Blackhawks

Blackhawks working through frustrations: 'We're trying to find our way'

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks working through frustrations: 'We're trying to find our way'

You’ve seen it at times in recent Blackhawks games. A player waiting one extra second to make that pass or take that shot. Another going full steam ahead up ice toward the net, only to stop not far past the blue line and look for other options.

As the early losses have piled up several trends have formed. We’ve been through the scoring droughts (read 5-on-5 and power play) and there are times it looks like the Blackhawks are second guessing themselves out there. Has hesitation crept into the Blackhawks’ overall game?

“It’s tough to say,” Patrick Sharp said following Monday’s practice. “It’s been a frustrating last week, last couple of games, not getting the results we’ve wanted. It’s still early in the season and maybe we’re trying to find our way. But more than that, it’s just individuals getting themselves ready to play, competing a little bit harder and being ready for every game because every opponent that we’ve played has been ready to play us. We need to match that level of intensity.”

Yes, most opponents have been ready. The Colorado Avalanche suffered a 7-0 drubbing to the Vegas Golden Knights heading into Saturday night’s game against the Blackhawks. Likely ticked off after that performance the Avs jumped on the Blackhawks right away, taking advantage of an off night from Anton Forsberg. That rare off-goaltending night aside, the Blackhawks haven’t had a consistent killer instinct. After doing a lot of things right in their 2-1 loss to Nashville on Friday night, the Blackhawks took a step back the following evening.

“When we don't play so well, we're a little bit too easy giving up scoring chances. When you're playing from behind all the time you start to kind of force the offense and then it just gets harder and harder, especially when you're getting your chances. They don't go in as often when you're trying too hard,” Jonathan Toews said. “A lot of it is just simplifying our game and getting back to outworking teams and eventually you're going to get those ugly goals and those bounces around the net. That's what builds your confidence in the long run.”

It’s been rare when the Blackhawks haven’t looked like a confident bunch, but they’re not appearing to play the part right now. There’s been a hitch in their game. It’s early in the season and there’s time to iron out the kinks, but the Blackhawks know they definitely have to get back to playing strong, determined hockey soon.

“There’s been a handful of mistakes, a handful of letdowns. But part of the process is just getting better, identifying the errors and trying to improve as the season goes along,” Sharp said. “We have a talented group in here and it’s just matter of time before we put it all together.”

NHL Draft Profile: F Brady Tkachuk

NHL Draft Profile: F Brady Tkachuk

From June 17-21, Charlie Roumeliotis will profile two prospects per day — 10 total (five forwards, five defensemen) — leading up to the NHL Draft.​

Brady Tkachuk

Position: Forward
Height: 6-foot-3
Weight: 196 pounds
Shoots: Left

Scouting report:

"I know Tkachuk isn't a center, but Ryan Getzlaf (Anaheim Ducks) is another player who comes to mind with his combination of size, strength, skill and nastiness. Tkachuk has impressive hand skills and his upside has only begun because I think there's lots of maturity and growth to come. I've seen his speed and skating improve each of the past three years and I think he'll still get stronger and his balance will get better. His man strength will come and it'll be like, 'Oh boy, look out.'"

NHL player comparable: Matthew Tkachuk/Wayne Simmonds

Fit for Blackhawks:

If you're looking for a player that checks all the boxes in this year's draft, it's Tkachuk. And man could the Blackhawks use a player like him.

He's got offensive skill, willingly goes to the greasy areas, can provide net-front presence while playing a top-six role, and perhaps the most important part for the Blackhawks: he's very close to NHL ready. The Blackhawks will be patient with whoever they draft, but there's also some urgency to turn things around in 2018-19.

If they can draft a player like Tkachuk who can potentially jump into the lineup as early as this upcoming season, that would be ideal. Because he's the type of player that can make an impact, not just get by.

NHL Draft Profile: D Quinn Hughes

NHL Draft Profile: D Quinn Hughes

From June 17-21, Charlie Roumeliotis will profile two prospects per day — 10 total (five forwards, five defensemen) — leading up to the NHL Draft.​

Quinn Hughes

Position: Defenseman
Height: 5-foot-10
Weight: 170 pounds
Shoots: Left

Scouting report:

"He's got the puck skills, is a good skater, and is a guy with some high-end offensive talent. He wants to get right in there and play where it's hard and where you get rewarded. When he gets that puck on his stick, he wants to bury it."

NHL player comparable: Torey Krug/Kris Letang

Fit for Blackhawks:

It's no secret the Blackhawks are looking to restock their pipeline with some high-end defensemen. Henri Jokiharju and Ian Mitchell are on the way. But the former isn't a lock to be a full-time NHLer this season and the latter will continue playing in college for the 2018-19 season.

Hughes, who shined at Michigan and the IIHF World Championship with Team USA, would have the best chance of the three to crack the Blackhawks lineup first. The problem is, he likely won't be available at No. 8, so if Hughes is the guy they're locked in on, they'd need to trade up to grab him. 

If they did that, Hughes would give the Blackhawks a third blue line prospect they can get excited about. He's a left-handed shot, which evens out the balance in the system, and he would become a prime candidate to eventually replace Duncan Keith as the team's No. 1 defenseman.