Blackhawks

Blackhawks focus on 'little things' after lopsided loss to Capitals

Blackhawks focus on 'little things' after lopsided loss to Capitals

Blackhawks players and coach Joel Quenneville sounded mixed following a 6-0 loss to the Washington Capitals on Friday night.

Some told the media that they could learn from that loss. Quenneville said the Blackhawks should just forget it. They all agreed on one thing: it was one horrible game on their end and they've got to clean things up fast.

On Saturday the Blackhawks got back to work trying to improve upon what failed against the Capitals, which according to Quenneville was quite the laundry list of items:

"I just think little things, whether it was getting or keeping the puck — we didn't have it at all — going into the puck area, going through the puck area, little details. We've probably given up more rush chances than we have in a long, long time," Quenneville said. "Whether it was the competitiveness from the outset, be it the faceoff circle, across the board, but that start to the game put us in a tough spot."

The loss to the Capitals marked the fifth time this season the Blackhawks have lost a game by three or more goals. Last year they lost 13 games by three or more, compared to 12 during the 2014-15 Stanley Cup season. You take that number for what it is: some games are close until the third period (Jan. 2 vs. the St. Louis Blues, a 4-1 loss) and others are like Friday's effort, or lack thereof.

So, do the Blackhawks forget about that mess or learn from it?

"I think maybe a little of both," Andrew Desjardins said. "You gotta learn from some of the stuff in aspects of one-on-one battles, being in good angles. For-sure plays still have to be for sure, where last night they weren't. As far as that goes, you have to learn from those [things]; you have to see it to learn and to understand it's not good enough. At the same time, you have to use it as a drive to be better for the next game and be a little pissed off about it."

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Vinnie Hinostroza's nullified goal (due to goaltender interference) took the wind out of the Blackhawks' sails at that point; they would've trailed 3-1 instead of 3-0. But players said there's only so much pointing they can do toward that no-goal.

"We had the momentum for a second there and it got taken away. But we should've responded better than that. It was still 3-0; still could've come back from that," Hinostroza said. "I don't think we responded, at all, how we should have."

The Blackhawks should have a sufficient level of anger on Sunday night when they host the red-hot Minnesota Wild who, thanks to their 5-4 victory over the Dallas Stars on Saturday night, jumped into first place in the Western Conference. The Blackhawks and Wild each have 59 points but the Wild have four games in hand. This one won't be easy, either. The Wild, who swept the regular-season series against the Blackhawks last year, are 16-1-1 in their last 17 games. That included a 12-game winning streak, which the equally hot Columbus Blue Jackets snapped on New Year's Eve.

Will the Blackhawks have the sufficient response? In most cases when the Blackhawks have had a horrible game one night, they've usually come back with a strong one the next. The Wild, much like the Capitals, are surging and there will be little margin for error.

The Blackhawks had an awful one in D.C. in a season that hasn't had many of them. They happen. But whether they lost sleep over it, forgot about it or learn from it, they definitely can't repeat it.

"You don't want to dwell on it, let one bad game turn into two bad games because you're thinking of everything that went wrong the last game," Trevor van Riemsdyk said. "[The Wild have] got a lot of speed, just like the Caps, a lot of skill. It'll take a great effort. When you get beat like that you want a chance to redeem yourself. Tomorrow's a good chance for that."

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Are Blackhawks doomed to miss playoffs without Crawford?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Are Blackhawks doomed to miss playoffs without Crawford?

Jesse Rogers (ESPN Chicago), Patrick Finley (Chicago Sun-Times) and Dan McNeil join Chuck Garfien on the panel.

Corey Crawford is reportedly suffering vertigo-like symptoms and there’s a chance he might not return this season. Are the Blackhawks playoff chances gone if he doesn’t come back?

Plus, the guys talk Bears coaches, preview Conference Championship weekend and Jesse discusses if the Cubs are saving their money for next winter’s big free agent class.

Listen to the latest SportsTalk Live Podcast right here:

Why Corey Crawford situation is tricky for Blackhawks

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USA TODAY

Why Corey Crawford situation is tricky for Blackhawks

The Blackhawks have been tight-lipped about Corey Crawford's status ever since he was placed on injured reserve on Dec. 27 with an upper-body injury, and it's fueled rampant speculation on social media about what's really going on. That came to an end on Tuesday when Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun-Times reported that there's growing concern within the organization that its star goaltender could miss the remainder of the season with vertigo-like symptoms. (Blackhawks senior adviser Scotty Bowman went on Sportsnet 590 The Fan on Wednesday to clarify it's post-concussion syndrome).

And while there's at least some clarity surrounding Crawford's condition, it's opened up more questions about what the Blackhawks may do going forward.

On Monday we broke down the unfavorable playoff picture for the Blackhawks going into the bye week, which was a glaring concern in and of itself. Add in the possibility that Crawford could be sidelined for the rest of the campaign and those chances absolutely diminish.

So what course of action should the Blackhawks take ahead of the Feb. 26 trade deadline? That's where the tricky part comes in.

Because of the nature of Crawford's injury, the Blackhawks aren't at a point right now where they want to put him on long-term injured reserve because that would require him to miss a minimum of 10 games or 24 days, and they're still holding out hope that he could come back within that timeframe. The problem with it is that nobody really knows. It could be days, weeks or months, and putting a restriction on that doesn't make much sense in the middle of a playoff run even though it would open up significant cap space.

Which brings us to our next point. There are certainly some decent rental goaltenders (Robin Lehner, Petr Mrazek or Antti Raanta, to name a few) on the market if the Blackhawks choose to go that route, but that might not be the wisest thing to do.

Given their spot in the standings and the chances Crawford could return, why risk giving up future assets for a playoff run that may not happen? It would be different if the Blackhawks wanted to add some insurance for the stretch run and postseason, but there's no guarantee it'll happen.

If the Blackhawks did, however, want to go that route, they would need to act quickly because there's no point in waiting closer to the deadline. Every point is crucial from here on out.

Perhaps the best and most logical idea is to stand pat.

Let it ride with Anton Forsberg and Jeff Glass and hope they can hold the fort down until a potential Crawford return. Let the young guys continue to grow. Maybe add a defenseman to patch up the back end, but don't empty the tank. There's no reason to. The Blackhawks are hoping to sign highly-touted prospect Dylan Sikura after his college season ends, which would serve as a deadline acquisition by itself.

It will be tempting for the Blackhawks to be aggressive at the trade deadline in the wake of Crawford's injury, and they're surely already having these discussions as they continue to explore the different avenues. But this might be a rare case where doing nothing is the right way to go.