Hawks Insider

Blackhawks won't use rust as excuse after loss to Flames

/ by Charlie Roumeliotis
Presented By Nationwide Insurance Agent Jeff Vukovich
Hawks Insider

On Saturday in Nashville, the Blackhawks were doomed by poor goaltending after they gave up six goals on 25 shots in a lopsided 6-1 loss.

On Sunday in Chicago, goaltending was the least of their worries in a 5-1 defeat to the Calgary Flames.

Roughly 28 hours after making his NHL debut in a relief appearance, Arvid Soderblom made his first career NHL start and was easily Chicago's best player. He made 37 saves, including 24 in the second period alone, with 19 of the 41 shots he faced coming from the slot.

"I really liked Soderblom," interim head coach Derek King said. "The poor kid. He played a hell of a game for us."

The real issue on Sunday came down to poor puck management and penalties, three of which came within a span of 4:38 in the second period, although you could argue a couple of them were borderline.

The Flames had 40 shot attempts, 26 shots on goal and 26 scoring chances in the middle frame, according to Natural Stat Trick. The Blackhawks had 14 shot attempts, nine shots on goal and six scoring chances.

"We took a couple of penalties, gave them momentum, they scored a goal," said Alex DeBrincat, who scored his team-leading 18th goal of the season. "Tough to play on the PK. We probably didn’t do enough in the second period. We didn’t win enough battles to really tilt the ice."

Even though two weeks went by in between games, the Blackhawks weren't going to use rust as an excuse. They were itching to play after for a while now after practicing four times in five days going into the weekend.

 

"We can try to make excuses all day," DeBrincat said. "But rust or no rust, we didn’t play good enough and we're not going to win games like that."

"I don’t think it’s an excuse for our play," Henrik Borgstrom concurred. "We need to be better."

The Flames are one of the NHL's best offensive teams, particularly off the rush, and we saw it on full display. They averaged 6.9 rush chances per game this season going into Sunday, which was good for seventh, per Sportlogiq.

The Blackhawks have gotten significantly better in that department but allowed 10 rush chances to the Flames in the first two periods alone and 13 total. Johnny Gaudreau, who had one goal and two assists, tied Andrew Mangiapane for the team lead with four.

"We were turning pucks over," King said. "They were blocking shots. They're a quick transition team. Especially in the second two, we started forcing the issue. Next thing you know it's pucks turned over or it's a blocked shot and they're gone. You get down a couple goals too, you start forcing it."

The Blackhawks also tweaked their power-play units again by swapping Erik Gustafsson and Seth Jones at the quarterback position. They got their chances for the second straight day but couldn't capitalize — it was the Flames that did, scoring a back-breaking shorthanded goal late in the second period to make it 3-1.

At some point, the Blackhawks' power play is going to start clicking, but that's only a microsom of the struggles, with Chicago slipping to 30th in goals-per-game at 2.22.

"It's hard," King said. "I really don't have an answer for it. It's frustrating on both parties, but we'll just keep looking at some video and breaking it down and we'll just keep working at it in practice."

The Blackhawks' winless streak is now at four games and they've lost back-to-back games in regulation for the first time since King took over. Their next opponent doesn't get any easier in the Colorado Avalanche, who have averaged 4.86 goals per game over their last seven, which ranks first in the league.

"Losing 6-1 and 5-1 is not our best and we know that," DeBrincat said. "We all have better and we know that in the locker room. We have to come back stronger, more mentally prepared and hopefully we can win one on Tuesday."

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