The Chicago Blackhawks have been one of the most disappointing franchises in the NHL over the past decade, but second-year coach Trent Yawney is trying to change that.
The Blackhawks look to build off a strong team effort in their last game when they visit the St. Louis Blues on Saturday.
Chicago (2-1) finished last season with the second-worst record in the Western Conference as it missed the playoffs for the seventh time in the last eight seasons.
Although they scored 12 goals in their first two games, they also allowed 11 goals, and Yawney criticized the defense for its play. The team responded with a 3-1 victory over Nashville on Thursday.
“We were much better than the first two games,” said Martin Havlat, who had a goal and an assist against the Predators. “We played much better defensively.”
Havlat has four goals and four assists in three games after being acquired from Ottawa in July.
The Blackhawks went just 3-8 in October last season, and have not won three of their first four games of a season since the 1990-91 season. Yawney was a defenseman on that Chicago club, which finished 49-23-8 to win the Norris Division.
“I’m just sick and tired of losing,” Yawney said. “I’ve been in this organization a long time as a player and a coach, and I’m tired of it. I’m not tolerating mediocrity anymore, and I hope no one in the organization is. Enough’s enough.”
Nikolai Khabibulin made 37 saves on Thursday, and lost a bid for his first shutout as a Blackhawk with 5:31 remaining in the game.
“I thought for the most part we played pretty good tonight,” said Khabibulin, who made 53 saves in his first two games. “We’ve just got to keep building on that.”
Chicago didn’t win consecutive games last season until Nov. 6 and 10.
Khabibulin went 4-2 with a 2.26 goals-against average against the Blues (1-2-1) last season, allowing two goals or less in five of those contests.
Overall last season, the Blackhawks were 5-2-1 against St. Louis, which finished with the worst record in the NHL.
The Blues defeated Boston 3-2 in a shootout in their home opener on Thursday as they rallied to score twice in the final 3:57 to send the game into overtime.
Lee Stempniak scored the game winner in the shootout and also scored St. Louis’ first goal, snapping a scoreless drought of 143:02 by the team.
“We were just trying to play with heart and win the game,” said Blues forward Jamal Mayers, who tied the game at 18:33 of the third period.
Bill Guerin assisted on Stempniak’s goal on Thursday, and is tied with Mayers for the team lead with three points. Guerin, who signed as a free agent in July, had a goal and five assists in three games against Chicago last season with Dallas.
Manny Legace stopped 16 shots during regulation and overtime, and three of four attempts in the shootout to record his first win as a member of the Blues. He gave up nine goals in 75 shots in his first two games.
Legace went 3-0 with a 2.76 GAA in four games against the Blackhawks last season with Detroit before signing with St. Louis as a free agent in August. He is 6-4 with a 2.32 GAA in his career against Chicago.