Blackhawks

Blackhawks want to make playing at United Center difficult on opponents again

Blackhawks want to make playing at United Center difficult on opponents again

After a six-day layoff, the Blackhawks return to action on Thursday night and it will be the first of seven consecutive home games, which is tied for the second-longest homestand in franchise history. It serves as a great opportunity for the Blackhawks to get off to a strong start.

But it also serves as an opportunity to reestablish home-ice advantage.

Over the last decade, the United Center has been viewed by opponents as a fun but difficult place to play in. And it's true. But the latter hasn't been the case for the past two seasons.

This is where the Blackhawks have finished in total points at home since the 2008-09 season:

2008-09: 7th (56 points)
2009-10: 3rd (62)
2010-11: 17th (48)
2011-12: 3rd (60)
2012-13: 1st (39) — lockout-shortened season
2013-14: 4th (61)
2014-15: 9th (53)
2015-16: 4th (56)
2016-17: 4th (57)
2017-18: 25th (41)
2018-19: 20th (46)

As you can see, the Blackhawks went from being in the top tier to the bottom pretty quickly and it's something they're aware of.

"It's always been a tough place to play, but I think the last couple years we got away from that a little bit," Patrick Kane said. "We want to use it to our advantage. We know that a lot of teams are going to come in and be excited to be playing at the United Center because it's such a great atmosphere but we also got to make it tough on them, especially a team like tonight. They're struggling a little bit, let's not make it easy for them or give them something to feel excited about."   

The San Jose Sharks come to town with an 0-4-0 record after reaching the Western Conference Final a few months ago. They're a vulnerable team right now, but the Blackhawks know their desperation level will be high and this year they want to try bringing their A-game as much as possible, especially in their own barn.

"We can establish a rhythm here," coach Jeremy Colliton said. "Everyone feels comfortable in this building, with our fans, and we'd like to establish that this is a difficult place to play, a difficult place to come in and get points."

The Blackhawks take a lot of pride in performing well in front of their own fans. It's why they're putting so much emphasis on having a better home record this season.

But it's also because the Blackhawks are accustomed to taking care of business on home ice and it translates to success in the overall standings. That will be a key factor as they look to return to playoff contention, considering they've also finished 22nd and 24th in road points over the last two seasons, respectively.

"It's huge," Jonathan Toews said. "It has to be part of our identity, maybe something that hasn't been there these last few seasons. Something we'll talk about in the locker room that we've got to be conscious of. Teams got to have that thought in their head when they come into this building that it's not going to be an easy night and they're going to have to work for what they get, especially getting points against us in this building. So it's a good way to start. Let's start with that this month."

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Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Are the Blackhawks a playoff team?

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USA Today

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Are the Blackhawks a playoff team?

On the latest Blackhawks Talk Podcast, Pat Boyle, Adam Burish and Charlie Roumeliotis break down the loss to the Hurricanes, possible changes to the power play, and how Charlie may be partially responsible for Erik Gustafsson's goal scoring streak.

01:30 Looking at the loss to the Hurricanes

05:00 On coming to Kane's defense after hard hit late in the game

06:30 Lehner's assessment of the team

08:30 Are the Blackhawks a playoff team?

11:00 Should there be changes to the Blackhawks power play

13:30 Gustafsson and other defensemen generating offense

19:00 Is great goaltending masking some of the team's offensive problems

22:00 Adam's favorite moments from his honeymoon's travels

24:30 Charlie's gambling adventures in Las Vegas

Listen here or in the embedded player below. 

 

Blackhawks Talk Podcast

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Four takeaways: Blackhawks make late push but fall to Hurricanes

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USA Today

Four takeaways: Blackhawks make late push but fall to Hurricanes

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 3-2 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes at the United Center on Tuesday:

1. Winning streak comes to a halt

The Blackhawks had picked up at least a point in eight of their past nine games and had the second-most points out of any team in November going into Tuesday's matchup. But they laid an egg against the Hurricanes, at least for the first 40 minutes.

The Hurricanes dominated the Blackhawks in every offensive category through two periods, including shot attempts (48-33), shots on goal (27-12), even-strength scoring chances (24-13) and even-strength high-danger chances (9-3), according to Natural Stat Trick. They also scored the first three goals of the game.

The Blackhawks made a big push in the third period by outshooting the Hurricanes 20-6 and scoring two goals in a span of 1:10, but they couldn't get that third one.

"Two bad periods, one good one," Lehner said. "We've been playing pretty good. Just gotta go win the next one. Don't lose two in a row. We're fine. We're fine. Everyone's just got to be a little bit better. I let in a bad goal and bad timing on the second one. Got a little bit unlucky. We've just got to try to get that push and we had a push. Unfortunately we couldn't tie it up."

2. A slow start

After scoring the first two goals in five of the past six games, the Blackhawks got off to a slow start and dug themselves too big of a hole to overcome. They registered only four shots on goal in the first period and allowed the Hurricanes to score three straight to open the game, with the second goal coming 53 seconds into the middle frame.

The first goal of the game came on a 2-on-0 in which Lehner had no chance of stopping. It could've been a much more lopsided first period on the scoresheet, with the Hurricanes generating 13 scoring chances to the Blackhawks' three.

"Obviously, disappointed in the first two periods, the result of the game of course, but we didn't have a good start and I thought we got worse in the second so that was disappointing," head coach Jeremy Colliton said. "I liked that we didn't quit, that was a positive, and I liked that we showed some fight in the third and we got going and put a scare into them.

"But it's frustrating because we showed that was a winnable game if we played, if we turned on a little bit earlier. We've had a good stretch and that was a setback and now we've got to respond on Thursday."

3. Too little, too late

Since the calendar flipped to November, no team had scored more goals than the Blackhawks (36) going into Tuesday. They had 21 goals in their previous four contests for an average of 5.25 goals per game.

It didn't look like the Blackhawks had much hope until the third period when they peppered the Hurricanes with 32 shot attempts, 19 scoring chances and 13 high-danger chances. Erik Gustafsson and Connor Murphy scored within a span of 1:10 to pull the Blackhawks within one, but it was too little, too late for the offense.

"We were just hungry," Murphy said of the third period. "We were embarrassed at home to give up the chances that we did and to get outplayed for a lot of it just as far as the races and seemed like a lot of those battles. We knew at home we wanted this year to be a prideful team and we have guys that want to push to make sure that we can come back. We know the power that we have, we can score three goals and we almost did."

4. Rough night for DeBrincat-Strome-Kane line

The Blackhawks' second line of Alex DeBrincat, Patrick Kane and Dylan Strome has been lights out since being reunited on Nov. 2 against Anaheim. But it had a tough night together vs. Carolina. 

When the three of them were on the ice at even strength, the Blackhawks had three shot attempts for and 14 against, two shots on goal for and nine against, three scoring chances for and six against and one high-danger chance for and two against in 8:45 of ice time. 

They were separated in the third period with Kirby Dach taking Strome's place on the second line, and the line changes sparked the entire team. Kane recorded two primary assists in the third period to extend his season-long point streak to 10 games, marking his sixth career NHL point streak of at least 10 games. Only Denis Savard has more (13) in a Blackhawks sweater.

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