Blackhawks

Hawk Talk: Calling for 60 minutes of 'Intensi-taaay'

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Hawk Talk: Calling for 60 minutes of 'Intensi-taaay'

Thursday, Jan. 27, 2010
Posted: 12:30 PM

By Chris Boden
CSNChicago.com

In 28 years of covering teams here in Chicago (yeah, go ahead...do the math...), I can't begin to tell you how many hundreds of times I've heard the player and coach refrain after a loss:

"We didn't play 60 minutes."

"We didn't play 48 minutes."

That first one's become an unfortunate Blackhawks motto into the All-Star break in the 24 times they've come up short over the first 50 games. That should be enough of a sample size for personnel and personality adjustments to have been made on a roster that lost about half of its players from the Stanley Cup championship team.

The frustrating part for the coaching staff, fans, and even some of the players themselves (most notably an increasingly-irritated Jonathan Toews), is they've shown in stretches within many of the games they've lost that if they just maintained the same approach and intensity throughout, they'd have come away with two points. Not to mention the "pace" that my colleague Tracey Myers examined in her Hawk Talk Wednesday.

Finding ways to dictate that pace, now more than ever, must come from within. As our old friend Norm Van Lier might say as we come up on the one-year anniversary of his passing, "Give me 60 minutes of INTENSI-TAAAY!" in lieu of the 48 he'd ask every game of his Bulls.

If you watch any of our pregame shows on Comcast SportNet, in features that also air on the United Center scoreboard before home games, virtually every time, one of the three keys to victory given by either Assistant Coach - Mike Haviland or Mike Kitchen - involves playing 60 minutes.

Now without going all SaferWallaceReasoner on you, "60 Minutes" involves discipline, recognition, and effort in seizing and maintaining a game's momentum. That ebbs and flows within every NHL game, but every guy putting those elements together over these final 32 games will go a long way in determining whether this team doesn't supplant the 2007 Carolina Hurricanes as the latest unable to defend its Cup the following post-season.

Here's a scary note: The '06 'Canes finished with a 52-22-8 record, the exact record the Hawks had when they went on to win the Cup last season. They weren't bad in '07 under (drumroll, please..) Peter Laviolette, but a 40-34-8 record (88 points) wasn't enough to make the playoffs. Right now, the Blackhawks are projected to reach 92 points, and you can debate whether that'll be enough in this Western Conference where contenders are beating themselves up nightly.

That returning Carolina team lost just four key players to free agency in the off-season: Matt Cullen, Doug Weight, Mark Recchi, and Aaron Ward. These Blackhawks have lost so much more. So there's also a temptation to give this team and coaching staff credit, because they've hung right in there, and remain within striking distance of a fourth seed. Meanwhile the rest of the field they're fighting hasn't had to make those personnel adjustments, other than key injuries - which the Blackhawks have also had to battle.

Roughly a month away from the trade deadline, it's tough to see any big splashes made within this cash-strapped team. Only Pittsburgh and Vancouver have less cap space right now, according to www.capgeek.com. The Hawks have under 1 million at this point, which is why Nick Leddy's doing the Rockford Shuttle. Calgary, San Jose, and Minnesota own the 5th-, 7th-, and 10th-smallest Cap room. But the likes of Anaheim and Los Angeles have 9-to-11 million in projected cap space by the deadline.

Dallas, Phoenix, Nashville, St. Louis and Colorado have the most flexibility. Unless Stan Bowman would want to move one of his bigger-salaried tickets (and find a taker with a match), he'd be limited to moving a combination of smaller pieces to get a more significant "rental" they wouldn't be tied to next season. Your higher-priced unrestricted free agents this summer, on teams who'd be willing to deal with the Hawks, would require significant personnel sacrifices in return (Toronto defensman Tomas Kaberle earns 4.2 million and if Florida's Dale Tallon would want to do business, defenseman Bryan McCabe and his 5.7 million tag and winger Cory Stillman's 3-12 million price, seem steep).

The list of UFAs salaried below 1.7 million on Eastern Conference teams slipping out of contention right now include Radek Dvorak and Marty Reasoner of Florida, Steve Montador, Mike Grier and Rob Niedermayer of Buffalo, and Andy Greene of New Jersey.

The Hawks would need to counter with a younger player or two in return off the current roster just to make those moves and not disrupt the long-term core. But the longer any teams remain on the cusp of the Top 8, the less likely they are to hold a sale. So look East if there's any movement involving the Blackhawks.

So it looks more and more as if what we see is what we'll get. That might not be a bad thing if all the guys making the big numbers start putting up better numbers more consistently. And everyone gives "60" over the next 32. They'll enter the second half completely healthy, barring some tragedy over the weekend in Raleigh (the home of those 'Canes).

After Tuesday's loss to Minnesota, the Hawks aren't back home for three weeks, when the Wild will be there to greet them again. How much better or worse will they be for that rematch, with six roadies in-between?

With the exception of a game against an improving Edmonton team they've already lost to twice, every other game will be against a team fighting with them for the Top 8, a team they're chasing, or one with something to prove against them (Columbus, Vancouver, Calgary, Phoenix and Dallas).

They enter the break in 7th place, by virtue of having one more win than 8th-place San Jose. They're four points out of 4th, two points from 12th, and five points from 14th.

Get your rest, boys.

Be sure to follow Blackhawks Insider Tracey Myers' coverage of the four Blackhawks and coaches Joel Quenneville and Mike Haviland at All-Star Weekend in Raleigh, beginning Friday, here on CSNChicago.com

Chris Boden is the host of Blackhawks Pre and Postgame Live on Comcast SportsNet.

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks look to bounce back against Panthers

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Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks look to bounce back against Panthers

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Florida Panthers Saturday on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 5:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

(Reminder: Use #AskEdzo on social media and your questions may be answered by Eddie Olczyk, who will be in studio along with Adam Burish, Brian Campbell and Pat Boyle).

1. Another fast start coming?

The Blackhawks had one of their best starts of the season Wednesday in Tampa Bay, and the numbers favor Chicago to dictate the pace of play early again.

The Panthers are tied with the Buffalo Sabres for the fewest goals scored in the first period (13), and have taken a lead into the second period only four times (3-1-0) in 21 games. They are 2-7-1 in the 10 games they've trailed after the opening frame.

The Blackhawks, on the other hand, are tied for fourth when it comes to first-period goals (22) — albeit, five of them came on Opening Night against Pittsburgh — but they are just 4-2-2 in eight games when leading after one period. In fact, they took a 2-0 lead into the second in their most recent game against the Lightning and lost in overtime 3-2.

So while a fast start could certainly be in the cards, the finish must also be there.

2. Take advantage on special teams.

The Panthers are one of two teams ranked among the bottom six in both power play percentage (26th at 16.0) and penalty kill percentage (30th at 73.2).

Meanwhile, the Blackhawks are coming in hot in both areas. They're 6-for-17 (35.3 percent) on the man advantage in their last four games, and own the fourth-best penalty kill unit (84.8 percent).

This is the area to exploit for the Blackhawks going into the matchup, and it could decide the game.

3. Feed Lance Bouma!

In his seventh season, Bouma has faced every NHL team at least five times in his career, with the exception of Vegas (pointless in one game this season).

Bouma is not known for his offensive prowess (72 points in 325 career games), but it's a different story when he plays Florida.

In six career games against the Panthers, Bouma has one goal, six assists and a career-high plus-8 rating. That one goal also happens to be one of his six career game winners.

Florida is the only team Bouma is averaging at least a point-per-game against for his career, so you know what that means: Feed No. 17!

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' overtime loss to Lightning: Missed opportunities and one too many penalties

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' overtime loss to Lightning: Missed opportunities and one too many penalties

Here are five takeaways from the Blackhawks’ 3-2 overtime loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday night:
 
1. One too many penalties.

The Blackhawks flirted with danger in the first period when they handed the Lightning three straight continuous power plays, a four-minute double minor high-sticking penalty from John Hayden and a Jonathan Toews hooking call that resulted in a 5-on-3 opportunity for Tampa Bay for 43 seconds. 

The penalty kill unit that ranked fourth in the league entering the matchup, however, killed off all three of those penalties against the NHL's top-ranked power play, and did so in commanding fashion.

The Blackhawks went 5-for-5 on the penalty kill in regulation, but couldn't stop the sixth one — a questionable slashing call on Nick Schmaltz —  in overtime when Brayden Point buried the winner on a 4-on-3 opportunity.

It was also interesting that Jon Cooper elected to go with four forwards (Nikita Kucherov, Vladislav Namestnikov, Point and Steven Stamkos) and zero defensemen during that man advantage, putting all of his offensive weapons out on the ice. It's something more teams should do in that situation.

2. Patrick Kane gets going.

After scoring just one goal in his previous 10 games, Kane found the back of the net twice in the opening frame against Tampa Bay and stayed hot against a team he historically plays well against. And he nearly netted a hat trick in overtime but couldn't cash in on a breakaway opportunity.

Kane has 20 points (eight goals, 12 assists) in 14 career regular-season games against the Lightning, and extended his point streak to five games. He has three goals and four assists over that stretch.

We wrote about how important it is for the Blackhawks' superstars to get going again with the offensive contributions mainly coming from role players as of late, and Kane getting into a groove is a perfect step in that direction.

3. How about that goaltending battle?

Corey Crawford and Andrei Vasilevskiy showed us exactly why they belong in the Vezina Trophy discussion, and as of this moment, it's hard not to include both of them as finalists. They put on a goaltending clinic, seemingly topping the other as the game went on.

The two teams combined for 71 scoring chances, and Crawford and Vasilevskiy came up big when their teams need them the most.

Crawford finished with 35 saves on 38 shots (.921 save percentage) in the loss while Vasilevskiy stopped 29 of 31 (.935 save percentage), and improved to 15-2-1 on the season. 

4. Missed opportunities.

You couldn't have asked for a better start for the Blackhawks. They scored the first goal 3:49 into the game and the second on the power play at 15:54, killed off three penalties, including a 5-on-3, had 24 shot attempts (13 on goal) compared to the Lightning's 16 attempts (11 on goal) and led in even-strength scoring chances 9-6.

It was a different story the rest of the way.

The Blackhawks took their foot off the gas pedal a bit and let the Lightning back in the game by getting away from what they do best, and that's control the puck. Obviously, you expected the league's best offense to push back and it's certainly not an easy task to keep them off the scoresheet all together. 

But the Blackhawks had their chances to stay in front or retake the lead and just couldn't bury them. Tampa Bay had 50 shot attempts from the second period on while the Blackhawks had only 32, and finished with 44 scoring chances compared to Chicago's 27.

5. Richard Panik in the doghouse?

Joel Quenneville didn't go to his line blender in this one, but he did shorten some leashes. Panik, most notably, had a season-low 12:28 of ice time in the loss and had 15 shifts, which was second-fewest only to Ryan Hartman (13) on the team.

Panik had a prime chance to break a 2-2 tie in the third period but was denied by Vasilevskiy, who made a remarkable left-pad save. Instead, Panik extended his goal drought to 12 games and didn't get a shift in overtime.

He's certainly better and will get his scoring chances when playing on the top line with Toews and Brandon Saad, but the missed opportunities are magnified in tight losses. It doesn't look like a move down in the lineup is coming given the success of Alex DeBrincat, who gives the Blackhawks an offensive weapon on the third line, but perhaps it should be considered.