Blackhawks

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 Talk Podcast: After 20 games, do we know the identity of this Blackhawks team?

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: After 20 games, do we know the identity of this Blackhawks team?

On the latest Hawks Talk Podcast Tracey Myers and Jamal Mayers join Pat Boyle to discuss the teams wins over the Rangers and Penguins.  Have they figured some things out and what is the identity of this team after 20 games?

Jammer weighs in on Artem Anisimov’s big week and are there enough Hawks committed to net front presence?  They also discuss the surging play of the blue liners and did the Hawks fail to send a message to Evgeni Malkin, after he kneed Corey Crawford in the head?

Blackhawks’ much-maligned power play is now clicking

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks’ much-maligned power play is now clicking

It’s an annual rite of passage if you cover or are a fan of the Blackhawks: you question the power play, because there always seems to be an issue with the power play. You wonder why every season, given the talent on this team. And again this fall the power play has sputtered.

But a funny thing happened at the end of the weekend. The Blackhawks’ power play started to look good, started to generate chances and started to score. In 10 games prior to the Blackhawks’ Nov. 12 game against New Jersey they had just three power-play goals in 40 opportunities. In their last three games (vs. the Devils, New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins), they’ve tallied five goals on 13 opportunities.

So what’s been working?

“I’ll probably give you the same answer as when it wasn’t working: pucks to the net, guys in front,” Patrick Sharp said. “We have the shot mentality more so than just moving it around and getting it set up. You look at the goals we’ve scored, it’s nothing overly complicated. It’s just getting the puck to the net. Just stay with it.”

Sounds simple enough, but the stay-with-it part has probably been the toughest segment of the equation. When the Blackhawks slumped they really slumped, and their lack of confidence on the power play was as evident as their lack of scoring on it. Yes, stressing over it can have its affect; and when the Blackhawks got those two power-play goals against the Devils it seemed to be a release.

“You get one, that weight gets lifted off your chest a little bit, you can play a little loser and maybe not grip your stick as tight as when things weren’t going well,” Cody Franson said. “When you’re confident out there you’re moving the puck cleanly, things happen a little quicker for you and give you those better looks at good chances. When you’re not that confident sometimes you’re not executing as well and things were moving slower and you’re not generating too much. Confidence definitely plays a big part in it.”

So back to what’s working. The Blackhawks started becoming more active on the power play, cutting down on the passes and increasing the shots. They’ve been there for rebounds. They started feeding off the success, be it with the power play as a unit or with individual performances. Artem Anisimov has returned to being a force at the net again; of his five goals in his last three games, two are power-play goals.

“A couple of broken plays and sometimes you get some breaks. You win a faceoff and make a quick little play after a couple of great opportunities on the prior whistle there that didn’t go in. I just think shots at the net and traffic and off that, sometimes they go in,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “Our entries have always been alright this year, so we’re getting zone time and let’s get some simpler looks and sometimes they go in. I think gaining confidence there, it seems like we’re having the puck more and longer and sustaining some offense off it.”

The Blackhawks have struggled more than they’ve succeeded on the power play the last few seasons. But as their overall scoring has increased again, so has their power-play production. Good timing.

“People tend to say the power play can keep you in games and the penalty kill can win you games. Our penalty kill’s been great and has given us chances in a lot of games. [Corey Crawford’s] been playing pretty well,” Franson said. “And when our power play can give us success we find ourselves in better situations to try and win games.”