Blackhawks

Hawks still soul-searching after humiliation

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Hawks still soul-searching after humiliation

Friday, March 18, 2011
Posted 8:08 p.m.

By Tracey Myers
CSNChicago.com

GLENDALE, Ariz. Joel Quenneville couldnt figure it out. Neither could Jonathan Toews. Nobody could, really.

Minutes after suffering their worst loss of the season, all standings and precious-points-needed considered, several members of the Chicago Blackhawks were at a loss to figure out why their effort against the Dallas Stars was so bad.

Or why it was not there at all.

Im not a psychologist. I dont know why we decided to pack it in like that, Toews said after the lopsided 5-0 loss. Im not pointing fingers at anyone, including myself. Our best players have to be our best players and we werent tonight. And everyone followed suit.

On Thursday morning both the Blackhawks and Stars said about the same thing. It was a big game on Thursday night. There was a lot riding on that game. Problem is, only one team actually showed that on the ice.

Its one game, an important one and we didnt give ourselves a chance to get in. Thats the tough part, Quenneville said. We go back to the Calgary game a while ago. We were flat and not competing. Tonight, its tough to give a good answer why.

Now if Quenneville was talking about that terrible loss in Calgary in November, theres some excuse. The Blackhawks were still finding their way, still getting used to a lot of new pieces in their post-Cup reconstruction puzzle. If he was talking about the last loss in Calgary, it was a poor effort just days after the Blackhawks played one of their best against Vancouver, despite losing 4-3.

If the Blackhawks lose to Dallas like they did in Vancouver in early February, they could probably live with it. They wouldve lost the good fight, lost trying to the end. But thats not how Thursday went. It was one sided from the start, with the Blackhawks showing more frustration than fight.

As defenseman Brent Seabrook said we just werent very good tonight, right from the start. We didnt come out hungry enough.

True. But why that hunger was absent was a mystery.

This is not the way we wanted to start this (road trip), especially when we have a lot of time and rest between games. Theres no excuse for that, Toews said. We shouldnt forget about this one too quick.

So how do the Blackhawks respond to Thursdays letdown? Do they think about it? Do they get it out of their heads as quickly as possible? One way or another, do they learn from it?

Were going to be in the desert a couple days to dwell on this, Marty Turco said. Im not sure how itll pan out, but Im pretty sure by the drop of the puck Sunday, its going to be a different team (game) from us.

The Blackhawks will end Friday night as they did Thursday, sitting seventh in the Western Conference. Vancouver hosts Phoenix tonight, but those two teams that are already ahead of the Blackhawks in the standings. The nail biting begins again on Saturday, with a full slate of fellow conference scratchers and clawers playing.

There was no good explanation for Thursdays mess. There does, however, have to be a strong response to it.

A couple of guys consider themselves leaders of this team, whether they wear a letter or not, and we werent good enough tonight, Toews said. Those guys, and we know who we are, will respond. And the rest of the guys will follow. Thats how our team works.

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

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 2-1 overtime loss to Oilers: Connor McDavid adds to highlight reel

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USA TODAY

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 2-1 overtime loss to Oilers: Connor McDavid adds to highlight reel

Here are five takeaways from the Blackhawks' 2-1 overtime loss to the Edmonton Oilers on Thursday night:
 
1. Shake-up on power play doesn't work.

Joel Quenneville spruced up his power play units before Wednesday's game in an effort to snap a dry spell, but the Blackhawks had no luck in that department in the second of a back-to-back.

The Blackhawks went 0-for-5 on the man advantage against an Oilers team that was ranked dead last in penalty kill percentage going into the contest, and failed to capitalize on a 5-on-3 opportunity for 56 seconds in the opening minutes of the season period.

They're getting off a fair amount of shots, but the quality of them isn't there.

2. Ryan Hartman fine after brief exit due to illegal hit.

It was a physical game between the Blackhawks-Oilers, but a line was crossed at the 4:59 mark into the second period when Zack Kassian delivered a huge hit on Hartman, who went face-first into the boards.

Kassian was given a two-minute minor penalty for boarding, a call that didn't sit well with the sold-out United Center crowd of 21,444. Hartman went to the locker room to be checked out after the hit despite getting up quickly and showing no visible signs of distress, but he fortunately returned a few shifts later.

It was a dangerous hit by Kassian, and an avoidable one too. 

Quenneville admitted Hartman getting up quickly perhaps may have "helped" keep it a minor penalty and not a five-minute major, but the Blackhawks coach wasn't focused on that after seeing the result unfold.

"I saw how hard it looked," Quenneville said. "But Hartzy getting up right away, that helped. You don't even measure it anymore after that. That's the one thing you're hopeful for right off the bat."
 
3. Connor McDavid adds another play to highlight reel.

We're only two weeks into the season, but the 20-year-old reigning Hart Trophy winner submitted an early entry for Assist of the Year.

Late in the first period, McDavid flew from his own end into the offensive zone, made a spin-o-rama move on two-time Norris Trophy winner Duncan Keith and backhanded a perfect pass to Patrick Maroon, who tapped in a goal at the doorstep.

It looks impossible to defend from anyone watching, and Keith pretty much felt the same way.

"When he gets the speed in the other end there and he's able to skate all the way down, it's tough to stop a guy especially when he's that fast," Keith said. "He's just flying through the middle. I'm just a sitting duck there at the other end of the ice waiting for him to come full speed. It's a hard play to defend against."
 
4. Anton Forsberg sharp again.

It's a small sample size, but the Blackhawks' backup goaltender has looked really sharp in practically every start he's had in a Chicago uniform, including preseason.

He deserved a better fate in his regular season debut last week in Toronto when he stopped 39 of 43 shots in an overtime loss, and the same applied here.

Forsberg tied a career-high with 40 saves, and seemingly got better as the game went on.

"I for sure felt more comfortable, felt like I was more used to the speed," Forsberg said. "It's tough again to lose in overtime, obviously I wanted a win and that's kind of frustrating."

"Excellent games, both games," Quenneville said of his goaltender. "Would've been nice to get him a win tonight."
 
5. Jordan Oesterle keeps it simple in debut.

The Blackhawks' crowded blue line has made it difficult for Quenneville to give all eight defensemen a fair amount of playing time, but Oesterle took advantage of his season debut.

He logged 15:01 of ice time, registered three shot attempts (two on goal), and blocked two shots.

"I liked him," Quenneville said. "Moves the puck."

Said Keith: "I thought he was good. Tough situation for him, he hasn't played all year in a game but I thought he played good. He's got good poise, he's smart back there."

Power play woes continue for Blackhawks in OT loss to Oilers

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USA TODAY

Power play woes continue for Blackhawks in OT loss to Oilers

Mark Letestu raised his arms in celebration, his 4-on-3 power-play goal giving the Edmonton Oilers an overtime victory over the Blackhawks. The home team could only look on in frustration, knowing that if it could have just converted one power play on Thursday it may have been a different result.

Five more power plays, five more opportunities that yielded nothing for the Blackhawks, who are now 6-for-39 (15.4 percent) in that department on the season. The 5-on-4 chances were tough enough but coach Joel Quenneville and several Blackhawks pointed specifically to the 5-on-3 the Blackhawks had for 56 seconds.

“The 5-on-3, we had some great looks around the net,” Quenneville said. “A lot of loose pucks that we just didn’t find the handle [on], we’re not anticipating or sniffing them out around the net. Some close looks but no finish.”

It’s been a recurring theme for the Blackhawks on the power play, and not just this year. Again, in the past the Blackhawks didn’t sweat any power-play issues much; their 5-on-5 scoring was usually strong. This early season, however, things have quieted on that front. On Thursday the Blackhawks cleaned up a lot of the mistakes they made against the St. Louis Blues the previous night. Anton Forsberg was terrific. The Blackhawks’ second line of Ryan Hartman, Nick Schmaltz and Patrick Kane was looking like it did prior to Schmaltz’s injury. But the power play remained the same.

“Yeah, we had a lot of chances, we made plays to the net. We just didn’t capitalize on the power play which would’ve been the difference,” Ryan Hartman said. “We have a chance on the 5-on-3, which would’ve been nice. Just some chances all around, like [Jonathan] Toews’ shot that just squeaked by. Just some missed opportunities.”

The Blackhawks have looked at ways to get their power play going. They’ve tinkered with personnel – the latest was keeping the top two lines together for their respective power-play shifts. Usually it’s come down to the problems that have hampered them before: not enough movement, not enough shots, not enough hunger around the net for loose pucks. The final issue was especially prevalent on Thursday.

The chances were there on the power play. The home team had the bulk of the opportunities. The visiting one had the finish.

“The 5-on-3 we had some decent looks but that was a chance to get a huge goal for us,” Quenneville said. “The power play late in the second was decent, the third was ordinary, but we’ve been moving personnel around. We have the ingredients to make it work but a lot of loose pucks we didn’t get in our 5-on-5 game comparable around the net on the power play as well. We didn’t smell anything out around there.”