Blackhawks

Wild send Blackhawks limping into All-Star break

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Wild send Blackhawks limping into All-Star break

Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2011
Posted 10:02 p.m. Updated 11:16 p.m.

By Tracey Myers
CSNChicago.com

For nearly the first 20 minutes, the Chicago Blackhawks were playing their brand of hockey. They were coming with speed, speed and more speed, pressuring the Wild and spending a ton of time in Minnesotas zone.

But then the Blackhawks slowed down and fell into the Wilds patient, methodical style of play. It wasnt their game and it cost them.

Patrick Sharp scored his 26th goal of the season and Troy Brouwer had his 15th, but the Blackhawks were otherwise stalled in a 4-2 loss to Minnesota on Tuesday night. The Blackhawks lost their second in a row, and will enter the All-Star break on a decided down note.

Tonight its one of those (games), at the end of the night, its frustrating, coach Joel Quenneville said. Its a tough one. It definitely gave us something to think about.

WATCH: Coach Q wants Hawks upset

The Blackhawks were flying and tenacious in the opening minutes, when Sharp and Brouwer gave them a 2-1 lead after Martin Havlats early goal. But then they took their foot off the brake. They slowed. They lost control.

When we slow down and look for plays, we get victimized by the other teams being patient, Quenneville said.

Niklas Backstrom did the rest. The Wild goaltender was stellar in stopping 31 of 33, including some huge Blackhawks opportunities. He was sprawled out at least twice in stopping two prime Brouwer chances at the doorstep.

The Blackhawks were down 4-2 when they thought they had gotten within one again late in the third. Jonathan Toews had punched through an apparent goal with less than five minutes remaining in regulation. But referee Stephane Auger blew the whistle quickly, nullifying the score.

I dont know why he blew it so fast, said Toews, who had two assists. (Patrick Kane) throws a quick puck in front of the net, you should be allowed a few seconds there to be given the benefit of the doubt to see what happens when theres a scrum there. But I guess he lost sight of it quicker than usual and thats what happens.

WATCH: Toews angry over quick whistle

The right thing to say always is youre not going to make excuses, things like that cant dictate the game and blah, blah, blah. Its not fun when something like that happens. But when you look at the big picture, as a team we wanted some easier goals tonight and we werent going to get them. Their goaltender played well and he kept them in that game and we didnt work hard enough for it.

The Blackhawks will have the All-Star break to think about this one. Theyre clinging to a spot in the top eight right now but may not be there by the weekend. After the break, the Blackhawks will need to get their game together again. Fast.

Well be rested, Quenneville said. We need to be excited and do something about it.

Briefly

Jonathan Toews said he felt pretty good after playing 21 and a half minutes on Tuesday night. Toews, who suffered a lower-body injury against Detroit, said hes fine to play in this weekends All-Star Game.

Nick Boynton was played in favor of Jordan Hendry on Tuesday. Nick hadnt played in a while and we wanted to see what that pair would look like, Quenneville said. Nick was all right. And Leddy got better as the game went on. He showed good speed and patience with the puck, particularly in the third.

Marian Hossa was out with the flu on Tuesday night.

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

Gustav Forsling showing improvement in his second season with Blackhawks

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USA TODAY

Gustav Forsling showing improvement in his second season with Blackhawks

On two consecutive Saturday evenings the Blackhawks were looking for a little more offense. On two consecutive Saturday evenings they got some from Gustav Forsling, whose shots got through to either tie a game (vs. Carolina) or take a lead (vs. Pittsburgh).

Forsling isn’t the big go-to guy when it comes to points but he’s nevertheless getting them for a Blackhawks team that’s starting to find its offense again. But this is more about Forsling’s overall game which, not long after he made the Blackhawks roster last fall, plateaued. This season he’s been more consistent and more confident from the start, and he and Jan Rutta have formed a pair that coach Joel Quenneville trusts and has kept together for most of this season. The 21-year-old defenseman talked of working on the mental side of his game entering this season and said he feels the difference.

“I’ve been working on it this summer and I feel a little bit better,” he said. “[Just] more confident with the puck and confident in myself and pretty much everywhere.”

Quenneville has seen the difference.

“I think he’s getting better with his reads,” Quenneville said. “He’s got a better gap. [Being] quicker all over the ice is part of that and nice to see him pound one that goes through because his shot can be a lot heavier than it’s been and we want him to use it a little bit more, too.”

Forsling says he feels comfortable playing with any of the Blackhawks’ defensemen but there’s no doubt he and Rutta have been good together. The two clicked immediately, and at times they’ve been the Blackhawks’ second pair.

“I think we’re thinking the same way out there on the ice. We have a great conversation out there and everything’s worked out fine,” Forsling said. “He’s a funny guy and we get along well.”

Forsling’s offensive contributions are welcomed but so is his defense. When the Rangers were looking for the game-tying goal late in the third period on Wednesday, Forsling was on Corey Crawford’s left side to prevent David Desharnais from scoring it. Seventy-six seconds later, Artem Anisimov’s goal gave the Blackhawks a two-goal lead.

“Great play by him,” Crawford said. “For us, we want to cover the short side there and it’s great or him to get over quick and get his stick there. Definitely a great stop by him.”

Forsling’s playing with more confidence. He’s added a little early offense. The Blackhawks wanted Forsling to reach another level this season and so far, he’s doing that.

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 2-1 win over Penguins: Power play becoming a strength?

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 2-1 win over Penguins: Power play becoming a strength?

Here are five takeaways from the Blackhawks’ 2-1 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday night:
 
1. That's how you start a game.

The Blackhawks haven't had the best of starts over the last couple weeks or so — aside from their recent four-goal first period against New Jersey. But they flew out of the gates in Pittsburgh.

Chicago recorded 27 shot attempts (11 on goal) in the opening frame compared to Pittsburgh's 13 attempts (nine on goal), and led in the even-strength scoring chances department 11-2.

Two of those chances were breakaways from Nick Schmaltz and Jonathan Toews, but both were denied by Matt Murray. The Blackhawks cashed in on one of two power play opportunities, however, and took a 1-0 lead into the second.

2. Power play strikes again.

Speaking of power plays, the Blackhawks came up empty on their first one of the game, but they were handed another one 44 seconds later at the midway mark of the first and capitalized when Gustav Forsling slipped one five-hole past Murray. 

It's the third consecutive game the Blackhawks have scored on the man advantage, something they hadn't done since Oct. 7-12 when they scored in four straight. It's also the second consecutive game the power play unit netted the game winner.

The Blackhawks are 5-for-13 (38.5 percent) on the power play in their last three games after going 5-for-53 (9.4 percent) in their previous 12. 

3. Should Blackhawks have pushed back immediately following Corey Crawford injury?

A scary moment occurred in the second period when Evgeni Malkin swiped Crawford in the mask while racing for a loose puck, forcing the Blackhawks netminder to exit before returning a few minutes later.

Malkin was given a two-minute minor penalty for goaltender interference, but should the Blackhawks have stood up for Crawford at the expense of getting tagged with a penalty themselves?

No question a power play opportunity with a chance to make it a two-goal game at that stage of the game — and against the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions who hadn't lost in regulation at home this season going into the matchup —  is important, but the Blackhawks' lack of retaliation was a bit surpising. 

It wasn't a dirty play by Malkin by any means, but there's a principle involved when your goaltender gets hit like that. Those are the kinds of penalties you shouldn't mind taking, and at the very worst it would've been 4-on-4 hockey with one of Pittsburgh's best forwards in the box.

4. Artem Anisimov stays hot.

The goals keep coming for No. 15.

After the Penguins tied it up at 1-1 in the third period with a shorthanded goal, Anisimov scored 21 seconds later on the power play to put the Blackhawks back in front 2-1.

Anisimov now has nine goals in his last 10 games after scoring just one goal in his first 10 to start the season. He also has four game-winning goals on the season, all of which have come this month. Brandon Saad leads the NHL with five.

5. Alex DeBrincat extends point streak.

Lost in the shuffle was the Blackhawks' top rookie getting on the scoresheet once again.

With an assist on Forsling's power play goal in the first period, DeBrincat extended his point streak to four games. He has four goals and two assists in that span, and is averaging a point per game over his last nine (six goals and three assists).

DeBrincat also moved into a three-way tie with Richard Panik and Toews for second on the team with 13 points.