Blackhawks working to shore up defense


Blackhawks working to shore up defense

The losses are starting to mount, and the way the Chicago Blackhawks are losing is whats most troubling: poor team defense has been rearing its ugly head again.

So on Sunday, it was back to the old dry erase board.

The Blackhawks got back to work with what forward Viktor Stalberg called a tougher, rougher practice on Sunday, as they try to snap a five game winless streak. The mantra? Checking and playing defense have to be top priority.

Its just keeping it simple on the ice, starting from defensive zone out, defenseman Steve Montador said. Weve done well against good opponents, and in those games weve concentrated on checking, playing defense first. Practice today was a reminder of that, practice tomorrow will be a reminder of that. Every day were talking defensive focus first.

Talking about it is one thing. But the Blackhawks need to bring that defense-first attitude more consistently than they have. When the Blackhawks went on their 5-0-2 run in January, they gave up 16 goals in those eight games. In their current 0-4-1 skid, theyve allowed 22, including those eight to Edmonton on Thursday.

That has to be a part we can rely on, whether were holding a 1-0 lead, or its a 2-1 game or 1-1 game, coach Joel Quenneville said of the defensive game. Down the stretch, there are going to be a lot of low-scoring games and we have to be committed to playing those types of games.

So it was back to the old dry erase board on Sunday. The Blackhawks emphasized the defensive mantra and took out their frustrations on each other on the Johnnys West ice. Stalberg said practices like that can be therapeutic.

Sometimes when everyones a little frustrated, you go hard, battle and get some of that out on the ice, Stalberg said. Every time weve been in a slump we go through one of these rougher, tougher practices and it tends to work.

Getting their aggressions out is one thing, but it ultimately comes down to playing better team defense. Yes, theyre still sitting in sixth place in the West. But theyve got three more road games coming up this week, none of which will be easy, and they cant afford to lose more ground.

Defense leads to offense. The Blackhawks have preached it during their successful times. Now they have to practice what they preach more often.

It has to be solid checking, defensive-minded (hockey) first, Montador said. When we take care of that part of our game, we have the players, the speed and the skill to get the chances on offense. But its thinking defensively first.

Capitals' Devante Smith-Pelly speaks out about 'racially charged chanting' at United Center

Capitals' Devante Smith-Pelly speaks out about 'racially charged chanting' at United Center

After being on the receiving end of some racist taunts while he was in the penalty box during Saturday's game against the Blackhawks, Capitals winger Devante Smith-Pelly spoke publicly about the incident.

Smith-Pelly, a 25-year-old Canadian, reacted to the fans while he was in the box, going up to them from the other side of the glass. He addressed questions from the media about the incident on Sunday.

"I just heard some chanting, some, I guess, racially charged chanting," Smith-Pelly said. "You can tell by my reaction that I got pretty upset.

"What was said this time around crossed the line."

The Capitals released a statement about the incident:

"The Washington Capitals are extremely disappointed by the intolerant behavior extended toward Devante Smith-Pelly by a select group of fans during Saturday night's game against the Chicago Blackhawks at United Center. The Capitals organization strives to be inclusive and has zero tolerance concerning any form of racism. Such behavior is unacceptable and has no place in hockey or society. As such, it is crucial to confront such appalling conduct, and the Capitals extend their appreciation to the Blackhawks organization and United Center security for swiftly removing the fans from the game."

The Blackhawks released a statement after the game with a similar tone.

Smith-Pelly said this has happened previously in his career.

"It's sad that in 2018 we're still talking about the same thing over and over," Smith-Pelly said. "It's sad that athletes like myself 30, 40 years ago were standing in the same spot saying the same thing. You'd think there'd be some sort of change or progression, but we're still working towards it I guess and we're going to keep working towards it."

The Capitals released the full interview.

Blackhawks release statement following incident that happened during game vs. Capitals


Blackhawks release statement following incident that happened during game vs. Capitals

Four fans at the United Center were thrown out of Saturday's Blackhawks game for taunting Washington Capitals forward Devante Smith-Pelly with racist remarks.

Midway through the third period, Smith-Pelly, who is black, was in the penalty box when fans shouted "basketball, basketball, basketball" at him, the Washington Post reported.

Here is a GIF of Smith-Pelly's interaction with the fans:

After the game, the Blackhawks released this statement:

Capitals head coach Barry Trotz also had this to say about the incident: