Blackhawks

Blackhawks make late surge, fall in OT again

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Blackhawks make late surge, fall in OT again

Sunday, March 13, 2011
Posted: 2:04 p.m. Updated: 3:28 p.m.By Tracey Myers
CSNChicago.com

WASHINGTON, D.C. There was something a little lax, a little hesitant about the Chicago Blackhawks game early against the Washington Capitals.

The Blackhawks, who hadnt played since Wednesday, just didnt look very energetic. They lost individual battles. They lost early momentum when they gave up a short-handed goal. Then they lost the chance at gaining a critical second point.

Jonathan Toews scored a power-play goal with 38.5 seconds remaining in regulation to force overtime, but Mike Knuble scored in the extra period as the Blackhawks fell to the Capitals 4-3 on Sunday afternoon. The Blackhawks were in fifth place in the West after this one, although outcomes of later Sunday games could change that.

For the Blackhawks, this was a disappointing end to their four-game road trip. After riding an eight-game winning streak, the Blackhawks are now 0-1-2 in their last three.

We certainly werent very good today, coach Joel Quenneville said. (The Capitals) played well, they played hard. We had a little delay in our game. I thought we were generous in all the goals we gave them. We couldve done a better job defending in situations.

The Blackhawks also lost defenseman Brian Campbell in the second period; he may have re-aggravated his left leg injury. Between Campbells loss and Brent Seabrooks fight with Jason Chimera late in the second period, the Blackhawks played half of Sundays game with five defensemen and several key minutes with just four.

That was tough, said defenseman Duncan Keith, who played 30 minutes, 42 seconds on Sunday. It wears on you, especially with a team like them with a lot of speed. Theyre good cycling the puck, playing down low.

Nick Leddy and Tomas Kopecky scored for the Blackhawks. Corey Crawford, who looked a little shaky early, got better as the game wore on and stopped 38 of 42 in the loss.

The Blackhawks may have had a few days off but they struggled to take pucks, clear pucks and win battles against a hungry Capitals team thats now won eight straight.

You look at the first half of the game, especially; we were just watching each other and not playing well enough away from the puck, said Toews, whose goal was his 29th of the season. Everyones got to be anticipating, reacting. I dont know if it was laziness or fatigue or whatever, but we werent moving our feet enough away from the puck.

Leddys goal put the Blackhawks up 1-0 about five minutes into the game. But less than two minutes later on the Blackhawks second power play, Patrick Sharp couldnt get the loose puck near the blue line. Boyd Gordon could, and he went the other way for a short-handed goal that took the Blackhawks lead and momentum away.

The last couple games our power play hasnt converted, but tonight was one of our best as far as getting opportunities, especially early. It bites pretty hard when you get scored on shorthanded, Toews said. That definitely didnt help.

Quenneville agreed.

I find shorties really take a lot out of your team, he said. We had the start we were looking for and all of a sudden it gets the building going. It was disruptive to our power play as well.

The Blackhawks will take the point they were pretty fortunate to get on Sunday. But with crunch time here and another game Monday night against another hot team (San Jose), the Blackhawks have to find that other gear.

These games arent going to get any easier, Toews said. Were good enough to give ourselves a chance to get two points every night, so its about us. It comes down to our preparation and how ready we are to play.
Briefly

Campbell is listed as day-to-day with that left leg injury. He played his final shift midway through the second period, although he stayed on the bench the rest of the game.

Theres no change in status for Blackhawks center Dave Bolland (concussion). He is still listed as day to day.

The Blackhawks late power-play goal was their first since March 2 against Calgary. They went 0 for 10 in their last four games.

Tracey Myers is CSNChicago.com's Blackhawks Insider. Follow Tracey on Twitter @TramyersCSN for up-to-the-minute Hawks information.

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.”

Gustav Forsling showing improvement in his second season with Blackhawks

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USA TODAY

Gustav Forsling showing improvement in his second season with Blackhawks

On two consecutive Saturday evenings the Blackhawks were looking for a little more offense. On two consecutive Saturday evenings they got some from Gustav Forsling, whose shots got through to either tie a game (vs. Carolina) or take a lead (vs. Pittsburgh).

Forsling isn’t the big go-to guy when it comes to points but he’s nevertheless getting them for a Blackhawks team that’s starting to find its offense again. But this is more about Forsling’s overall game which, not long after he made the Blackhawks roster last fall, plateaued. This season he’s been more consistent and more confident from the start, and he and Jan Rutta have formed a pair that coach Joel Quenneville trusts and has kept together for most of this season. The 21-year-old defenseman talked of working on the mental side of his game entering this season and said he feels the difference.

“I’ve been working on it this summer and I feel a little bit better,” he said. “[Just] more confident with the puck and confident in myself and pretty much everywhere.”

Quenneville has seen the difference.

“I think he’s getting better with his reads,” Quenneville said. “He’s got a better gap. [Being] quicker all over the ice is part of that and nice to see him pound one that goes through because his shot can be a lot heavier than it’s been and we want him to use it a little bit more, too.”

Forsling says he feels comfortable playing with any of the Blackhawks’ defensemen but there’s no doubt he and Rutta have been good together. The two clicked immediately, and at times they’ve been the Blackhawks’ second pair.

“I think we’re thinking the same way out there on the ice. We have a great conversation out there and everything’s worked out fine,” Forsling said. “He’s a funny guy and we get along well.”

Forsling’s offensive contributions are welcomed but so is his defense. When the Rangers were looking for the game-tying goal late in the third period on Wednesday, Forsling was on Corey Crawford’s left side to prevent David Desharnais from scoring it. Seventy-six seconds later, Artem Anisimov’s goal gave the Blackhawks a two-goal lead.

“Great play by him,” Crawford said. “For us, we want to cover the short side there and it’s great or him to get over quick and get his stick there. Definitely a great stop by him.”

Forsling’s playing with more confidence. He’s added a little early offense. The Blackhawks wanted Forsling to reach another level this season and so far, he’s doing that.