Blackhawks

Blackhawks lose Marian Hossa, have win streak snapped by Senators

Blackhawks lose Marian Hossa, have win streak snapped by Senators

The start wasn’t so bad. The end was a great flourish. The middle wasn’t so good, and it was ultimately costly for the Blackhawks. And for only the third time this season, the Blackhawks lost a home game in regulation.

Artemi Panarin scored his 15th goal of the season and Richard Panik added his ninth, but the Blackhawks couldn’t muster another one in a 4-3 loss to the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday night. The Blackhawks, whose five-game winning streak was snapped, remain atop the Western Conference with 48 points.

Now, will they be down another forward? Marian Hossa did not return for the second period, suffering an upper-body injury. Coach Joel Quenneville said Hossa is questionable for Friday, when the Blackhawks host the Colorado Avalanche. The Blackhawks are already without Artem Anisimov, although Quenneville said the center could play Friday.

The Blackhawks had a strong finish but they had to make up for a mediocre second in which the Senators scored three times, including twice in 10 seconds. Derick Brassard’s goal one second after an Ottawa power play and Tom Pyatt’s goal those few seconds later turned a 1-1 tie into a 3-1 Ottawa lead.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!] 

“Kind of a tough swing in the second period with the end of the penalty kill and another quick one to go down two,” said Jonathan Toews. “I think in a lot of situations, if we have little breakdowns we find a way to keep games tight. Play the way we do late in games we find ways to win, especially the way we’ve been playing lately. Unfortunately, we got down a few and didn’t have enough to come back.”

Still, the Blackhawks almost did. Richard Panik brought the Blackhawks to within a goal early in the third period and Marcus Kruger had a penalty shot with less than five minutes remaining in regulation. But as with several other Blackhawks chances down the stretch, Mike Condon stopped it.

“Obviously I wanted to take the chance there and score and tie it up. That would’ve been great,” said Kruger. “I really wanted to see that go in but it is what it is.”

The Blackhawks have fared well at home this season. They didn’t have enough through the middle of this one, and as Quenneville said, the Senators “played a good road game.”

The Blackhawks have had a lot of finish this season. This time, they didn’t have quite enough.

“I think that’s been our team the last few games, coming from behind and having really good third periods. That’s something we want to keep doing but we want our starts to be a lot better,” Kruger said. “We had two tough breakdowns in the second that put us behind and we had to chase a lot today. We gave it a try in the end, but can’t get the last one in.”

State of the Blackhawks going into All-Star break

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USA TODAY

State of the Blackhawks going into All-Star break

It's been a crazy first half of the 2018-19 season for the Blackhawks. There was a coaching overhaul, two trades, multiple call-ups, an injury to their star goaltender, a Winter Classic spectacle and an insane travel schedule looped into an already busy schedule with the club being tied for the second-most games played of any NHL team.

The All-Star break and nine-day hiatus from game action is coming at a great time for the Blackhawks, to say the least. And they left off on a positive note, with back-to-back home victories against the defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals on national television and a comeback shootout win over the No. 1-ranked defense and hottest Eastern Conference team in the New York Islanders.

But in the bigger picture, the Blackhawks are still not where they want to be. Not even close.

Going into Wednesday, they mathematically have a 1.4 percent chance of make the playoffs, according to hockeyreference.com, and that's likely to drop by the end of the day with eight Western Conference teams in action before the NHL shuts down for All-Star weekend. Only two other teams have a better chance at landing the No. 1 overall pick than the Blackhawks (11.5 percent), and that's Los Angeles (13.5) and Ottawa (18.5), the latter of which is actually Colorado's pick.

"We’re going to play until we’re out of it," coach Jeremy Colliton said. "No reason to give up. We’ll do everything we can. However, my approach is still the same. We have to get better. We’re not good enough right now. We have to play better. And so that’s how we’re going to approach each day and then we add it up at the end, see where we’re at."

The reality is, the Blackhawks are closer to the earning a top pick than making the playoffs. And that's fine, especially in a retooling year. In fact, it's better than sitting just outside the playoff picture because mediocrity is the worst spot to be in — it doesn't guarantee you an immediate impact-type player in the draft if you miss out on the postseason.

But the Blackhawks have to come to grips with it. It seems like they have, although that doesn't mean they're going to lie down for the final 31 games. This is still an important stretch run to determine what you have going into the offseason.

Scouting meetings are happening this week in Chicago, an annual occurrence where the organization gets together to decide how they want to approach the Feb. 25 trade deadline. Should they be sellers? If so, how aggressive should they get without creating more holes? Trade anyone you can to clear roster spots and open up even more cap space to take a big run at this upcoming unrestricted free agent class or only pull something off if you're filling a long-term positional need elsewhere?

Right now, non-playoff and bubble teams across the NHL are asking themselves these same questions. If they're buyers, the Blackhawks will certainly be one of the teams they call to ask who's available. It's up to Stan Bowman and the Blackhawks front office to determine who is and who isn't, what the market value is for players drawing interest and whether a potential trade is something that benefits them in the long run but, at the same time, can make an impact as early as next season.

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Hawks Talk Podcast: Bold predictions about the Blackhawks' post-All-Star schedule

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USA TODAY

Hawks Talk Podcast: Bold predictions about the Blackhawks' post-All-Star schedule

On the latest Hawks Talk Podcast, Jamal Mayers and Pat Boyle discuss whether the Blackhawks can get back in the Wild Card race. They tell us which Blackhawks player has been the biggest surprise so far and have they figured out their defensive zone issues?

Jammer weighs in on what he would like to see from this team after the All-Star break, how they can improve their penalty kill and will they be a buyer or seller at the NHL trade deadline?

The guys close out the podcast with their bold predictions for the final 31 games of the regular season.

0:15 Teasing us or can they get into WC race?

2:00 Why is the power play clicking?

3:45 Biggest surprise between Kane, Toews and DeBrincat

6:00 Toews finds confidence

7:30 Biggest surprise from players not named Toews, Kane and DeBrincat

10:00 Strome factor

11:30 Have Blackhawks figured out defensive zone issues?

13:30 Jokiharju after the World Juniors

16:00 What would you like to see post All-Star break?

17:00 How do they improve penalty kill?

19:00 Buyer or seller at trade deadline?

21:00 Bold Predictions

Listen to the entire podcast here or in the embedded player below.

Blackhawks Talk Podcast

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