking like many was the Blackhawks front office would like to use at least part of this season to further develop players. There were a couple of roster spots up for grabs. Seemingly now would be the time the front office would decide if they would keep or try to trade some of their younger players who spent time in Rockford last season.

That said, Quenneville really doesn't answer to anyone when it comes to lineup decisions.

On many levels skating Brookbank at forward instead of Morin doesn't make much sense. Not playing Toews and Kane on the same line until the 11th hour in last season's playoffs didn't make much sense to me either. Drastically cutting Brent Seabrook's ice time in the playoffs and then reuniting him with his regular partner Duncan Keith was a bit odd also. In both cases, the Blackhawks survived and continued on to win the Stanley Cup.

Some will say the Hawks win despite Quenneville and that is too extreme for my taste. He seems to know how to keep very talented players motivated and has been successful in adding some younger players to the mix.

But make no mistake, Quenneville isn't all about being patient, he wants to win every game. Those that say games in November should be used to help develop young players are taking the opposite stance in most cases than Quenneville.

Pirri will get a longer look at center only because there is no other choice at this point. Brandon Saad and Jimmy Hayes playing center didn't ever come to pass. Michal Handzus is better-suited as a fourth line player at this point in his career. Some may say Handzus was not really a true second line center even in his younger days.

Pirri may get lucky and get a stretch of games to learn from his own mistakes and to find his NHL game. Many times that is exactly how young players reach their potential but with Quenneville the circumstance has to allow for that type of patience.

Back to those who believe games earlier in the season don't matter as much, but they do. The point values are the same.

Does anyone really believe the Hawks come back from a three games to one deficit against Detroit unless they had home ice advantage?

I would say probably not, and while Quenneville looks at the standings today, he likely feels the same way.

As far as Quenneville putting too much strain on his core players that might be the case at some point. So far it really hasn't happened, although this time around it is a full 82-game schedule.

Quenneville gives his team a lot of time off, at least that's what the players frequently mention. When they practice they do so in a quick, efficient fashion and Quenneville doesn't hesitate to give days off.

This week they lost to Calgary and went to the White House and didn't hold a normal practice yet. They had only a morning skate Wednesday and won't practice again Thursday. The players seem to buy into his system.

So far Quenneville won't change but a veteran player that may draw his ire is Bryan Bickell. Quietly, Bickell has worked himself back into the same role and playing time as last year when he made close to the minimum NHL salary.

Although Quenneville wasn't the one to resign Bickell with a huge raise over the summer, he probably is disappointed in his effort thus far.

Bickell has recorded five points in 16 games and in the last seven matches has played fewer than 11 minutes on three occasions. That's not the production or playing time a $4 million player should have.

Once again, points in the standings count most to Quenneville and until further notice playing time decisions are his alone.

Follow me on Twitter @AlCimaglia and I will be back on Sunday morning.

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