Blackhawks

Blackhawks can't stop Sedins, trail series 2-0

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Blackhawks can't stop Sedins, trail series 2-0

Saturday, April 16, 2011
Posted: April 15, 11:34 p.m. Updated: 12:56 a.m.

By Tracey Myers
CSNChicago.com

VANCOUVER, British Columbia Joel Quenneville issued the edict on Thursday, a day before Game 2.

Were asking everybody to take a bite out of this series, not just the top guys.

WATCH: Kane, Hossa know they must step up

But on Friday night those other guys, those role players, those non-super stars whatever you want to call them, they were the Blackhawks top guys. No, in Game 2, it was those unsung guys who needed the top guys to lend some bite.

Ben Smith scored twice and Viktor Stalberg added another, but the Blackhawks couldnt muster one more in a 4-3 loss to the Vancouver Canucks in their Western Conference quarterfinal series.

The Canucks had to sweat this one out more than they did Game 1, but they nevertheless take a big 2-0 lead in the series. The series now heads to Chicago, where the Hawks have to win at least one to force a Game 5 in Vancouver.

On a night when the Hawks big guns were held all but silent, others stepped up. It was Smith who ended the Blackhawks playoff drought, which was nearly five consecutive periods he scored with 5:10 left in the second. It was Stalberg slipping one through Roberto Luongo early in the third and Smith again midway through the period.

And in a standup move afterward, Smiths thoughts werent on the goals he scored but the ones he couldve prevented, especially Alexander Edlers late second-period one, which went off Smiths stick.

Thats my fault. The stick shouldnt be in the lane the body should, he said. That was a tough one, especially with 13 seconds left (in the second). Its playoff time and you have to sacrifice the body.

Yes, but he still scored. They werent pretty goals. They were rebound goals or, as Marian Hossa called them, greasy goals. But they were nevertheless three goals, and they were three goals more than the Blackhawks could get past Luongo in Game 1.

When those guys score big goals for us we have to take advantage of that, said defenseman Brent Seabrook.

But the Blackhawks couldnt. Save Patrick Kanes secondary assist on Smiths second goal, the top guns were held silent. And as impressive as Smith and others were on Friday night, they arent going to win this series for the Blackhawks. Despite their work, they couldnt even steal Fridays game without help.

Coach Joel Quenneville obviously recognized the missing pieces and was especially disappointed in the Hawks power play. Neither mustered much of a threat.

We need more from our top guys, he said. Our PP was the part that really slowed us down in the game. (That was) tough to watch.
Ben Smith celebrates one of his two goals with Bryan Bickell and Marcus Kruger. Smith wasn't excited afterwards though, instead showing his disappointment over Alexander Edler's shot that deflected off his stick and past Corey Crawford. (AP)
The Blackhawks leaders have had a lot on their shoulders this season. Theyve had to be the torch bearers for a team that underwent a ton of offseason changes and had to find a new identity. Theyve played a lot of minutes, supported a lot of games. And obviously the Canucks are going to zero in more on the Patrick Sharps, Kanes and Jonathan Toews than the Smiths. But this is the time of year where the top players are needed the most.

Obviously you only have three goals in the series and the newer guys have been stepping up, Kane said. The guys who were here last year, the year before in all that, this is big time. Its time to step up now and hopefully we can take control of the series.

Briefly

Bryan Bickell was injured on Friday night and did not finish Game 2. Coach Quenneville didnt have an immediate update on him. Tomas Kopecky was out of Game 2 with an upper body injury. He is listed as day to day.

Jake Dowell and John Scott were the Blackhawks healthy scratches. Mikael Samuelsson (flu) was a late scratch for the Canucks.

Tracey Myers is CSNChicago.com's Blackhawks Insider. Follow Tracey on Twitter @TramyersCSN for up-to-the-minute Hawks information.

Reports: Blackhawks among finalists for a pair of international forwards

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AP

Reports: Blackhawks among finalists for a pair of international forwards

The Blackhawks are always active in the overseas market. Over the last few years, Dominik Kahun, David Kampf, Michal Kempny, Jacob Nilsson, Artemi Panarin and Jan Rutta are among the notable Chicago signings that have come from there. 

And they continue to be an attractive destination.

The Blackhawks have reportedly expressed interest in 24-year-old Russian winger Ilya Mikheyev and 26-year-old Swedish forward Anton Wedin, and the feeling is mutual.

Of the 30 NHL teams that have checked in on Mikheyev, TSN's Darren Dreger reported on Tuesday that the Blackhawks are among the finalists — although it appears the Toronto Maple Leafs could be the frontrunners. Mikheyev, who's 6-foot-2, 194 pounds, racked up 45 points (23 goals, 22 assists) in 62 games this season for Avangard Omsk of the KHL, and tallied 11 points (four goals, seven assists) in 13 postseason contests. His decision is expected to come this weekend.

Wedin has also reportedly narrowed his list, which includes the Blackhawks. He had a breakout season in the Swedish Hockey League, where he compiled 27 points (14 goals, 13 assists) in 32 regular-season games and nine points (two goals, seven assists) in seven playoff contests with Timra IK.

The 5-foot-11, 194-pound winger is expected to make his decision either before or after the 2019 IIHF World Championship, depending on whether or not he plays for Sweden.

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Why fixing penalty kill is crucial for Blackhawks in 2019-20

Why fixing penalty kill is crucial for Blackhawks in 2019-20

Just how important is special teams in the NHL?

Of the 16 teams that qualified for the postseason, 14 clubs had at least one special teams unit that was ranked in the top half of the league and 12 teams had at least one unit ranked in the top 10.

The Blackhawks finished the season with the 15th-ranked power play and 31st-ranked penalty kill. The Blackhawks' 72.7 percent kill rate is the lowest the league has seen in 30 years.

“The penalty kill is something that clearly has to be better," GM Stan Bowman said. "That was a big disappointment this year, no question about that. So we have to devote some resources to that. Some of it might be players, if we get some players that have that kind of experience or have a history. Part of it is tactically can we find ways to be better. We have a lot of time now to study it and put a lot of our focus on that.”

Jeremy Colliton did not rule out getting external help to improve the PK.

“We’re going to look at everything, for sure," he said. "We’re going to look at obviously tactically and we’re going to look at the personnel and how we’re using guys and try to put them in the best situation we can. And maybe that’s new, different guys who weren’t getting the opportunity. Or maybe that’s someone from outside.”

The Blackhawks did manage to fix their power play issues this past season. When Colliton became head coach on Nov. 6, the Blackhawks power play was near the bottom of the league. By December, the man advantage was dead last, cashing in on fewer than 12 percent of their power plays.

Colliton made Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Alex DeBrincat, Dylan Strome and Erik Gustafsson his top power play unit and from Dec. 20 till the end of February they were the league's best unit, converting on 35.2 percent of their power plays.  

Gustafsson’s addition to the power play was a major factor in the unit's improvement.

"A big part of our power play progression and transformation from being at the bottom to being in the top group," Bowman said of Gustafsson. "I was really pleased with that and we're going to need him next year for sure.”

If the Blackhawks penalty kill can make strides like the power play did, Colliton’s crew will likely be playing at this time next season.

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