Blackhawks can't let Lightning frustrate them


Blackhawks can't let Lightning frustrate them

The Blackhawks weren’t thrilled but they were relieved.

The relief came from the victory, a 2-1 decision over the Tampa Bay Lightning that tied this Stanley Cup Final series at 2-2. The not-so-thrilled feeling was about the Blackhawks’ overall game, which wasn’t great. Once again, the Lightning were very good at making the Blackhawks look not so good.

“These guys are way better than anybody imagined at checking and trying to frustrate you,” Brad Richards said. “So we’re learning that mentality that it might be 2-1 games the rest of the way.”

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The Lightning, much like the Anaheim Ducks early in the Western Conference Final, are not letting the Blackhawks get into great scoring areas much. They’re not letting a lot of their shots get through. The Ducks thwarted the Blackhawks by blocking shots. The Lightning are doing it by breaking up the Blackhawks’ long pass attempts and checking very well.

So, how do you break through that stifling check and get those opportunities?

“Its all about our work ethic,” Jonathan Toews said. “I think when we're out there, winning the battles, the puck races, getting body position, I think the more we can have the puck, the better off we'll be.”

There’s one other thing they have to do: they have to be patient. That word came up a lot heading into the second-round series against the Minnesota Wild, another team that doesn’t always allow a lot of scoring chances. The Blackhawks flourished in that series — Patrick Kane led the way — because they didn’t force the issue, didn’t try to make something out of thin air. It’s something they’ll have to do against the Lightning, too.

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“Chances are going to come. We need to execute when they do. At the same time we can't push for offense because that's when we make mistakes,” Brandon Saad said. “They're a good team on the rush and when we turn over the puck, we don't want to feed into their rush game. We want to stay patient, believe in our process and our system.”

The Blackhawks had to work harder to break through the Ducks’ blocks. If they want to win another Cup, they’ll have to do the same with the Lightning’s checking.

“Everybody talks about how offensive they are, but that’s the tightest checking team we’ve played all year," Richards said. "They’re not only tight-checking, they’re quick. They have good sticks and get in your way. They keep pressuring and keep coming. I think we got caught up thinking it would be run and gun, and if we do that, we just feed them. We’ve got to be more patient than them.”

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?