Blackhawks

'Outworked' Hawks shut out in third straight loss

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'Outworked' Hawks shut out in third straight loss

Updated: Friday, Jan. 6 at 10:52 p.m.

Coach Joel Quenneville felt the Blackhawks shouldve gotten at least a point out of their game in Philadephia on Thursday night. He didnt see them deserving even that on Friday.

David Jones tip-in proved to be the game-winner, as the Colorado Avalanche blanked the Blackhawks 4-0 at the United Center. It was the Blackhawks third consecutive loss and fourth in their last five games. It was also the fifth time this season theyve been shut out.

The Blackhawks were facing a rested and confident Avalanche, who have now won nine of their last 10. It showed from the blue line to the net, where Semyon Varlamov stopped all 27 shots for his second shutout this season.

Last night we couldveshouldve got a point. Tonight we didnt deserve anything, Quenneville said. We got what we deserved.

The Blackhawks didnt have much jump from the outset. Perhaps it was an after effect of their physical game in Philadelphia on Thursday. But they werent using that as an excuse.

It seemed like we were a step behind the whole game. I dont know why, Duncan Keith said. Especially in games like this, back to back, we need to rely on our team game. For whatever reason tonight, it wasnt very good.

The Blackhawks struggled defensively on one end -- Nick Leddy had a particularly rough night -- as the Avalanche pounced on miscues and open chances. They were shut down offensively on the other end, too. The Blackhawks had their chances, but they also had plenty of one-and-done opportunities.

We didnt generate enough, Quenneville said. We had some quality chances. It wouldve been nice to get one and see what wouldve happened.

Defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson said it was not a good game at all. We just got outworked basically. We have to do better and try to get more bodies at the net, get the puck deep and go to work. Weve been struggling with that the last couple of games and thats why were not winning.

The Blackhawks were winning in December with that team game Keith talked about on Friday night. As the calendar has turned, so has their game. On Sunday theyll face the Detroit Red Wings, against whom they had one of those stellar across-the-board performances last time. Theyll need that again, and they need to keep it going like they did in December.

The last three games we havent been consistent at all, Hjalmarsson said. A couple guys (have) a good game and in another game a couple other guys are good. We just have to be on top, the whole team, when the game starts.

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: After 20 games, do we know the identity of this Blackhawks team?

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: After 20 games, do we know the identity of this Blackhawks team?

On the latest Hawks Talk Podcast Tracey Myers and Jamal Mayers join Pat Boyle to discuss the teams wins over the Rangers and Penguins.  Have they figured some things out and what is the identity of this team after 20 games?

Jammer weighs in on Artem Anisimov’s big week and are there enough Hawks committed to net front presence?  They also discuss the surging play of the blue liners and did the Hawks fail to send a message to Evgeni Malkin, after he kneed Corey Crawford in the head?

Blackhawks’ much-maligned power play is now clicking

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks’ much-maligned power play is now clicking

It’s an annual rite of passage if you cover or are a fan of the Blackhawks: you question the power play, because there always seems to be an issue with the power play. You wonder why every season, given the talent on this team. And again this fall the power play has sputtered.

But a funny thing happened at the end of the weekend. The Blackhawks’ power play started to look good, started to generate chances and started to score. In 10 games prior to the Blackhawks’ Nov. 12 game against New Jersey they had just three power-play goals in 40 opportunities. In their last three games (vs. the Devils, New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins), they’ve tallied five goals on 13 opportunities.

So what’s been working?

“I’ll probably give you the same answer as when it wasn’t working: pucks to the net, guys in front,” Patrick Sharp said. “We have the shot mentality more so than just moving it around and getting it set up. You look at the goals we’ve scored, it’s nothing overly complicated. It’s just getting the puck to the net. Just stay with it.”

Sounds simple enough, but the stay-with-it part has probably been the toughest segment of the equation. When the Blackhawks slumped they really slumped, and their lack of confidence on the power play was as evident as their lack of scoring on it. Yes, stressing over it can have its affect; and when the Blackhawks got those two power-play goals against the Devils it seemed to be a release.

“You get one, that weight gets lifted off your chest a little bit, you can play a little loser and maybe not grip your stick as tight as when things weren’t going well,” Cody Franson said. “When you’re confident out there you’re moving the puck cleanly, things happen a little quicker for you and give you those better looks at good chances. When you’re not that confident sometimes you’re not executing as well and things were moving slower and you’re not generating too much. Confidence definitely plays a big part in it.”

So back to what’s working. The Blackhawks started becoming more active on the power play, cutting down on the passes and increasing the shots. They’ve been there for rebounds. They started feeding off the success, be it with the power play as a unit or with individual performances. Artem Anisimov has returned to being a force at the net again; of his five goals in his last three games, two are power-play goals.

“A couple of broken plays and sometimes you get some breaks. You win a faceoff and make a quick little play after a couple of great opportunities on the prior whistle there that didn’t go in. I just think shots at the net and traffic and off that, sometimes they go in,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “Our entries have always been alright this year, so we’re getting zone time and let’s get some simpler looks and sometimes they go in. I think gaining confidence there, it seems like we’re having the puck more and longer and sustaining some offense off it.”

The Blackhawks have struggled more than they’ve succeeded on the power play the last few seasons. But as their overall scoring has increased again, so has their power-play production. Good timing.

“People tend to say the power play can keep you in games and the penalty kill can win you games. Our penalty kill’s been great and has given us chances in a lot of games. [Corey Crawford’s] been playing pretty well,” Franson said. “And when our power play can give us success we find ourselves in better situations to try and win games.”