Blackhawks

Hawk Talk: Just OK isn't good enough

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Hawk Talk: Just OK isn't good enough

Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Posted: 6:00 p.m.

By Tracey Myers
CSNChicago.com

The first two words in the Boston Heralds story regarding Tuesday nights Bruins-Blackhawks game said it all.

No complacency.

According to the Herald, thats the Bruins mantra right now, regardless of the playoff berth they already gained last weekend. No quit, no stop, no pause in the pursuit of points. And on Tuesday night, it looked like the Bruins were taking that to heart with their 3-0 victory.

The Blackhawks, meanwhile, were missing the fire and determination their coach was hoping to get for a second consecutive night; they had, after all, showed plenty of it in their overtime victory in Detroit on Monday. As a result, the Blackhawks made no headway in their push for a better spot in the Western Conference playoff race.

No, for all the chatter that apparently came from the Hawks bench as a bloodied Shawn Thornton exited, there was no noise where on the ice where it mattered most. The Blackhawks, save Corey Crawfords and some defensemens especially Brent Seabrooks hard work, were quiet. They werent winning the battles. They werent making it tough enough on Boston goalie Tim Thomas. They werent where they needed to be, which is determined to get some points, any points, out of their Beantown visit.

Maybe the Blackhawks suffered from fatigue after Mondays game. Players said absolutely not and coach Joel Quenneville gave me the succinct head shake when I suggested it in the post-game interview. Certainly its no excuse, especially at this point of the season and especially with whats at stake. As defenseman Duncan Keith told the Chicago Tribunes Chris Kuc late Tuesday if its too hard to play two games in a row we probably shouldnt be in the NHL.

The Blackhawks have made things harder on themselves lately. After their stellar eight-game winning streak, theyve been back to being just streaky (4-4-2 in their last 10). The great victories (vs. San Jose, Detroit and Phoenix) have been tempered by the awful losses (Florida and Dallas) and missed opportunities (vs. Anaheim). Its been one step forward, two steps well, maybe not back, but definitely not forward, either. As Brian Campbell said of the last few games, our week was OK, and OK isnt good enough.

Throughout this latest roller-coaster ride, the Blackhawks have said all the right things. These games are big. These points are big. But the words havent translated into on-ice play enough. Yes, theyve had injuries and certainly miss the services of Dave Bolland (concussion) and Patrick Sharp (left knee). But its late Marchearly April. Every NHL team has injuries right now.

Despite not playing again until Friday, the Blackhawks will hold onto eighth place. Thats the kind ofsort of good news. Now for the not-so-good news: Teams such as Nashville and Anaheim can pull further ahead of them and Calgary and Dallas could get closer to catching them.

Complacency, lack of urgency, no matter the term its taboo for playoff-hopeful hockey teams this time of year. The Blackhawks have six games remaining to secure a playoff berth and make a statement in the process. That statement needs to be reminiscent of Mondays hard work, not Tuesdays lack thereof.

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

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks visit Niklas Hjalmarsson, Coyotes

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Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks visit Niklas Hjalmarsson, Coyotes

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Arizona Coyotes Saturday night on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 7:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. Niklas Hjalmarsson's new home.

Brace yourselves, Chicago. It's going to be a weird site seeing Hjalmarsson in a different sweater other than the Blackhawks, where he spent his first 10 NHL seasons and won three Stanley Cups.

Now he serves as an alternate captain and blue-line anchor for the Coyotes, who are the only team still seeking its first win of the season. You know they'll be hungry to snap that skid, especially when there's extra motivation for a player on their team facing a bunch of old friends.

2. Connor Murphy returns to Arizona, too.

The man Hjalmarsson was traded for will also be returning to a place he called home for four years. Murphy's role with the Coyotes increased every year before he was dealt to the Blackhawks as part of a shake-up for both teams, so you know he's going to play with something to prove.

Murphy is a physical defenseman, and has laid several notable big hits this season. His former teammates surely know it, and may want to keep their heads up.

3. Patrick Kane 2.0?

Ever since he was drafted with the No. 7 overall pick in 2016, Clayton Keller has drawn comparisons to Kane. They're both undersized, offensive playmakers, possess supreme stick-handling abilities and are American-born players.

Keller got a brief taste of NHL action last year, but he's secured a full-time spot with the Coyotes this season and has been arguably their best player so far.

The 19-year-old forward paces all rookies with five goals and ranks second with seven points, and leads the Coyotes in both categories. Expect to see his name as a finalist for the Calder Trophy for the league's top rookie at the end of the season.

Anton Forsberg is giving the Blackhawks exactly what they need

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USA TODAY

Anton Forsberg is giving the Blackhawks exactly what they need

Anton Forsberg had just finished an extended morning skate Wednesday morning in St. Louis. The backup goaltender had played in one regular-season game for the Blackhawks to that point, so getting in extra work to stay sharp was helpful.

“I try to keep my focus in practice and work extra every day, get a few extra shots in practice with the extra guys who are out there, work with Jimmy and try to keep my game shape,” Forsberg said, referring to Blackhawks goaltending coach Jimmy Waite.

Whatever Forsberg’s working on in practice and skates seems to be working, because in two games with the Blackhawks he’s looked sharp. Forsberg probably deserved a victory on Thursday night when he stopped 40 shots in the Blackhawks’ 2-1 overtime loss to the Edmonton Oilers. It’s the backup life to wait and see when that next start will come, but Forsberg has been ready.

“For sure I felt more comfortable today, more used to the speed,” he said following Thursday’s game. “I felt I read the game better, felt I had more time moving around. It’s tough, again, to lose in overtime. Obviously I wanted to win and it’s frustrating.”

Frustrating for sure, but Forsberg is giving the Blackhawks exactly what they want and need: a dependable backup that gives them a chance to win. The two goals Forsberg gave up on Thursday weren’t softies, either — Patrick Maroon’s goal off a ridiculous Connor McDavid pass and Mark Letestu’s over game-winner that deflected off Brent Seabrook’s stick.

“He kept us in a tight game like he did in Toronto, got us to overtime. I kind of feel bad we didn’t get him a win in either of those,” Ryan Hartman said. “He played well both of those games. It’s nice to have a guy on the back end like that.”

Forsberg has blended in well with the Blackhawks. It helps that he already knew two of them, Brandon Saad and Artem Anisimov, his former teammates in Columbus. He and Corey Crawford already have a good rapport. Same goes for he and Waite, and Forsberg has soaked up any information they’ve given him.

“I feel like both him and Corey teach me a lot. We talk about different situations, especially all the reads,” Forsberg said. “I get to know how (Crawford) thinks the game. He’s been around a long time and has been doing well, so it’s interesting every day to hear what he has to say. Even Jimmy’s been around same thing there, discussing my game, what we want to improve, what we want to do different, what to keep the same and go from there.”

The extra work in practices and skates appears to be working as Forsberg has done a lot right in just his first two games, which were 10 days apart. The Blackhawks have had a good run of backup goaltenders; two games is a small sample size but Forsberg could be the latest reliable backup.