Blackhawks

Blackhawks focus on 'little things' after lopsided loss to Capitals

Blackhawks focus on 'little things' after lopsided loss to Capitals

Blackhawks players and coach Joel Quenneville sounded mixed following a 6-0 loss to the Washington Capitals on Friday night.

Some told the media that they could learn from that loss. Quenneville said the Blackhawks should just forget it. They all agreed on one thing: it was one horrible game on their end and they've got to clean things up fast.

On Saturday the Blackhawks got back to work trying to improve upon what failed against the Capitals, which according to Quenneville was quite the laundry list of items:

"I just think little things, whether it was getting or keeping the puck — we didn't have it at all — going into the puck area, going through the puck area, little details. We've probably given up more rush chances than we have in a long, long time," Quenneville said. "Whether it was the competitiveness from the outset, be it the faceoff circle, across the board, but that start to the game put us in a tough spot."

The loss to the Capitals marked the fifth time this season the Blackhawks have lost a game by three or more goals. Last year they lost 13 games by three or more, compared to 12 during the 2014-15 Stanley Cup season. You take that number for what it is: some games are close until the third period (Jan. 2 vs. the St. Louis Blues, a 4-1 loss) and others are like Friday's effort, or lack thereof.

So, do the Blackhawks forget about that mess or learn from it?

"I think maybe a little of both," Andrew Desjardins said. "You gotta learn from some of the stuff in aspects of one-on-one battles, being in good angles. For-sure plays still have to be for sure, where last night they weren't. As far as that goes, you have to learn from those [things]; you have to see it to learn and to understand it's not good enough. At the same time, you have to use it as a drive to be better for the next game and be a little pissed off about it."

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Vinnie Hinostroza's nullified goal (due to goaltender interference) took the wind out of the Blackhawks' sails at that point; they would've trailed 3-1 instead of 3-0. But players said there's only so much pointing they can do toward that no-goal.

"We had the momentum for a second there and it got taken away. But we should've responded better than that. It was still 3-0; still could've come back from that," Hinostroza said. "I don't think we responded, at all, how we should have."

The Blackhawks should have a sufficient level of anger on Sunday night when they host the red-hot Minnesota Wild who, thanks to their 5-4 victory over the Dallas Stars on Saturday night, jumped into first place in the Western Conference. The Blackhawks and Wild each have 59 points but the Wild have four games in hand. This one won't be easy, either. The Wild, who swept the regular-season series against the Blackhawks last year, are 16-1-1 in their last 17 games. That included a 12-game winning streak, which the equally hot Columbus Blue Jackets snapped on New Year's Eve.

Will the Blackhawks have the sufficient response? In most cases when the Blackhawks have had a horrible game one night, they've usually come back with a strong one the next. The Wild, much like the Capitals, are surging and there will be little margin for error.

The Blackhawks had an awful one in D.C. in a season that hasn't had many of them. They happen. But whether they lost sleep over it, forgot about it or learn from it, they definitely can't repeat it.

"You don't want to dwell on it, let one bad game turn into two bad games because you're thinking of everything that went wrong the last game," Trevor van Riemsdyk said. "[The Wild have] got a lot of speed, just like the Caps, a lot of skill. It'll take a great effort. When you get beat like that you want a chance to redeem yourself. Tomorrow's a good chance for that."

Blakchawks Talk Podcast: What should the Blackhawks be asking for this holiday season?

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USA TODAY

Blakchawks Talk Podcast: What should the Blackhawks be asking for this holiday season?

On the latest Hawks Talk podcast, Pat Boyle, Steve Konroyd and Charlie Roumeliotis discuss Corey Crawford's concussion, Henri Jokiharju leaving the team to play in World Juniors, how the Blackhawks defensemen stack up, and what gift do the Blackhawks need this holiday season?

01:30 Corey Crawford's concussion

04:00 You can't use Crawford's injury as an excuse this season

06:10 Hawks able to get a look at Collin Delia

07:00 Henri Jokiharju to play for Finland in World Juniors

10:30 Erik Gustafsson's potential

14:00 Strome and Kane playing on the same line

17:00 What have the guys seen from Dylan Sikura

21:30 Tough back to back games at Dallas and Colorado

24:30 Guys give their holiday gift to the Blackhawks

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

Blackhawks Talk Podcast

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Four takeaways: Blackhawks turn in complete effort, wrap up homestand with win

Four takeaways: Blackhawks turn in complete effort, wrap up homestand with win

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 2-1 win over the Nashville Predators at the United Center on Sunday:

1. The Full 60

The Blackhawks have been preaching playing a full 60 minutes ever since Jeremy Colliton took over as head coach. Heck, even before then. And they turned in arguably their most complete effort under their new head coach against a Predators team that came in tied for second in the NHL with 46 points.

Even more impressive, the Blackhawks shut the door in the final 40:33 and gave up one or fewer goals for the first time since Nov. 18 in a 3-1 victory over Minnesota — a span of 15 games. Cam Ward was a big reason for that, stopping 30 of 31 shots for a save percentage of .968 to pick up his first win in almost a month.

It was a well-deserved win for the Blackhawks, who earned five out of a possible eight points during their four-game homestand.

"I thought our guys competed and worked really hard all 60 minutes," Ward said. "Defensively we didn’t give them a whole lot and it’s a credit to the guys for the way that they played. We kept it much more simple and executed and, to be quite honest, we could have had more goals if it wasn’t for [Pekka] Rinne. He made some big saves and it was tight right till the end."

2. Contributions from the back end

With Henri Jokiharju being loaned to Finland for the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship, a void opened up on the Blackhawks blue line. But with that comes opportunity for others.

Gustav Forsling, who returned after missing six games with a shoulder injury, scored his second of the season to put the Blackhawks on the board at the 15:22 mark of the second period. And 1:54 later, Erik Gustafsson made it 2-1 when he scored 17 seconds into a power play.

Despite deserving better fate in the first period, the Blackhawks stayed with it and responded with two goals and outshot the Predators 16-7 in the middle frame to hand Nashville its first loss of the season when leading after one period (10-1-0).

"We always want to score," Forsling said. "But I think the most important thing is not to get scored on and we did a good job at that too."

3. A strong start spoiled

The last time the Blackhawks clashed with the Predators, they allowed three goals in the first 4:11. It wasn't great.

Perhaps motivated by revenge, the Blackhawks were ready to play from the moment the puck dropped this time around, outshooting the Predators 12-11 and generating 13 scoring chances, according to naturalstattrick.com, in the opening frame. But the Predators spoiled their good start when Kevin Fiala scored with 32.2 seconds left.

It's the 15th straight game the Blackhawks allowed a first-period goal, although this is one they can't get too worked up about.

'"We talked about it before: we've got to be ready," Gustafsson said. "Nashville's a great team. We know they're going to come out hard. Right from the start, we battled hard, we stuck together as a team and when we [got] tired, we stuck together in front of [Ward]. It was a team win tonight."

4. Alex DeBrincat is in good company

The Blackhawks celebrated a birthday on Tuesday, with DeBrincat turning 21 years of age. It's weird to think he's only 21, but at the same time it feels like he's been around for a while now and has become part of the core. 

There are only six players in Blackhawks history who have scored more goals than him before turning 21: 
— Eddie Olczyk (65 in 228 games)
— Jeremy Roenick (58 in 146 games)
— Jonathan Toews (58 in 146 games)
— Bobby Hull (55 in 177 games)
— Denis Savard (54 in 129 games)
— Patrick Kane (53 in 181 games)

Of those seven players, DeBrincat ranks fourth in goals-per-game (.362). And the best is yet to come.

"It's a nice weapon to have in your lineup," Colliton said. "He's probably exceeded expectations that people had for him when he first came to training camp a year and a half ago. But there's no reason why he can't keep getting better."

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