Blackhawks

Hawk Talk: Divergent Paths to a Collision Course

Hawk Talk: Divergent Paths to a Collision Course

Monday, May 24, 2010
10:45 PM

By Chris Boden
CSNChicago.com

Blackhawks versus Flyers.

The other Keystone State team as a Finals foe, after Pittsburgh swept them last time.

Back on March 13th, Cristobal Huet played one of his better games as the goalie competition was still up for grabs, leading 2-1 with just over two minutes left at the Wachovia Center. But a breakaway goal tied it, and Chris Pronger capped a rush for the winner with just 2.1 seconds left. in the only meeting this season. One of Pronger's main jobs now will be trying to quiet down Dustin Byfuglien. 6'4, 260 against 6'6, 220 with an extremely nasty streak. This is where the Flyers expected him to take them when they acquired him last off-season. He won a Norris Trophy in one of his nine seasons in St. Louis, playing under Joel Quenneville. These Flyers have two more regular D-Men 6'3 and another 6'5.

You want questions in the crease? They also have a goalie named Michael Leighton. In, out, waived by Carolina, on to Philly, hurt, back in again, and the owner of three shutouts in the East Final versus Montreal. He was a sixth round pick of the Hawks in 1999, went 8-21-10 for them when he got his first Big Chance in '02-'03 and '03-'04. Duncan Keith was a minor league teammate at Norfolk. His backup: Brian Boucher: 1-10-3 with the Hawks three years ago. Patrick Sharp and Ben Eager will face their most recent ex-teams before being traded to the Hawks.

Keith, Seabrook, Pronger, Toews, Richards. Team Canada.

Philly's gotten healthier after showing the heart of Rocky by stunning Boston in coming back from the brink, down three games to none, in round two. They made the playoffs on the final day of the regular season - beating the Rangers in a shootout, then stunning heavily-favored New Jersey in the opening round.

They're getting strong secondary scoring now. Sound familiar? They've got guys for United Center fans to hate: Carcillo, Hartnell, Laperriere.

They fired their coach in December when they were above .500, then hired a guy who won a Cup in Carolina (with Andrew Ladd), and they promptly started 2-8 under Peter Laviolette.

Their captain eagerly grabs the Prince of Wales Trophy Monday night. Our captain acted as if the Campbell Trophy would give him a life-threatening illness if he touched it Sunday afternoon.

They're the latest team to participate in the Winter Classic and make the Stanley Cup Finals - where they've lost in their last five attempts. Just like the Blackhawks. At least their last Cup-hoisting was a mere 35 years ago. Not 49.

How soon can Saturday get here?

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.”