Blackhawks

Under pressure? Blackhawks aren't feeling any

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Under pressure? Blackhawks aren't feeling any

Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Posted: 10:07 p.m.

By Tracey Myers
CSNChicago.com

The word pressure came up a lot in the Blackhawks locker room following their Game 4 victory over Vancouver on Tuesday night. But not in the way youd probably think. The Blackhawks, you see, may be talking about it, but theyre not feeling it at all.

The defending Cup champions, the No. 8 seed that entered Game 4 down 3-love to the Canucks obviously wasnt feeling the heat as evidence by their 7-2 victory. As Patrick Sharp said, were playing loose, were playing to have fun out there and playing for each other. We're standing up for each other, playing the game the right way.

Basically, they were playing like there was no tomorrow because there nearly wasnt. They were getting scoring from everyone. They were hitting more than they had in previous games, a response to the series intensifying and also to the absence of Brent Seabrook, felled by a Raffi Torres' shoulder-to-head hit in Game 3.

And thats the way the Blackhawks have to play the rest of this series if they want to pull off a rarely-done comeback from their 3-0 deficit. All hands on deck, leave it all on the ice, rinse and repeat.

Its such a hard thing to come back from 3-0 down. We just have to go out and play some hockey and get back to our roots and the way our team can play," Brian Campbell said.

No, the Blackhawks are not the ones with all the pressure on them in this series. They backed into the playoffs thanks to Minnesota. Theyve been inconsistent all year. This year, at least, nobodys going to be stunned if they dont win.

Contrast that with the Canucks, who have the win-a-Cup-for-Canada weight on their shoulders. Theyve been demanded to come through with that a few seasons now, but this year its magnified because they already took that Presidents Cup full-time symbol of the NHLs highest point total, part-time kiss of death. The pressure is immense, and the Canucks were already fielding the uh-oh questions after just one loss.

It was all (about) attitude. That's the game, coach Joel Quenneville said. You're down in a spot you can measure your team. Are they going to go away quietly or compete for one another? They battled for each other. It was a good first step.

First step, yes, and lets reiterate that is all it is right now. The Blackhawks are still down 3-1 and will once again face the hostile crowd at Rogers Arena on Thursday night. As Patrick Kane said, the Canucks are probably the ones laughing right now, and they could still have the last one soon.

The Canucks are still the best in the West, theyre still firmly in control of this series and still have the advantage with that ice and that crowd in Game 5.

The Blackhawks need to play Game 5 the way they played Game 4: free-wheeling, all-out hockey. It won them one game. If they play it again and it wins again, then its a series again.

And then the pressures really on No. 1.

It's just fun to play playoff hockey, Campbell said. It's fun to try to win games on the road and hopefully we can have some luck at that. You get huge rewards if you win a game on the road. That's what we're going after.

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 look to bounce back against Panthers

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Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks look to bounce back against Panthers

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Florida Panthers Saturday on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 5:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

(Reminder: Use #AskEdzo on social media and your questions may be answered by Eddie Olczyk, who will be in studio along with Adam Burish, Brian Campbell and Pat Boyle).

1. Another fast start coming?

The Blackhawks had one of their best starts of the season Wednesday in Tampa Bay, and the numbers favor Chicago to dictate the pace of play early again.

The Panthers are tied with the Buffalo Sabres for the fewest goals scored in the first period (13), and have taken a lead into the second period only four times (3-1-0) in 21 games. They are 2-7-1 in the 10 games they've trailed after the opening frame.

The Blackhawks, on the other hand, are tied for fourth when it comes to first-period goals (22) — albeit, five of them came on Opening Night against Pittsburgh — but they are just 4-2-2 in eight games when leading after one period. In fact, they took a 2-0 lead into the second in their most recent game against the Lightning and lost in overtime 3-2.

So while a fast start could certainly be in the cards, the finish must also be there.

2. Take advantage on special teams.

The Panthers are one of two teams ranked among the bottom six in both power play percentage (26th at 16.0) and penalty kill percentage (30th at 73.2).

Meanwhile, the Blackhawks are coming in hot in both areas. They're 6-for-17 (35.3 percent) on the man advantage in their last four games, and own the fourth-best penalty kill unit (84.8 percent).

This is the area to exploit for the Blackhawks going into the matchup, and it could decide the game.

3. Feed Lance Bouma!

In his seventh season, Bouma has faced every NHL team at least five times in his career, with the exception of Vegas (pointless in one game this season).

Bouma is not known for his offensive prowess (72 points in 325 career games), but it's a different story when he plays Florida.

In six career games against the Panthers, Bouma has one goal, six assists and a career-high plus-8 rating. That one goal also happens to be one of his six career game winners.

Florida is the only team Bouma is averaging at least a point-per-game against for his career, so you know what that means: Feed No. 17!

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.