Blackhawks

Power play woes continue for Blackhawks in OT loss to Oilers

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USA TODAY

Power play woes continue for Blackhawks in OT loss to Oilers

Mark Letestu raised his arms in celebration, his 4-on-3 power-play goal giving the Edmonton Oilers an overtime victory over the Blackhawks. The home team could only look on in frustration, knowing that if it could have just converted one power play on Thursday it may have been a different result.

Five more power plays, five more opportunities that yielded nothing for the Blackhawks, who are now 6-for-39 (15.4 percent) in that department on the season. The 5-on-4 chances were tough enough but coach Joel Quenneville and several Blackhawks pointed specifically to the 5-on-3 the Blackhawks had for 56 seconds.

“The 5-on-3, we had some great looks around the net,” Quenneville said. “A lot of loose pucks that we just didn’t find the handle [on], we’re not anticipating or sniffing them out around the net. Some close looks but no finish.”

It’s been a recurring theme for the Blackhawks on the power play, and not just this year. Again, in the past the Blackhawks didn’t sweat any power-play issues much; their 5-on-5 scoring was usually strong. This early season, however, things have quieted on that front. On Thursday the Blackhawks cleaned up a lot of the mistakes they made against the St. Louis Blues the previous night. Anton Forsberg was terrific. The Blackhawks’ second line of Ryan Hartman, Nick Schmaltz and Patrick Kane was looking like it did prior to Schmaltz’s injury. But the power play remained the same.

“Yeah, we had a lot of chances, we made plays to the net. We just didn’t capitalize on the power play which would’ve been the difference,” Ryan Hartman said. “We have a chance on the 5-on-3, which would’ve been nice. Just some chances all around, like [Jonathan] Toews’ shot that just squeaked by. Just some missed opportunities.”

The Blackhawks have looked at ways to get their power play going. They’ve tinkered with personnel – the latest was keeping the top two lines together for their respective power-play shifts. Usually it’s come down to the problems that have hampered them before: not enough movement, not enough shots, not enough hunger around the net for loose pucks. The final issue was especially prevalent on Thursday.

The chances were there on the power play. The home team had the bulk of the opportunities. The visiting one had the finish.

“The 5-on-3 we had some decent looks but that was a chance to get a huge goal for us,” Quenneville said. “The power play late in the second was decent, the third was ordinary, but we’ve been moving personnel around. We have the ingredients to make it work but a lot of loose pucks we didn’t get in our 5-on-5 game comparable around the net on the power play as well. We didn’t smell anything out around there.”

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Could Blackhawks become sellers at trade deadline?

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Could Blackhawks become sellers at trade deadline?

On the latest Hawks Talk Podcast, Pat Boyle and Steve Konroyd discuss the Blackhawks’ poor effort vs. Detroit, Corey Crawford’s health and what kind of run they will need to go on to make the Staney Cup playoffs.

Konroyd also weighs in on his roster concerns and whether or not the Blackhawks will be buyers or sellers at the Feb. 26 trade deadline.

Joel Quenneville sends message to Blackhawks going into bye week

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AP

Joel Quenneville sends message to Blackhawks going into bye week

The Blackhawks are in a position they've never been in under Joel Quenneville. It's mid-January and they find themselves below the playoff line.

To make things even more difficult, they'll be sitting at home or on vacation for the next five days while they watch other Western Conference teams accumulate points during their league-mandated bye week. That means when they return to action on Saturday they'll have lots of ground to make up and minimal margin for error.

So while the Blackhawks should certainly use their down time to recharge both mentally and physically, Quenneville's message to his team is very clear.

"Mentally, get away," he said following a 4-0 loss to the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday. "Relax, I guess. Have a little fun. But hockey still has to be in the back of your mind. It’s still going to be on when you’re out there. Certainly knowing it’s going to take a lot more than what we showed in the first half of the season. We’re going to need everyone going all out every single night to have a chance."

And it's alarmingly true.

Here's what the wild card picture looks like going into Monday:

While just three points separate the Blackhawks from the Wild, the Blackhawks are in the worst position among the six teams in the picture. The Stars, who are already ahead by a point, have one game in hand on the Blackhawks, the Sharks have four and the streaking Avalanche have three. Heck, even the Ducks have a game in hand, which means an extra win would put them above the Blackhawks.

Every point is critical for the Blackhawks, not only because it obviously keeps them in the hunt, but because on game's they fail to collect points, they're scoreboard watching five other teams hoping they're coming away with nothing as well.

The Blackhawks will come out of the bye week with three straight home games, and if they don't play with their backs against the wall from here on out, their nine-year playoff streak could be in serious jeopardy.