Blackhawks

Recipe to fix broken Blackhawks must come from within

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AP

Recipe to fix broken Blackhawks must come from within

For one brief 20-minute segment, the Blackhawks tapped back into their old ways, scoring at will and looking dominant on home ice en route to a 4-2 edge after the first period. Then the second period began and the Blackhawks regressed, falling into the bad habits that have plagued them this season.

“That's a tough lead to give up, especially to get no points and give up seven goals against,” Patrick Kane said. “Obviously a disappointing last couple periods.

“I don't know if we thought it was going to be easy the rest of the night or what.”

It wasn’t that long ago that the Blackhawks, with the combination of talent, work ethic and trust in each other, made it look easy. They were a stoic group, unruffled in the face of any issue that came up on the ice. Losing? They’d find a way to come back. Leading? They held onto the edge. When one teammate was struggling, someone else was there to pick up the slack. You’re not seeing much of that right now. When something goes wrong it usually snowballs, the confidence wanes and in the case of Sunday night, a seemingly strong 4-1 lead evaporates and turns into a 7-5 victory for a New Jersey Devils team that wasn’t messing around.

The last time the Blackhawks looked confident and in control from start to finish was their second game of the season against the Columbus Blue Jackets, a 5-1 victory.

“We shouldn’t think it’s easy. It’s a tough league now. You just have to look at the standings. Everyone is very close, points are valuable every night,” Patrick Sharp said. “I know what [Kane] is saying: sometimes when a lot of goals are going in like that it changes the dynamic of the game. But we have a team that’s been around long enough to know certain situations and it’s tough to give that many up.”

As much as this is not a happy synopsis this is also not a sky-is-falling diatribe. The Blackhawks are not lacking in talent; they’re lacking in finish. Since you have the former you can figure out a way to get the latter. But the Blackhawks need to start turning the corner now and to do that they have to remember what worked for them the past few successful seasons. Be strong from start to finish, trust the guy next to you will do his job and focus on doing the same yourself. Everyone, from the youngest to most veteran, has to do more.

There’s not one magic move or decision that’s going to change the Blackhawks’ fortunes right now. No one call-up from Rockford is going to alter the course by himself. Same for any trade that they would consider between now and the trade deadline, which is months away. As Sharp said following Sunday’s game, “I’ve been through it 1,000 times.” Many of his teammates have, too.

The Blackhawks were reminded once again on Sunday that nothing comes easy. When they were at their best it took a lot of hard work to make it look easy. They’ll have to work that much harder now.

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.”