Blackhawks

Four takeaways: Frustration growing for Blackhawks after fifth straight loss

screen_shot_2018-12-05_at_11.07.23_pm.png
AP

Four takeaways: Frustration growing for Blackhawks after fifth straight loss

ANAHEIM — Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 4-2 loss to the Anaheim Ducks at Honda Center on Wednesday:

1. Two goals in 20 seconds

The Blackhawks keep saying that they need to get out to better starts. But they're not doing it.

After admitting to not being ready at the start of games, it showed again when the Ducks came out flying — no pun intended — and scored two goals within 20 seconds and outshot the Blackhawks 12-1 past the midway mark of the first period. 

It's the eighth straight game the Blackhawks have allowed the first goal, an alarming trend that isn't a coincidence at this point.

"I thought we had a decent start, the first shift aside," coach Jeremy Colliton said. "We had a pretty good start and we're down again, so that was tough. But maybe stopped playing a couple minutes after that, after we went down, but as the first period went on, we showed some life again. The second period was excellent. I don’t think they’re better than us, just the puck went in the net. Frustrating."

2. Fighting back

When you fall down 2-0, the next goal is always crucial. Because once it reaches a three-goal deficit, the game feels out of reach.

But the Blackhawks made sure their first-period struggles didn't spill into the second period when Erik Gustafsson buried home a terrific pass from Duncan Keith for his fourth goal in seven games after being a healthy scratch on Sunday for the first time this season. It gave the Blackhawks some life.

And then with 27.7 seconds left in the period, Alex DeBrincat evened it up at 2-2 when he corralled a Jonathan Toews pass and swatted it past John Gibson while falling over. The goals that come at the end of periods tend to be backbreakers for teams. The Ducks ultimately responded by scoring the go-ahead goal in the third period and never looked back.

"Tonight was as good an effort as we probably have had since I’ve been here," Colliton said. "It’s frustrating not to get the points, but nothing to do but keep digging and keep playing."

3. Four posts

Things aren't going the Blackhawks' way. And when that happens, usually you don't get the bounces you want. You have to earn them.

The Blackhawks hit the post four times against the Ducks, and were close to breaking through on each of them. That's how close they were to earning at least a point.

"It's frustrating," DeBrincat said. "We did a lot of good things, hit a few posts, could've went in ... a few inches the other way it's in the net. Can't do anything about it, but we're getting closer to the result we want. We just got to find a way to win some games."

4. Power play regression

When Colliton was hired to be the head coach of the Blackhawks, he immediately put a heavy emphasis on fixing the power play. It's one of the first things he worked on. At the time, it wasn't about results, it was about focusing on getting reps and developing patterns.

They made a little bit of progress, but the power play is 1-for-19 in the past eight games and has appeared to regress. They did record five shots on goal on three opportunities, but the results simply haven't been there.

"I think when Jeremy first came in it really got better and then it's kind of taken a step back or two the past few games," Patrick Kane said. "It'd be nice to all get on the same page, get some confidence. You see around the league there's a lot of power play goals that are scored just off converging at the net and getting that middle guy there, and hopefully banging some pucks that way. So try to do what we can, make the right plays and go out there with confidence."

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Blackhawks easily on your device.

Four takeaways: Blackhawks lose ground in wildcard race with regulation loss to Avalanche

blackhawks_avalanche_ap.jpg
AP

Four takeaways: Blackhawks lose ground in wildcard race with regulation loss to Avalanche

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 4-2 loss to the Colorado Avalanche at Pepsi Center on Saturday:

1. Losing ground

It's been well-documented much this weekend means for the Blackhawks. It could basically make or break their playoff chances with exactly two weeks left. They even got a break when they found out during warmups that Colorado's second-leading point getter Mikko Rantanen would miss the game due to an undisclosed injury, joining captain Gabriel Landeskog on the sidelines.

But the Avalanche seemed to elevate their intensity because of it. Just like their last meeting against Colorado, the Blackhawks failed to hold a lead at any point in the game and were forced to play catch-up in the third period when they fell behind two goals.

With the regulation loss, the Blackhawks fell six points out of the final wildcard spot in the Western Conference with only a game in hand. It didn't help that Arizona picked up a point, either. Time is running out.

2. Lack of power play success reason for offensive drought

The power play was one of the main reasons why the Blackhawks turned their season around at the end of December. It was converting at a 40 percent clip for months. Obviously, that was going to be unsustainable over the course of a full season.

But it has completely dried up over the last several weeks, and it's the primary reason why the offense hasn't been firing on all cylinders as of late.

The Blackhawks had three power-play opportunities against Colorado. They recorded 12 shot attempts, six shots on goal and generated four scoring chances but couldn't find the back of the net. They're now 1-for-25 on the power play in their last 11 games. The 5-on-5 success is there, but the 5-on-4 isn't.

The Blackhawks have scored only seven goals in their past four games, which comes out to 1.75 per game. That's not going to cut it.

3. Not taking advantage of defensive improvement

It really is a shame that the Blackhawks are hitting a scoring drought at the worst possible time. Because there's noticeably been a defensive improvement over the last week. It's their best stretch in a while.

Over the last three games, the Blackhawks have allowed 20 total high-danger chances at 5-on-5, according to naturalstattrick.com, for an average of 6.7 per game. They had given up double-digit high-danger chances in 13 of their previous 17 games, including consecutive games where they allowed 20 to Montreal and 15 to Toronto.

Their season average in that department before Monday was 11.5. So they've shaved off nearly five full high quality scoring chances per game in this mini stretch. That's a huge improvement. But they haven't had much to show for it, recording one out of a possible six points.

4. Turning the page fast

Fortunately for the Blackhawks, they won't have too much time to sulk on this regulation loss. The two Central Division foes will go right back at it on Sunday night at the United Center. And that's truly a must-win game for the Blackhawks. It's why they should start Corey Crawford on back-to-back days for the first time since November 2017.

Another regulation loss would put the Blackhawks eight points back with seven games left, and it would only be a matter of time before they're mathematically eliminated from playoff contention.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Blackhawks easily on your device.

'It can go one of two ways': Blackhawks mindset going into home-and-home series with Avalanche

dylan_strome_blackhawks_avs_usa_today.jpg
USA TODAY

'It can go one of two ways': Blackhawks mindset going into home-and-home series with Avalanche

The last time the Blackhawks and Avalanche met, it was viewed as the most important regular season game to date for the Blackhawks because it was a chance to finally pull inside the playoff picture and push the Avalanche out of it. That was Feb. 22.

Fast forward one month and the Blackhawks are approaching a home-and-home weekend series with the Avalanche, who are currently sitting in the second wildcard spot with 78 points. The Blackhawks are at 74 with a game in hand. They have an opportunity to make things real interesting with exactly two weeks left in the season.

“It can go one of two ways,” Jonathan Toews said. “So obviously we want to play our best hockey and make sure we’re in control of who gets the points in these next two.”

The Blackhawks were encouraged with how they played in that Feb. 22 against Colorado. They led in shot attempts (73-47), shots on goal (44-31), scoring chances (40-23) and high-danger chances (20-13), according to naturalstattrick.com, except the category that mattered most and that's the scoreboard (5-3 loss).

"It's one of our better efforts of the year," coach Jeremy Colliton said after the game. "Sometimes the results don't go your way, but the challenge is to reproduce [at] that level and I think if we do, we'll get our fair share of points."

The Blackhawks are hoping a similar performance will lead to the desire result this time around. These are a pair of four-point swings that mean so much at this time of year. Colliton even acknowledged on Friday that Corey Crawford could start in both games, which would be his first back-to-back action since Nov. 4 and 5 in 2017.

The Avalanche have won three in a row, and have outscored their opponents 9-2 in that span. They're coming in hot. The Blackhawks have scored only five goals in their past three games, so they're looking to end that offensive dry spell.

The good news? The Blackhawks are 8-3-0 in their last 11 road games and have a plus-6 goal differential over that stretch. They clearly have been feeling more comfortable on the road as of late. And maybe it'll help set the tone in an all-important series.

"We’re OK with a track meet, but on our terms," Colliton said. "We want to be the one with the puck and catching them before they’re ready to defend. But they’ve got some good players and we’ve gotta be aware of them when they’re on the ice and try to keep the puck out of their hands. Hopefully — we’re coming off a loss and we know the stakes here — we’ll be really good tomorrow.”

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Blackhawks easily on your device.