Washington Capitals

Five takeaways from Blackhawks loss to Capitals: Changes coming?

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USA TODAY

Five takeaways from Blackhawks loss to Capitals: Changes coming?

Here are five takeaways from the Blackhawks' 6-2 loss to the Washington Capitals on Wednesday night:

1. Anton Forsberg yanked for Jean-Francois Berube.

The Blackhawks had a fine start to the game, recording six of the first seven shots, but they dug themselves a big hole before they knew what hit them.

The Capitals scored three goals in a span of 3:28, which forced Joel Quenneville to replace Anton Forsberg in favor of Jean-Francois Berube, who made his Blackhawks debut after being recalled from the Rockford IceHogs on Friday when Corey Crawford was placed on injured reserve.

It was evident Forsberg wasn't on top of his game when he let a 35-foot wrist shot by Tom Wilson sneak underneath his pad for the second goal. Forsberg allowed three goals on 10 shots (.700 save percentage) while Berube finished with 12 saves on 14 shots (.857 save percentage).

2. Blackhawks can't contain Washington's top line.

At least one player from the Capitals' top line of Nicklas Backstrom, Alex Ovechkin and Wilson contributed to the six goals they scored on the Blackhawks. The trio combined for four goals and seven assists, and registered 11 of the team's 25 shots on goal.

They were the only three Washington forwards that finished with positive possession numbers, and the Blackhawks simply had no answer.

3. Missed opportunity in Period 2.

The Blackhawks were outshooting the Capitals 15-1 in the second period, and Berube didn't face his first shot of the frame until Ovechkin fired a wrist shot with 6:22 left. But the Blackhawks couldn't capitalize, and they again found themselves in a sticky situation.

Lance Bouma committed an interference penalty with 2:41 left, and the Capitals peppered five shots on goal over the next 1:13 on the power play, with the fifth one finding the back of the net thanks to Brett Connolly burying home a rebound shot from Ovechkin.

The Blackhawks had about 14 minutes to make it a one-goal game and convert on multiple scoring chances but couldn't, while the Capitals needed a little more than a minute to put the game out of reach 4-1. It showed the disparity between the two teams on offense.

4. Power play stays dry.

The Blackhawks changed up their power play structure, but the results stayed the same. Entering 1-for-17 in their last four games, the Blackhawks came up empty on all four of their opportunities and it was a momentum killer.

This is a team that hasn't gotten timely scoring during their five-game losing streak, and when you're not generating any type of momentum on the power play, it's hard to pick up the slack 5-on-5 when they're struggling in that area with quality scoring chances as it is.

5. Changes coming?

We've seen Quenneville use just about every line combination as he continues to search for some offensive inconsistency up front, and the latest changes may have made things worse. It got to a point in the third period where you couldn't even keep track of the lines. Nothing clicked.

So could changes be coming? At some point, the Blackhawks have to find a way to get Vinnie Hinostroza up with the big club despite the waiver hurdles that stand in the way. It also wouldn't be surprising to see messages sent in the form of healthy scratches.

Luckily for the Blackhawks, the Buffalo Sabres, who have only two wins in their last 13 games, are next up on the slate. If things go sideways in that one, it won't be a pretty sight at the United Center.

Hawks Talk Podcast: What's the cause of recent struggles?

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USA TODAY

Hawks Talk Podcast: What's the cause of recent struggles?

On the latest Hawks Talk Podcast, Pat Boyle and Steve Konroyd discuss the latest slump and how much does Artem Anisimov's injury play a role in their struggles?

Konroyd tells us he was surprised by Ryan Hartman's benching in Tampa.

The guys play the game, playoff minutes or press box minutes?  They run through the players who are on the bubble when it comes to postseason play.

They also discuss the Hawks chances of overtaking Washington for the President's trophy.

Plus, Konroyd breaks down possible first round opponents: St Louis, Calgary and Nashville.

Blackhawks look to 'answer the call' vs. the Wild

Blackhawks look to 'answer the call' vs. the Wild

The Minnesota Wild have proven a foil to the Blackhawks lately. Whether it’s been indoors or outdoors, the blowout victory of the come-from-behind variety, the Wild have stymied the Blackhawks in all of their regular-season outings the past season and a half.

Now, they meet again on Wednesday night. Is this a measurement-stick game? Maybe. A critical game? Certainly. The Blackhawks’ biggest test is on this road trip right in front of them. And if the Blackhawks want to get back atop the Western Conference standings, they have to beat them.

“It’s not, you have to catch them or it’s a failure,” Brian Campbell said. “But our goal is to make the playoffs and have the highest seed possible, so to get that we’re going to have to catch Minnesota.”

The Blackhawks trail the Wild, who beat the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday night, by six points entering Wednesday night's game. The Wild haven't had many hiccups lately, winning seven of their last 10. The Blackhawks know the Wild have set the new standard and they have to play their best hockey to measure up to it.

“If we look back to the week where we played these guys and Washington a few nights before that, everyone was talking about those being some pretty big tests and we didn’t really answer the call at that time,” Jonathan Toews said. “It wasn’t our best, the way we were playing. The way we’re playing on the road right now going into [Wednesday’s] game, we can really get excited for this game and try to redeem ourselves with a solid road effort.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

You could compare the Wild’s current roll with the one they had in the second half of the 2014-15 season, but this Minnesota team seems different. As coach Joel Quenneville said, these Wild are deeper and, “have more balance up front. Four lines that are looking like they could score and make plays and are trying to score more.”

“They have balance, a back end and are strong in the net. We’re having trouble beating them in the regular season,” Quenneville said. “It’s a huge game for us, probably at this stage, for sure, our most important game. You want to finish first, you want to win as often as possible, you want to push the team ahead of you if you’re not there. but certainly there’s a gap there we’re looking to close.”

The Blackhawks’ 3-2 loss to the Wild on Jan. 15, a game they led 2-0 before Minnesota came back, apparently has stuck in the craw of some players.

“I think a lot of the guys still feel bad about that last game, so we’ll be pumped to play them,” Dennis Rasmussen said. “It’s a big game for us. We want to be first in the division and we want to get [one] back for the last time.”

Despite the Blackhawks’ recent up and downs and the Wild’s consistent play, the gap between the two isn’t so big. It’s certainly not insurmountable. The Wild have set the regular-season benchmark. The Blackhawks want to match it.

“You look across the league, [teams like] Columbus, Washington and Minnesota that get on those hot streaks and eventually they set the new standard where they have a ton of confidence and, even when they’re not playing so well, they’re finding ways to win,” Toews said. “Obviously they’re a tough team to beat right now, so that’s something we’ll be ready for.”