Blackhawks

Hawk Talk: Blackhawks sour as favorites

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Hawk Talk: Blackhawks sour as favorites

Wednesday, May 26, 2010
5:00 PM

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

CHICAGO Everyone and his brother may not be picking the Blackhawks to win the 2010 Stanley Cup over the Philadelphia Flyers, but even the contrarians will acknowledge the series stacks up favoring Chicago.

Just dont go trying to sell that suit of clothes to the Redshirts themselves.

Honestly, it feels like just another seriesthats the way we have to approach it, Blackhawks forward Adam Burish said. Its two kind of cocky teams playing each other. The media tells us were favorites, but we dont care.

Teammate Brian Campbell also shifted the focus on favorites to the fellas asking the questions: We dont feel like were favoritesthats for you media to talk about. Weve just played them one time.

And by way of deflating Chicago as favorites, that one game this season is a smart tact to take. Hosting the Hawks last March 13, Philadelphia played its best game of the season to that point, keeping pace with every high-flying Chicago stride. The game went from bad to tragic when first Scott Hartnell tied the game with just 2:04 remaining, and then Chris Pronger snuck backdoor and took a sweet cross-ice feed from Claude Giroux for the buzzer-beater.

That was our most frustrating loss, all year long, Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said, the memory of the lost points still singing his stache a touch. It was a tough pill to swallow.

But the loss may have been a cautionary tale for Chicago. It in fact foreshadowed a couple weeks worth of true floundering by the Blackhawks, enduring their worst stretch of the season late in March, as the playoffs loomed.

We did snap out of it, Blackhawks alternacap John Madden said. It was tough to weather. I, for oneand I think everybody else in the Blackhawks dressing room as wellwas tired of learning lessons. The season was starting to drag. We might have been guilty of looking too far ahead and not taking care of the business in front of us.

That March game was uncharacteristic in that there were more than twice as many shots (75) as hits (34), which touches on a couple of things. First of all, theres no way the Flyers can get lured into playing such a style vs. Chicago in the Stanley Cup, particularly not in a feeling-out Game 1. Second, if Philadelphia does hope to run with the high-flying Hawks, its going to be a short series.

That said, theres little that will convince the Blackhawks they are the team to beat for title.

Were not favorites, not in our terms, Chicago forward Troy Brouwer said. Theyre obviously a good team that knows what its like to be desperate, to play hard every night. We havent has as much exposure to that.

Indicative of how grounded the Blackhawks are is that even the most confident of the Redshirts, forward Kris Versteeg, who scored Chicagos first goal in the 3-2 loss at Wachovia Center a couple of months ago, wouldnt bite the favorites bait.

Thats a compliment that people are giving you, to call you the favorites, Steeger said. But it doesnt mean much to us. The league is so close, theres so much parity. Perhaps the very worst of the teams in the East arent very good, but otherwise the top eight in both conferences are all strong teams. You dont make it this far without being a favorite.

Besides, the colorful Burish has figured out one way that Philadelphia has the edge over his Blackhawks.

They have a cooler story than we do, he said. They got into the playoffs on a shootout. Even we cant match that.

Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.com's Blackhawks Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Hawks information.

Evaluating Blackhawks options after Anton Forsberg is placed on waivers

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AP

Evaluating Blackhawks options after Anton Forsberg is placed on waivers

The Blackhawks have said all along that they don't plan on carrying three goaltenders, but wanted to do so during the three games in four days stretch just in case, with Corey Crawford coming back from a 10-month layoff because of a concussion.

After being encouraged by how Crawford has responded to his return, the Blackhawks placed goaltender Anton Forsberg on waivers Monday morning. Teams have 24 hours to put in a claim for the 25-year-old goaltender and would have to keep him on their NHL roster for 10 games and/or 30 days before he's eligible to go through the waiver process again.

His chances of getting claimed by any of the other 30 teams essentially depends on which teams believe Forsberg would be an immediate upgrade over their current backup — or starter, for that matter — or whether there's an injury to one of the team's two goaltenders that requires a placeholder, like we saw the Carolina Hurricanes do by claiming Curtis McElhinney from the Toronto Maple Leafs after Scott Darling's injury in the preseason.

If Forsberg goes unclaimed, the Blackhawks can assign him to the American Hockey League with the Rockford IceHogs. With Collin Delia and Kevin Lankinen sharing the goaltending duties in Rockford, it's possible Lankinen gets sent to the Indy Fuel in the East Coast Hockey League to get consistent starts under his belt.

A third option, one that isn't very common but we've seen in the past as recently as last October with Maple Leafs goaltender Kasimir Kaskisuo, is that Forsberg can be loaned to any AHL team while still being a part of the Blackhawks organization. This would allow the Blackhawks to keep Delia and Lankinen in Rockford while Forsberg gets his starts in the AHL, too.

Or, the Blackhawks could simply trade Forsberg to another NHL team that could stash him in the AHL, as long as he clears waivers. They did it last season with Chris DiDomenico, who cleared waivers as a member of the Ottawa Senators but was then traded to Chicago for Ville Pokka days later. Had DiDomenico been claimed by the Blackhawks, he would have had to stay on the NHL roster as noted above.

Forsberg was 10-16-4 with a 2.97 goals against average and .908 save percentage in 35 appearances last season but has not appeared in a game yet this year. He was acquired as part of the Brandon Saad package for Artemi Panarin in June 2017.

Blackhawks looking for defensive improvement from everyone, not just defensemen

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks looking for defensive improvement from everyone, not just defensemen

The Blackhawks were able to get away with their defensive lapses in the past solely because of Corey Crawford. When he went down with a concussion last December, those issues were magnified because he wasn't there to mask the flaws.

But it's reached the point where they can't rely on their goaltender to bail them out on a nightly basis, which is becoming another trend. Cam Ward allowed six goals to Tampa Bay on Sunday night, but made 49 saves — including 30 in the second period alone. He did everything he could to keep his team withing some sort of reaching distance and without his timely stops, the scoreboard could've looked much worse for the Blackhawks.

Something's got to change. 

When the Blackhawks talk about tightening things up defensively, they're not just putting it all on the defensemen. All five guys on the ice need to do their part and they're not doing it right now.

"I think we're trying to do too much and running around trying to do each other's job," Jonathan Toews said. "Sometimes we just need to simply and finish our checks and support each other."

No team has given up more even-strength high-danger chances through eight games than the Blackhawks at 110. That's 15.77 per 60 minutes. For reference, the New York Islanders finished worst in the league in that category last season and their number was at 12.96.

It didn't help that the Blackhawks spent nearly the entire second period in their own end on Sunday.

"We just couldn’t get it out of our zone, couldn’t get our stick on it, didn’t see pressure, didn’t feel pressure when we had it, were stripped," coach Joel Quenneville said. "Hence, we didn’t advance it. Kept looking like we were going up the ice and there were going to be some odd-man situations and then we’re the ones who were facing it."

That's one way to eliminate those high quality scoring chances, is getting the puck out of their own zone effectively or else it opens the door for Grade-A opportunities because of self-inflicted wounds. And it usually happens at the end of shifts when guys are tired, which often leads to goals.

"We have to learn how to play without the puck better and learn how to keep it," Quenneville said. "Whether it was our execution going up the ice, first pass poor and then we couldn’t change. A lot of things that happened yesterday were there tonight."

The Blackhawks weren't using three games in four nights as an excuse because Tampa Bay was in the same situation. It was an even playing field in that respect.

It's all about execution from everyone involved, forwards and defensemen. And the Blackhawks feel they're correctable issues.

"Of course," Toews said. "We've had some good periods this season so far. The first three, four, five games, everyone was excited and you guys are all talking to us much differently than you are right now. It's just getting back to playing that smart defensive game and playing with effort and letting our offense do the work. We know what's got to improve. It's right there in front of us."