Blackhawks

Five takeaways from Blackhawks loss to Capitals: Changes coming?

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USA TODAY

Five takeaways from Blackhawks loss to Capitals: Changes coming?

Here are five takeaways from the Blackhawks' 6-2 loss to the Washington Capitals on Wednesday night:

1. Anton Forsberg yanked for Jean-Francois Berube.

The Blackhawks had a fine start to the game, recording six of the first seven shots, but they dug themselves a big hole before they knew what hit them.

The Capitals scored three goals in a span of 3:28, which forced Joel Quenneville to replace Anton Forsberg in favor of Jean-Francois Berube, who made his Blackhawks debut after being recalled from the Rockford IceHogs on Friday when Corey Crawford was placed on injured reserve.

It was evident Forsberg wasn't on top of his game when he let a 35-foot wrist shot by Tom Wilson sneak underneath his pad for the second goal. Forsberg allowed three goals on 10 shots (.700 save percentage) while Berube finished with 12 saves on 14 shots (.857 save percentage).

2. Blackhawks can't contain Washington's top line.

At least one player from the Capitals' top line of Nicklas Backstrom, Alex Ovechkin and Wilson contributed to the six goals they scored on the Blackhawks. The trio combined for four goals and seven assists, and registered 11 of the team's 25 shots on goal.

They were the only three Washington forwards that finished with positive possession numbers, and the Blackhawks simply had no answer.

3. Missed opportunity in Period 2.

The Blackhawks were outshooting the Capitals 15-1 in the second period, and Berube didn't face his first shot of the frame until Ovechkin fired a wrist shot with 6:22 left. But the Blackhawks couldn't capitalize, and they again found themselves in a sticky situation.

Lance Bouma committed an interference penalty with 2:41 left, and the Capitals peppered five shots on goal over the next 1:13 on the power play, with the fifth one finding the back of the net thanks to Brett Connolly burying home a rebound shot from Ovechkin.

The Blackhawks had about 14 minutes to make it a one-goal game and convert on multiple scoring chances but couldn't, while the Capitals needed a little more than a minute to put the game out of reach 4-1. It showed the disparity between the two teams on offense.

4. Power play stays dry.

The Blackhawks changed up their power play structure, but the results stayed the same. Entering 1-for-17 in their last four games, the Blackhawks came up empty on all four of their opportunities and it was a momentum killer.

This is a team that hasn't gotten timely scoring during their five-game losing streak, and when you're not generating any type of momentum on the power play, it's hard to pick up the slack 5-on-5 when they're struggling in that area with quality scoring chances as it is.

5. Changes coming?

We've seen Quenneville use just about every line combination as he continues to search for some offensive inconsistency up front, and the latest changes may have made things worse. It got to a point in the third period where you couldn't even keep track of the lines. Nothing clicked.

So could changes be coming? At some point, the Blackhawks have to find a way to get Vinnie Hinostroza up with the big club despite the waiver hurdles that stand in the way. It also wouldn't be surprising to see messages sent in the form of healthy scratches.

Luckily for the Blackhawks, the Buffalo Sabres, who have only two wins in their last 13 games, are next up on the slate. If things go sideways in that one, it won't be a pretty sight at the United Center.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should Blackhawks' One Goal be to tank?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should Blackhawks' One Goal be to tank?

On the latest SportsTalk Live Podcast, Danny Parkins (670 The Score), Seth Gruen (Big Ten Unfiltered) and Jason Goch (SB Nation Radio) join Kap on the panel. 

The Blackhawks drop their 8th straight. So should their “One Goal” be to tank?

Plus, Jon Lester isn’t a fan of the new pace of play proposals. Is he right?

Listen to the full SportsTalk Live Podcast right here:

With playoff chances all but over, what can Blackhawks do at trade deadline?

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USA TODAY

With playoff chances all but over, what can Blackhawks do at trade deadline?

After losing their eighth straight game and falling 12 points out of a wild-card spot in the Western Conference, the Blackhawks' playoff chances have dipped to a season-low 0.2 percent. It would take a miracle for them to extend their postseason streak to 10 at this point, where getting just one win seems like a monumental task.

The Blackhawks were probably never really going to be buyers before the Feb. 26 trade deadline even if they were still in the hunt, but it's hard to imagine they had plans to be sellers. Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman has reiterated over and over again that he's confident in this group, one that's getting younger and faster.

But now they've reached a territory where they have to consider selling off spare parts simply to coup some draft picks or prospects that they could perhaps retain or use as sweeteners in the offseason.

So which players could the Blackhawks realistically sell?

Let's start with the two players getting rewarded with top-six ice time as of late: Lance Bouma and Tommy Wingels.

These are two players that play with high energy and go to the greasy areas, something that's important in the playoffs when scoring goals becomes more difficult. They can clean up rebounds. Wingels, particularly, likely has more value and it's showing given his recent success on the power play as a net-front presence guy. He also isn't a stranger to the playoffs with 54 games under his belt compared to Bouma's five.

Both of them are pending unrestricted free agents and are making $1 million or fewer, which certainly works in the Blackhawks' favor considering they won't cost much and their cap hits are easy to fit in on any interested team.

Maybe a team would like to take a flyer on Tomas Jurco, who's a restricted free agent at the end of the season, but that would be a move somebody makes as more of a longer term project than strengthening your depth for a playoff run this spring.

On the back end, Michal Kempny and Jan Rutta could be in play for a contender looking to ensure some depth as a sixth or seventh defenseman. Again, each of them are making less than $1 million so it's a low-risk situation for clubs whose Plan A or B fall through and may be interested in at least getting something.

While they don't have much NHL experience, they're both 27 years old and have played the sport long enough to know what they can bring to the table.

Once Feb. 26 passes and potential roster spots open up, expect the Blackhawks to start calling up the kids. 

Matthew Highmore deserves a look after leading the Rockford IceHogs with 20 goals and 32 points. John Hayden has 11 points (four goals, seven assists) in 15 games since joining Rockford, and belongs in the NHL. Even Anthony Louis, who's taken a step forward, should get a taste of the action as he continues his development.

Carl Dahlstrom is getting his shot now. Erik Gustafsson is in that process as well. Gustav Forsling had another extended look during the first half of the season before the team decided it would be wise to continue his development in Rockford, where he can play top-pairing minutes.

All of this would give the Blackhawks a better indicator of how they can approach the upcoming offseason, and which young guys they can possibly add into the mix for 2018-19. But first, we have to see how the end of February plays out before making those calls.