Blackhawks

Hawks fall in return to United Center

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Hawks fall in return to United Center

The Blackhawks werent throwing out the tired excuse on Tuesday night, and they werent willing to use it when they were asked about it.

Nevertheless, they sure looked it.

Four different Coyotes scored, including Shane Doan with the game-winner, as the Blackhawks dropped a 4-1 decision to Phoenix at the United Center on Tuesday night.

The Blackhawks, who wrapped up their 13-day road trip on Saturday night, were looking to bring their road game at least the California part of it -- home. Instead they looked sluggish against a Coyotes team that improved to 7-3-1 on the road this season.

Coach Joel Quenneville said Monday that a game like Tuesdays was potentially dangerous: jet lag, tired legs and trying to get too cute at home could be culprits against a solid road team like Phoenix. And it looked like one or a few of those were at play, as the Blackhawks showed little fire or push-back against the Coyotes.

There were a couple of shifts that there was some (energy) but it wasnt enough for me, Quenneville said. We were really weak in the puck area. They had better, quicker sticks and quicker feet. We didnt win any puck battles.

Duncan Keith said I dont know if it was lack of energy. We were skating out there, we just didnt accomplish anything. Wed get the puck out of our zone and it seemed like it was rammed right back into it. It seemed like they were on top of us every time. I dont know if thats energy or just being smart with the puck.

And they didnt do much with the puck when they did possess it. The Blackhawks were once again looking for the perfect scoring opportunity instead of just firing it at Phoenix goaltender Mike Smith, who stopped 24 of 25 for his 12th victory this season.

Only Patrick Sharps power-play goal with 42.9 seconds got past Smith. Otherwise, it was just a lifeless night for the Blackhawks.

You sure fatigue didnt creep in just a little bit?

Maybe, but its still not an excuse, especially at this level and at home, Patrick Kane said. There should be enough energy and motivation to play in front of our own crowd and adrenaline to build off that, so thats really not an excuse for us.

Corey Crawford allowed all four goals and was pulled after Whitneys score 5:02 into the third period. Damon Langkow, Radim Vrbata and Ray Whitney also scored for the Coyotes, who will be back here on Monday night.

The Blackhawks wanted to continue their roll started in the Los Angeles area. Instead they came out decent and went to flat pretty quick. Theyll get some rest now before hosting the New York Islanders on Friday. By then, fatigue definitely wont be a potential excuse.

We know that scoring first was important, Quenneville said. We had a decent start. They played that perfect checking game and it frustrated us. It wasnt pretty.

Carbomb radio

Forward Daniel Carcillo will host a new show called The Bomb Shelter, debuting on Dec. 2 at 11 p.m. The hour-long program will focus on Carcillos love of all types of music, as well as personal anecdotes, special guests and more. Future shows will air following weekend home games on dates yet to be announced.

Briefly

Niklas Hjalmarsson was a minus-3 for the Blackhawks on Tuesday night.

Sami Lepisto, John Scott and Ben Smith were the Blackhawks healthy scratches.

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.

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks visit first-place Lightning

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Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks visit first-place Lightning

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 6 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos.

There hasn't been a more dynamic duo in the NHL so far this season than Kucherov and Stamkos, who have combined for 68 points (27 goals, 41 assists) through 20 games, and sit first and second in the scoring race.

They've each recorded a point in every game except three — which coincidentally have been the same games — and they've lost all three of those contests. Kucherov has also scored a goal in 15 of 20 games this season. That's absurd when you consider he's scoring on a consistent basis; it's not like they're coming in spurts.

To put all that into perspective, he reached the 17-goal mark in his 36th game last year and still finished second in the league with 40 goals. He hit the 17-goal mark in 16 fewer games this season. How many can he realistically finish with? 60?

2. Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews.

Tampa Bay knows how dangerous Chicago's dynamic duo can be as well, as evidenced in the 2015 Stanley Cup Final. The Blackhawks' superstars know how to get up for a big game.

In 13 career regular-season games against the Lightning, Kane has 18 points (six goals, 12 assists). Toews has 14 points (eight goals, six assists) in 14 games.

They're both producing at or above a point-per-game pace, and they're going to need more of that against this powerhouse Lightning team.

3. Something's gotta give.

Tampa Bay's offensive prowess is off the charts up and down the lineup. It has four lines that can come at you at waves, and a strong, active blue line led by potential Norris Trophy finalist Viktor Hedman and Calder Trophy candidate Mikhail Sergachev.

Although Chicago allows the fourth-most shots per game (34.0), it actually hasn't been bad at preventing goals — a large reason for that is Corey Crawford. 

The Lightning rank first in goals per game (3.95) and first in power play percentage (28.0) while the Blackhawks rank sixth in goals against per game (2.65) and four in penalty kill percentage (84.9).

Who's going to crack first?