Full 60-minute effort still eludes Blackhawks

Full 60-minute effort still eludes Blackhawks

The 60-minute game: every team talks about it and every team constantly stresses how important it is. The Blackhawks used to log them on a regular basis but this season, not so much. This season, the team you see in the first period could be vastly different than the one you see in the second. Or the third.

The only consistent part of the Blackhawks’ game is its inconsistency. For too many games this season the Blackhawks, struggling to score goals, leaned on their goaltending. On Sunday the goals finally came in the first period. But their play from that point on, coupled with a relentless New Jersey Devils team and a decided off night from Corey Crawford, led to another point-less night.

“That was frustrating,” Patrick Sharp said. “I thought we came out, had a great first period, building off that comeback win in Raleigh and the game just got away from us there. It was disappointing to give up that many in our building. Some positives coming off the game offensively but it’d be nice to put the full 60 together and get the win.”

Again it goes back to the full 60. Sunday’s second period was a forgettable one for the Blackhawks, who have had issues in that frame dating back to prior seasons. A mistake here or there leads to opponents’ goals. The overall sense of confidence goes away and the Blackhawks are reeling again. As coach Joel Quenneville observed, “the variance from our first to second of being exactly how you want to play and exactly how you can’t play.” In past outings Crawford has been there to bail them out. On Sunday he was pulled after 40 minutes.

“That was pretty obvious. Just a struggle right from the start. Those ones come every once in a while during the year. Just have to forget about it and keep playing,” said Crawford. “It’s tough too. We played so well and scored a lot and just couldn’t find a way to make a save.”

You can talk about the good things the Blackhawks did in this one, the continued great weekend that Alex DeBrincat had, the improvement Nick Schmaltz showed going back to left wing. But the good moments here and there are still being offset by too many disappointing finishes. There’s no quick fix to the situation. There’s not a lot of wiggle room with the way this Blackhawks’ roster is assembled. A tweak here or a call-up there is only going to do so much.

The answers have to come from who’s here, and there’s still more than enough talent here to figure it out. The Blackhawks have enough guys who know how to put together a full 60-minute game. Now to do it, and do it consistently.

“I’ve been through it 1,000 times. The only thing you can do is stay positive and keep working. Nobody’s going to feel sorry for the Hawks, no one’s going to feel sorry for me. Hold your head up and keep working,” Sharp said. “Things are going to break and I believe in this team in here.

Blackhawks edge out Senators in shootout: 'It was really nice to get a win'

Blackhawks edge out Senators in shootout: 'It was really nice to get a win'

It was a rare sight to see the Blackhawks in a shootout on Wednesday night.

It was just the second time this season — and first time at the United Center — that the Blackhawks made it past 3-on-3 overtime. 

The last came on Dec. 2, 2017, a 3-2 shootout loss to the Stars in Dallas. On Wednesday night, the Blackhawks were on the other end, beating the Ottawa Senators 3-2 in a seven-round shootout. Nick Schmaltz netted the game-winner.

"We'll take it," coach Joel Quenneville said. "I thought we had a decent game tonight. Overtime not so good, I liked the shootout victory, Fors made some big saves for us particularly as the game got deeper. Our third was OK, I thought our first two were way better, and overtime we gave up some high quality, some bells were rings for a bit there. But it was nice to see the shootout win."

Patrick Kane had a goal and an assist, recording another multi-point game, his 16th of the season.

"I mean we need every point we can get at this point," Kane said. "There's still belief in this locker room. Obviously we need to go on quite a run and have a big record here down the stretch. But take it a game at a time and nice to get two points."

Anton Forsberg was a big reason the Blackhawks even recorded those two points. The 25-year-old netminder stopped 34 of 36 shots and made a handful of big saves down the stretch.

"It was really nice to get a win for sure," Forsberg said. "I would love to have a lot more wins, but right now just gotta look forward and get as many wins as possible."

Added Quenneville: "I think it was good for him to win a game the way he did. Lot of shots were on the line, as we progressed, got deeper, hitting the point first was big for him and for us and then finding a way to get the extra one was a good win."

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

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?