Everything but the goal: Ducks blank Blackhawks

Everything but the goal: Ducks blank Blackhawks

The Blackhawks had a lot of the shots. They had a lot of the puck possession. They had a lot of the momentum.

They just never had the lead.

Jonathan Bernier stopped all 43 shots he faced and Corey Perry got the winner as the Anaheim Ducks beat the Blackhawks 1-0 on Thursday night. The Blackhawks' seven-game winning streak was snapped but they didn't lose any ground on the Minnesota Wild. The Wild, who lost to Tampa Bay, still lead the Blackhawks by a point.

Johnny Oduya played in his first game since the Blackhawks acquired him on Feb. 28.

It was the first time since Jan. 13 the Blackhawks were shut out (6-0 to Washington).

Considering the Blackhawks have won 12 of their last 14 games, there wasn't a sense of concern over this one. Thursday night's game, the Blackhawks' first since Sunday, looked similar to their Feb. 18 outing against Edmonton, which came off a six-day bye.

"We just said that," coach Joel Quenneville said of the similar games. "We did a lot of good things. I thought our shot, either selection or net-front presence, was a little off. When there's a hungriness around the net, we could've gotten one and who knows? It could've opened it up at that point. We had some good looks with no finish, but definitely did a lot of good things."

Neither the Blackhawks nor Quenneville thought the layoff was an issue.

"I don't know. We had chances. Whether that's just executing and getting the finish, I don't know. It could be," Duncan Keith said. "I thought we did a lot of things, that we were pretty sharp out there with our passing a puck movement. Obviously [it's] getting guys in front there or maybe getting a greasier goal, whether it's a rebound or a tip or something like that."

The Blackhawks continued their trend of strong starts, outshooting the Ducks 19-2. The difference was Bernier. The Blackhawks thought they'd scored late in the second period, with Tanner Kero near the goal line. But they didn't, and the Ducks got the go-ahead goal moments later when Perry scored his 12th of the season.

"They played pretty physical, pretty solid defensively. Bernier made a bunch of saves," said Corey Crawford, who stopped 25 of 26 in the loss. "I mean, we played well, we had good looks. We just weren't getting some bounces there."

The Blackhawks have been playing well since the start of February, and Thursday night's game was no different. They had just about everything going for them in this one. The just couldn't get one past Bernier.

"Their goalie was very good and certainly was a factor. Crow did a good job at our end, and had some decent looks as the game progressed," Quenneville said. "Scoring first in a game like that was important."

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Blackhawks offense finally opens things up as Patrick Kane starts streaking

USA Today

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Blackhawks offense finally opens things up as Patrick Kane starts streaking

On the latest Blackhawks Talk Podcast, Pat Boyle and Charlie Roumeliotis break down the changes made to the Hawks defensive zone coverage (1:50) and Patrick Kane’s current points streak (7:30). They also discuss how most of the players that have been scratched recently have had bounce-back efforts (11:20), as well as the improved play of Erik Gustafsson (18:12) and both special teams units (20:16). Plus, the debut of “Checkpoint Charlie," where Charlie gives us a taste of life on the road and his encounter with Chris Rock’s brother (29:00).

Listen here or in the embedded player below. 


Blackhawks Talk Podcast


Jeremy Colliton explains schematic change and why Blackhawks made it

Jeremy Colliton explains schematic change and why Blackhawks made it

The Blackhawks made a schematic change after their four-game road trip and they've seen the benefits of it immediately. They're 2-0-1 in their past three games and have scored 12 goals over that stretch.

We broke down on Monday what changes were made systematically and how it has freed up the offense, but head coach Jeremy Colliton elaborated on it Tuesday and explained the reasoning behind the decision.

"All it is is, our weak side forward, we pushed him up higher in defensive zone coverage," Colliton said. "Before, we had four low a lot of times, to try and overload in certain situations. That's good, it gets you out of D-zone, but the problem is when you win the puck back, a lot of times you're very close together and it's harder to make clean plays, it's harder to exit with space to make plays. So we were having trouble entering the zone.

"There's been a lot of talk about how we have been dumping too many pucks in. Well, we're not trying to dump the puck in, but when you're attacking and you don't have numbers, you don't have space in behind, you have to, you're forced too. I think we're doing a much better job of getting from D-zone clean, because we have a forward a little bit higher, there's a little more space, it happens quicker. And then I think we've done a good job with the low three [of] someone jumping by and then we can create a little bit more space off the rush and we don't have to chip it in. We can enter clean, make some plays and I think the guys are doing very well."

Patrick Kane, who has erupted for seven points (four goals, three assists) in the past three games since the change, sees the change opening up more opportunities for the Blackhawks on offense.

"I think a lot of us probably stressed that there wasn't as much flow to it, for whatever reason that was," Kane said. "They made a change and all of a sudden it seems like we have more options coming out of our end, we have more motion, more speed coming out of our end, which is always a good thing."

The Blackhawks' dump-in rate, as Colliton noted, has been much higher this season and it’s noteworthy because they generated a lot of their offense off the rush last season from mid-December and on. But what we didn’t know was the exact reason why the Blackhawks altered the way they entered the offensive zone.

Aside from the obvious answer of cutting down on neutral zone turnovers and limiting the amount of odd-man rushes against, Colliton notes the Blackhawks were forced to dump it in more because they weren’t entering the zone with numbers. The defensive scheme didn’t really allow them to.

But with the recent fundamental change, the Blackhawks have more options to exit their own zone cleanly, pick up speed through the neutral zone and do what they do best: by carrying the puck in and having more freedom to create offense. It’s something the coaching staff and players discussed with each other, and the consensus is it will maximize the talent of this group.

"We kind of felt it was time," Colliton said. "I mean, we're always talking with them for sure and guys, they want to score more. They want to produce, guys want to make plays. And so we're just trying to find the balance. We want to continue to work on being good defensively, but we've got to score more than them. I think we can still hold onto those defensive gains we've made and score more goals."

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