Blackhawks can't solve Cam Ward, fall to Hurricanes

Blackhawks can't solve Cam Ward, fall to Hurricanes

RALEIGH, N.C. – That the Blackhawks were involved in a close game was nothing new.

This is typical for them, and has been for some time. For a good part of this season they’ve been winning these games. Lately, however, they’ve struggled. Coming off a come-from-behind victory in Nashville, the Blackhawks were looking to close out 2016 with a victory in Carolina.

Instead they made some early mistakes, couldn’t best a hot goaltender and could be down another player for a few weeks.

Michal Kempny scored his first career NHL goal and Vinnie Hinostroza scored his fourth of the season. But Carolina scored twice in 65 seconds and Cam Ward was stellar in the Hurricanes 3-2 victory over the Blackhawks on Friday night. The Blackhawks went 1-3-1 in their last five games of 2016. They still lead the Western Conference by one point over the Minnesota Wild, who are on a 12-game winning streak.

And then there’s Marcus Kruger, who could be out a few weeks with an upper-body injury sustained in the second period.

“He’s going to miss some time,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “We’ll say week-to-week but we don’t know the extent [of the injury] right now.”

As for the game, it was an entertaining few opening minutes before the Blackhawks lapsed into a familiar first-period pattern of getting outshot (16-8) and falling behind (2-1). Carolina scored twice in 65 seconds, erasing the 1-0 lead Kempny gave them with his laser from the blue line.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

“I liked the play we made on our goal and they made a couple of plays around our net,” Quenneville said of Carolina’s two quick goals, both coming on rebounds. “We were a little sloppy and we don’t give up those kind of goals.”

Toews, who finished with two points, said the Blackhawks have to stop their first-period trend.

“It’s something we have to just keep trying to hammer home, that we have to start trying to take over games right away,” he said. “Obviously we’re not going to win them in the first period but we have to come out flying and really try and send that message and try and play ahead for once and see how that works out for us.”

The Hurricanes were up 3-1 when a Jonathan Toews shot went off Hinostroza’s leg and past Ward. Despite sustained zone time late in the third period, the Blackhawks couldn’t get the equalizer.

“You never assume [you’ll come back]. You just want to keep playing and build off it,” Hinostroza said. “We had a couple of good looks after that and kept coming. Unfortunately, we didn’t score.”

The Blackhawks have once again played in a lot of close games this season. They’ve won a good deal of them but lately, the trend has gone in the wrong direction. 

“We did some decent things tonight," Quenneville said. "The game against Colorado was a point, so every game’s different. Every game’s been close, like this, all year long. We’ve been fortunate to win some of these games that went like that. But all three goals [tonight] could have been prevented.”

The thought process behind overloading one line for Blackhawks


The thought process behind overloading one line for Blackhawks

Depth scoring is key in today's NHL. If you can't roll four lines, it will eventually catch up to you over the course of an 82-games season and, if you get there, in the playoffs, where it will certainly be exposed.

But equally important in today's NHL is having one dependable line that can be a difference-maker on a nightly basis. We're seeing it more and more across the league where teams overload one line as a "try and stop us" mentality and it's working.

Colorado's top line of Landeskog-MacKinnon-Rantanen leads all trios with 19 even-strength goals this season. Three other lines are tied for second with 16 (Panarin-Dubois-Atkinson in Columbus, Skinner-Eichel-Pominville in Buffalo and Hyman-Tavares-Marner in Toronto).

Boston’s trio of Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak has controlled a ridiculous 60.1 percent of the even-strength shot attempts over the last three seasons and has a plus-20 goal differential, according to Over that same span, Nashville’s first line of Forsberg-Johansen-Arvidsson has an NHL-leading plus-29 goal differential.

All of these teams are seeing the benefits both in the short-term and long-term as it’s translating to overall team success. Rather than playing pick your poison, the Blackhawks are trying to do the same in putting Saad-Toews-Kane together (along with DeBrincat-Anisimov-Schmaltz), hoping to spark some steady offensive production.

"If we play them together, they've got to produce," coach Jeremy Colliton said. "But sometimes when you spread them out, no one produces. By loading them up, it puts some pressure on them, but hopefully they play so well that it doesn't matter who has the puck. They're making plays, they break through anyways, no matter who they're playing against. That's what we ask of them, and so far they're coming through for us."

Patrick Kane leads the Blackhawks with 12 goals. Jonathan Toews is second with 10. Brandon Saad has six (three in his past five games). In putting them on a line together, the goal for them is to continue scoring at a high rate, but doing so on a more consistent basis.

“We’re definitely hurting for offense right now, and that’s from top to bottom, the production has gone down,” Kane said. “You take it upon yourself as a player that’s supposed to score and produce, be able to do that every night. It would be nice to be able to do that more often.”

Hawks Talk Podcast: Are the Blackhawks relying too much on Corey Crawford?


Hawks Talk Podcast: Are the Blackhawks relying too much on Corey Crawford?

On the latest Hawks Talk Podcast Adam Burish joins Pat Boyle to breakdown the Hawks’ recent four-game points streak, Corey Crawford's second star of the week honors and Brandon Saad’s best stretch of hockey since he returned to Chicago.

Burish talks about the criticism that Nick Schmaltz receives, the tweaks to the power play and whether he is impressed with how the team leaders have handled the coaching change.

Burish also shares his thoughts on Joel Quenneville attending Sunday night’s Bears game, Eddie Olczyk’s "One More Shift" and shares a couple off-ice stories about Patrick Kane.

:36 - What have you seen over this four-game points streak?

2:35 - Crow is second star of the week, are the Hawks relying too much on Crawford?

4:00 - Crow: no soft goals and rebound control

5:30 - Problems exiting zone cleanly

8:00 - Art of the hoister

9:40 - Best Saad has looked?

10:45 - Schmaltz inconsistencies

12:30 - New wrinkles on Power Play

16:30 - Sikura call up?

18:00 - Leaders handling coaching change

22:00 - What Q’s been up to

25:00 - Burish Beauty

26:00 - Edzo's One More Shift and Hockey Fight’s Cancer Night

28:30 - Kane’s 21st Birthday and off-ice 88 story

Listen to the full Hawks Talk Podcast right here: