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."

[SHOP: Get your Blackhawks gear right here]

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."

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

sharpkanetoews.jpg
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

patricksharp.png
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.”