Blackhawks

Hawk Talk: Calm Hawks ooze optimism

Hawk Talk: Calm Hawks ooze optimism

Sunday, June 6, 2010
5:48 PM

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com
CHICAGO With the momentum of the Stanley Cup Finals having swung completely to the side of the Philadelphia Flyers, is there anything that can comfort the Chicago Blackhawks?

Theres a lot to hearten the team, actually, as the Redshirts reflected during Sundays morning skate and postgame media session.

Every Blackhawk was smiling on the ice. Forward Dustin Byfuglien chirped throughout drills, goaltender Antti Niemi reacted demonstratively toward scores in two-on-one drills at the end of practice, and the chorus of shooters during the drill was loud with cheers and boos for goals and misses.

Hey, one Blackhawk even demonstrated the good sense to chuck a puck 20 rows up in the direction of unpopular anti-Hawks analyst Pierre McGuire.

All year, if you watch us in practice, there are a lot of smiles out there, Chicago winger Patrick Kane said. It shouldnt be any different now.

It wasnt all just grins and giggles on the ice, however. Coach Joel Quenneville kept prospective line changes (including the possibilities of Kane and Jonathan Toews being split up on the top line, Byfuglien and Troy Brouwer flipping spots and Colin Fraser, Adam Burish, or Jordan Hendry being reintroduced to the lineup) well obscured, beginning drills with his standard Finals lines and mixing it up randomly as the skate went on.

Brouwer admitted afterward that the team hadnt been told anything regarding possible line changes for Game 5. Andrew Ladd and Duncan Keith didnt skate, but both are expected to be in the lineup for Game 5.

Kane and his teammates didnt feel that a lineup shuffle would harm the Hawks in any way. Weve all played with different people all year, Crazy 88 said. Splitting up me and Jonny Toews gives Philadelphia more to have to pick and choose from on defense.

As for the pressure the club was supposed to be feeling, it wasnt evident on the faces of the Hometown Heroes.

Theres only as much pressure on us as we want to put on ourselves, Brouwer said. This is a big swing game. Theres no room for nerves.

The Flyers probably feel they have pressure on themselves, too, said Kane, who was at his most subdued in this pregame media session.

Meanwhile, a defensive leader and a slice-and-dice winger kept the circumstances in the proper perspective.

Were in a great situation, defenseman Brian Campbell said. Were playing hockey in June. Its a lot of fun. The veteran they call Soupy also rather charmingly offered a betrayal of how immersed hes been in hockey by pegging todays date as June 4.

If you would have told us before the season that wed be in the Stanley Cup Finals and tied 2-2 with two games still to play at home, we would have been pretty happy with that, Kane said.

And if theres no comfort in the words of the Hometown Heroes, how about a factoid that is undeniably heartening if youre a Blackhawks rooter: In the history of best-of-seven Stanley Cup Finals, teams winning Games 1 and 2 at home as the Hawks did and losing Games 3 and 4 again, Chicago did this are 9-0 in Game 5.

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 5-2 loss to Blues: What's up with the power play?

patrick_sharp.jpg
USA TODAY

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 5-2 loss to Blues: What's up with the power play?

Here are five takeaways from the Blackhawks' 5-2 loss to the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday night:
 
1. Nick Schmaltz returns but sizzle doesn’t.

You didn’t expect the fireworks of the season opener but you figured Schmaltz, Ryan Hartman and Patrick Kane would connect pretty quickly again. The speed was certainly there. The connections on passes were not. It wasn’t just that second line, though: it was another night on which the Blackhawks’ offense was sluggish. 
 
2. Tripping along.

I joked that tripping is the new slashing. Maybe that’s not the case league-wide but it was for the Blackhawks on Wednesday night. The Blackhawks took five tripping penalties overall, including three in the first period. It was a clear sign that the Blackhawks were trying to play catch-up all night, and they didn’t fare well at it.
 
3. Power play gets something but…

It took until late in the third period (when the Blackhawks’ offense seems to get going lately). The Blackhawks got two late power-play goals, a reminder of what they can do when they battle for the puck and show some spark.

“Our sense of urgency in the puck area, be it 5-on-5 or on the power play, that’s the differential of keeping the puck in the offensive zone and making plays off it is one of our strengths,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “We didn’t do that very often and we haven’t won many battles.”
 
4. Starting slow.

Why these are happening is a mystery, and they’ve been most evident in the Blackhawks’ last three games, which have all come against division opponents. Too much relying on Corey Crawford again and not much in terms of shots, be it quality or quantity through the first two periods. The Blackhawks were outshot 17-8 through the first 40 minutes on Wednesday. While they created little they gave up way too much.
 
5. Patrick Sharp OK?

Sharp was injured late on Wednesday night when the Blackhawks-Blues game got chippy in the final five-plus minutes. Quenneville thought Sharp was fine but he wasn’t positive at the time of his postgame press conference.

Blackhawks stumble out of the gates against Blues: 'We were brutal'

Blackhawks stumble out of the gates against Blues: 'We were brutal'

ST. LOUIS – The Blackhawks’ first tripping came barely a minute into the game. Then came another one. And another. And another. And another. Despite welcoming one of their fastest players back into the lineup, the Blackhawks were overall flat-footed and playing catch-up all night, be it on the ice or on the scoreboard, to the St. Louis Blues.

Nick Schmaltz returned but the effect on the second line and the Blackhawks overall wasn’t immediate. Instead the Blackhawks looked sluggish. Their offensive opportunities were few – a one and done here and there but no sustained zone time or pressure on Blues goaltender Jake Allen – their passing was off and they were on the defensive all night.

And then there were the tripping penalties. The Blackhawks’ penalty kill held up through it, nullifying all five Blues power-play opportunities. But the Blues found other ways to inflict their damage.

“They played well and we were brutal,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “That was a bad start, a bad middle and even [though] it was a little excited at the end it wasn’t very good. That’s as close to brutal as you can get.”

The Blackhawks’ last three games have common themes: they’re outshot for a good part of the game, they’re giving up a good amount of quality shots and then the urgency hits them midway through the third period. For the third consecutive contest the Blackhawks scored two goals late and in two of those three games it wasn’t nearly enough.

“Obviously it wasn’t good enough for two periods. If you take any positives out of this game, it’s the way we played in the third,” Patrick Kane said. “At least we know we can do it. Just gotta do it before our backs are against the wall.”

Why it’s taking the Blackhawks so long to get going, however, is the question. Obviously the Blackhawks’ late third-period pushes show how capable they are of producing when necessary. Said Alex DeBrincat, who assisted on Ryan Hartman’s goal late in regulation, “If we’re would’ve been crashing the net like that all game it may have been a different story.”

But they didn’t. The Blackhawks welcomed back a teammate that’s injected speed into their lineup but the team was once again stumbling out of the gate.

“We’re supposed to be out there, giving our all every minute we’re out there and every shift, go out there and take it a shift at a time and give it all you got every shift,” Hartman said. “We have four lines that can roll so there’s no excuse for not going out there and putting all your energy out there for a shift and getting ready for the next one.”