Blackhawks' defensive depth tested already in Game 1 vs. Ducks


Blackhawks' defensive depth tested already in Game 1 vs. Ducks

ANAHEIM, Calif. – The concerns of the Michal Rozsival-less Blackhawks defense were present entering the Western Conference Final.

Someone had to make up the time-on-ice difference for Rozsival, who was playing 15-18 minutes before he suffered a postseason-ending fractured ankle against Minnesota. David Rundblad was going to get thrown into a tough situation, having no postseason experience. Kimmo Timonen wasn’t playing much at all and who knew if coach Joel Quenneville would change that, even in Rozsival’s absence.

Well, Game 1 is in the books. And regarding the Blackhawks’ defense going forward, there may be even more questions now.

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Rundblad had a tough day, as two of his clearing attempts/passes resulted in Anaheim goals. Timonen logged just 5:15 of ice time. Duncan Keith played more than 28 minutes, and 10 1/2 of those came in the first period. The depleted depth past Rozsival was known entering this series, and Game 1 emphasized that.

So let’s break this down a bit, shall we? While some folks on Twitter are screaming for Kyle Cumiskey or a defenseman from Rockford to get playing time, will it make a difference? Either way you’re going to have an inexperienced defenseman coming in at a pressure-filled time of the postseason — Cumiskey, by the way, has played just six NHL postseason games. Maybe it’s worth the chance but the risk, nevertheless, would be there.

Last week, Timonen said he’s felt as good as he ever has entering this series. Why he only logged a little more than five minutes is uncertain. Perhaps coach Quenneville is wary of playing him more. Maybe it was because the Blackhawks got down 1-0 about nine minutes into the game and were chasing from then on out. When that happens, the Blackhawks rotate their top players more often. But if Timonen is healthy he needs to play more. If nothing else, he soaks up some of those minutes.

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Quenneville, when asked if the Blackhawks have enough depth with Rundblad and Timonen, said, “I think we’re fine.”

“Every game's different,” he said. “I think when you're not playing much, you want to play it safe, keep it simple as best you can. We'll work our way through it.”

If the Blackhawks do work their way through it, it will still probably be with their top four playing a bulk of the minutes. The Blackhawks had plenty of rest entering this series, so those four should be fine in that respect. But it’s not just the minutes. They’ll take more of a beating in this series than they have the previous ones. As Ryan Kesler said following Sunday’s game, “When you get guys playing a ton of minutes, it’s going to wear them down. We’ve got to invest in them physically.”

The Blackhawks will make adjustments heading into Game 2. They always do after a loss. The defensive depth, or lack thereof in Rozsival’s absence, was going to be a concern entering this series. It still is.

Four takeaways: Blackhawks on wrong side of history in loss to Lightning


Four takeaways: Blackhawks on wrong side of history in loss to Lightning

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 6-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning at the United Center on Sunday:

1. Blackhawks on wrong side of history 

Earlier this year the Blackhawks made history by appearing in five straight overtime games to start the season, something no team in NBA, NFL, NHL or MLB history has ever done.

But Sunday they found themselves on the wrong side of it after allowing 33 shots on goal in the second period alone. It tied a franchise high for most given up in a single period — March 4, 1941 vs. Boston — and is the most an NHL team has allowed since 1997-98 when shots by period became an official stat.

"It's pretty rare to be seeing that much work in a period," said Cam Ward, who had a season-high 49 saves. "But oh man, I don't even know what to say to be honest. It's tough. We know that we need to be better especially in our home building, too. And play with some pride and passion. Unfortunately, it seemed like it was lacking at times tonight. The old cliche you lose as a team and overall as a team we weren't good enough tonight."

Said coach Joel Quenneville: "That was a tough, tough period in all aspects. I don’t think we touched the puck at all and that was the part that was disturbing, against a good hockey team."

2. Alexandre Fortin is on the board

After thinking he scored his first career NHL goal in Columbus only to realize his shot went off Marcus Kruger's shin-pad, Fortin made up for it one night later and knows there wasn't any question about this one.

The 21-year-old undrafted forward, playing in his his fifth career game, sprung loose for a breakaway early in the first period and received a terrific stretch pass by Jan Rutta from his own goal line to Fortin, who slid it underneath Louis Domingue for his first in the big leagues. It's his second straight game appearing on the scoresheet after recording an assist against the Blue Jackets on Saturday.

"It's fun," Fortin said. "I think it would be a little bit more fun to get your first goal [while getting] two points for your team, but I think we ... just have to [turn the page to the] next chapter and just play and be ready for next game."

3. Brandon Saad's most noticeable game?

There weren't many positives to take away from this game, but Saad was certainly one of them. He had arguably his best game of the season, recording seven shot attempts (three on goal) with two of them hitting the post (one while the Blackhawks were shorthanded).

He was on the ice for 11 shot attempts for and five against at 5-on-5, which was by far the best on his team.

"He started OK and got way better," Quenneville said of Saad. "Had the puck way more, took it to the net a couple of times, shorthanded."

4. Special teams still a work in progress

The Blackhawks entered Sunday with the 29th-ranked power play and 25th-ranked penalty kill, and are still working to get out from the bottom of the league in both departments. In an effort to change up their fortunes with the man advantage, the Blackhawks split up their two units for more balance.

They had four power-play opportunities against Tampa Bay and cashed in on one of them, but it didn't matter as it was too little, too late in the third period — although they did become the first team to score a power-play goal against the Lightning this season (29 chances).

"Whether we're looking for balance or we're just looking for one to get hot, I think our power play has been ordinary so far," Quenneville said before the game. "We need it to be more of a threat."

Four more minor penalties were committed by the Blackhawks, giving them eight in the past two games. That's one way they can shore up the penalty kill, by cutting back on taking them.

Blackhawks tie franchise record for shots on goal allowed in one period


Blackhawks tie franchise record for shots on goal allowed in one period

Well, things could be going better for the Blackhawks during Sunday's game against the Lightning.

In the second period Sunday, the Blackhawks surrendered 33 shots on goal, tying a franchise record for most in a single period. The previous instance occurred March 4, 1941 against the Boston Bruins, a game that the Blackhawks lost 3-2.

While the Blackhawks tied a franchise record for shots on goal allowed, they actually set an NHL record at the same time. The NHL did not begin recording shots on goal as an "official" statistic until the 1997-98 season.

Consequentially, Sunday's 33 shots on goal allowed in the second period is the "official" record, even though the Blackhawks accomplished the "feat" nearly 80 years ago. Confusing, huh? 

Unfortunately for the Blackhawks, they also surrendered three goals and scored zero in addition to the plethora of shots on goal allowed. They recorded just six shots on goal in the second period themselves, trailing 4-1 by the time the third period started.