Hawk Talk: The Ugly Truth


Hawk Talk: The Ugly Truth

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

By Brett Ballantini

Its a good lesson.

Thats how Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville described his teams unfathomable, fall-from-ahead, 6-5 shootout loss to the Minnesota Wild three months ago. With the Blackhawks slipping to 15-12-4 since that fateful Jan. 9 night in Minnesota, its clear that whatever lesson that horrific game taught, it wasnt soaked up by the Hometown Heroes.

So lets take a minute out of the current free-fall and compare that Blackhawks team, all blustery and confident and healthy and full of promise, to the current incarnation.

If you are a fan more fascinated with the agony of defeat than the thrill of victory, dig back into the archives for the promise-filled look at that Jan. 9 game or an assessment of the current club written just a few days ago, and thus shorting them just a couple of losses.

For the rest of you less-hearty souls, heres the side-by-side.

Blackhawks Before and After
on 1-9-10
on 3-31-10
Wins3146Losses1022Last 10 Games
8-2-03-5-2Points6599Points Percentage
.739.660NHL Ranks
Simple Rating System
1.27 (1st)
.660 (fourth)
Power Plays
.207 (T-seventh)
.183 (T-14th)
Penalty Kills
.868 (second)
.846 (fifth)
Faceoffs.532 (third)
.524 (second)
Penalty Minutes
12.4 (14th)
11.4 (seventh)
Team Leaders
GoalsPatrick Kane (19)
Patrick Kane (28)
AssistsDuncan Keith (32)
Duncan Keith (54)
PointsPatrick Kane (50)
Patrick Kane (82)
Plus-MinusBrent Seabrook (22)
Sharp, Hossa (21)
Penalty Minutes
Ben Eager (79)
Ben Eager (116)
ShotsPatrick Sharp (146)
Patrick Sharp (248)
Shooting Percentage
Troy Brouwer (.186)
Troy Brouwer (.184)
Ice Time
Duncan Keith (26:32)
Duncan Keith (26:44)
Central Division Lead
105Western Conference Seed
12Projected Quarterfinals Opponent
L.A. Kings
L.A. Kings
InjuriesDave Bolland
Brian Campbell
Adam Burish
Kim Johnsson
Top Line
Toews-Kane-BrouwerToews-Sharp-HossaSecond Line
Third Line
Bolland-Ladd-BrouwerFourth Line

Other facts about the Jan. 9 loss that dont really fit above:

Cristobal Huet had won three of his last four games vs. the Wild, with a sparkling 1.26 goals-against average. In Chicagos first two wins of the season vs. Minnesota, he allowed just one goal.
The Blackhawks entered play Jan. 9 with power-play goals in eight of their previous nine games.
Minnesota out-hit the Blackhawks 46-12 on Jan. 9, Cal Clutterbuck leading the way with nine.
With the win, the Wild became the first NHL team to earn at least a point when trailing by four goals entering the third since the Philadelphia Flyers did so on Dec. 11, 2008.
It was the first time the Wild had ever won a game in which they were four goals down.

Brett Ballantini's Blackhawks Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnikon Twitter for up-to-the-minute Hawksinformation.

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Has the championship window closed?


Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Has the championship window closed?

On the latest Hawks Talk Podcast, Jonathan Toews sits down with Pat Boyle for a 1-on-1 interview. Toews weighs in on his season with Brandon Saad, whether he expects major changes this offseason and has the championship window closed?

Also, Adam Burish joins the podcast and plays the game: “Building block, not sure, or no thanks.” Burish runs down the Blackhawks forwards and predicts whether or not they have a future with the team.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below:

What should the Blackhawks do in goal next season?

What should the Blackhawks do in goal next season?

The last time the Blackhawks were in Winnipeg they exploded for three first-period goals en route to a 5-1 victory on Dec. 14.

The roles were reversed on Thursday.

It appeared the Blackhawks might be headed for another drubbing when Brandon Saad scored 11 seconds into the game and they were awarded an ensuing power play following a failed offside challenge by the home team, but the Jets killed it off then responded with five unanswered goals over the next 11:53 and didn't look back as Chicago lost 6-2.

Anton Forsberg was pulled for the sixth time in his 27th start this season after allowing three goals on six shots, while J-F Berube gave up two goals on his first five shots before stopping 27 straight. It was the 14th time the Blackhawks allowed five or more goals in a game this season, having done that only eight times last season.

Needless to say, it's been a roller coaster in goal as of late.

To make matters worse, the Blackhawks aren't as optimistic about Corey Crawford returning before the season ends and maybe that's for the better.

But there's a big question mark between the pipes when you factor in Crawford's health and the inconsistency from their backups, which has included Jeff Glass, Forsberg and Berube.

The Blackhawks weren't expecting Forsberg to be the next Scott Darling when they included him in the trade package involving Saad and Artemi Panarin this past offseason, but they were certainly hoping he would be around the league average in save percentage (.913).

Instead, it's slipped to .905, which ranks 43rd of 52 goaltenders that have started at least 20 games this season. That's also his 5-on-5 save percentage, which is 49th out of 52 among goalies with 800-plus minutes of ice time.

When it rains, it often pours with Forsberg in net and he hasn't shown signs of progression to prevent the bleeding from getting worse.

The backup goaltending position is more important than ever in this day and age, especially for the Blackhawks with Crawford likely going into next year having not faced a shot in game action in nine months.

For those reasons, it might be wise for the Blackhawks to strongly consider rolling with Berube as the No. 2 to at least start next season if an external option isn't the preferred direction.

It would allow Forsberg to fine-tune his mechanics, build his confidence and continue his overall development with the Rockford IceHogs in the American Hockey League, where he backstopped the Lake Erie Monsters to their first ever Calder Cup championship in Columbus Blue Jackets franchise history two years ago.

Berube and Forsberg are both under contract for the Blackhawks in 2018-19, and it's no secret there's a belief within the organization that Forsberg has a higher ceiling. He just hasn't been able to reach it yet in the NHL for whatever reason.

There are 11 games left, and it wouldn't be surprising to see Berube get more than half of those.

Yes, his save percentage is one percentage point below Forsberg's at .904. But three of his eight appearances have come in relief.

In his five starts, he has a .908 percentage; in his three relief appearances, it's at .893.

Berube deserves a longer look, one that could carry weight when determining next season's backup.