Blackhawks

Blackhawks working through frustrations: 'We're trying to find our way'

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks working through frustrations: 'We're trying to find our way'

You’ve seen it at times in recent Blackhawks games. A player waiting one extra second to make that pass or take that shot. Another going full steam ahead up ice toward the net, only to stop not far past the blue line and look for other options.

As the early losses have piled up several trends have formed. We’ve been through the scoring droughts (read 5-on-5 and power play) and there are times it looks like the Blackhawks are second guessing themselves out there. Has hesitation crept into the Blackhawks’ overall game?

“It’s tough to say,” Patrick Sharp said following Monday’s practice. “It’s been a frustrating last week, last couple of games, not getting the results we’ve wanted. It’s still early in the season and maybe we’re trying to find our way. But more than that, it’s just individuals getting themselves ready to play, competing a little bit harder and being ready for every game because every opponent that we’ve played has been ready to play us. We need to match that level of intensity.”

Yes, most opponents have been ready. The Colorado Avalanche suffered a 7-0 drubbing to the Vegas Golden Knights heading into Saturday night’s game against the Blackhawks. Likely ticked off after that performance the Avs jumped on the Blackhawks right away, taking advantage of an off night from Anton Forsberg. That rare off-goaltending night aside, the Blackhawks haven’t had a consistent killer instinct. After doing a lot of things right in their 2-1 loss to Nashville on Friday night, the Blackhawks took a step back the following evening.

“When we don't play so well, we're a little bit too easy giving up scoring chances. When you're playing from behind all the time you start to kind of force the offense and then it just gets harder and harder, especially when you're getting your chances. They don't go in as often when you're trying too hard,” Jonathan Toews said. “A lot of it is just simplifying our game and getting back to outworking teams and eventually you're going to get those ugly goals and those bounces around the net. That's what builds your confidence in the long run.”

It’s been rare when the Blackhawks haven’t looked like a confident bunch, but they’re not appearing to play the part right now. There’s been a hitch in their game. It’s early in the season and there’s time to iron out the kinks, but the Blackhawks know they definitely have to get back to playing strong, determined hockey soon.

“There’s been a handful of mistakes, a handful of letdowns. But part of the process is just getting better, identifying the errors and trying to improve as the season goes along,” Sharp said. “We have a talented group in here and it’s just matter of time before we put it all together.”

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

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NBC Sports Chicago

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Ottawa Senators tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. Trade chips.

The Blackhawks have reached the point in their season where they have no choice but to become sellers before the Feb. 26 deadline, and we saw that when they traded Michal Kempny to the Washington Capitals on Monday for a conditional third-round pick in 2018. Tommy Wingels could also be an attractive piece for a team looking to fill out their depth.

The Senators will definitely be sellers, and wow do they have some names potentially on the market that can fetch large returns: Derrick Brassard and Mike Hoffman are two players who log top-six minutes on a nightly basis and also have term left on their contract, which is great for teams looking to load up for this year and beyond.

The biggest name to watch, probably in the league altogether, is Erik Karlsson, who could be on the move if a team offers a big enough package for the Senators to pull the trigger now as opposed to in the offseason if they feel him re-signing is a long shot. He was the best defenseman last season, and if a team steps up to get him, they're getting two possible postseason runs out of him.

2. Artem Anisimov's experiment at left wing not working.

Joel Quenneville has tried rekindling the magic between Anisimov, Nick Schmaltz and Patrick Kane as of late, only this time Anisimov is playing the wing and it just hasn't been very effective. The trio was on the ice for each of the two 5-on-5 goals the Kings scored on Monday, and Anisimov completely lost his man on the first one.

It's important to establish a consistent left winger for Schmaltz and Kane, and maybe putting Alex DeBrincat up there is something you consider going forward as part of a long-term solution. Move Anisimov back down as the third-line center to play in more of a defensive role and continue using his big body on power plays for his offensive abilities might be the best bet.

3. Win the special teams battle.

In their last meeting against Ottawa on Jan. 9, the Blackhawks went 4-for-6 on the power play and 4-on-4 on the penalty kill in an 8-2 win. And those are two areas to look out for again.

The Senators own the 28th-ranked power play with a 16.1 percent success rate and 29th-ranked penalty kill with a 74.5 percent success rate. Get ready for another offensive outburst?

Podcast: Which Blackhawks could be on the move before trade deadline?

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USA TODAY

Podcast: Which Blackhawks could be on the move before trade deadline?

On the latest Blackhawks Talk Podcast, Adam Burish and Pat Boyle discuss which Blackhawks could be on the trading block and what players are building blocks for the Hawks future.

Burish also shares a couple memorable trade deadline days and his “near” return to the Blackhawks in 2012. Plus, he makes his bold trade deadline prediction for the Hawks.

Listen to the full Blackhawks Talk Podcast right here: