Blackhawks

Hawk Talk: Divergent Paths to a Collision Course

Hawk Talk: Divergent Paths to a Collision Course

Monday, May 24, 2010
10:45 PM

By Chris Boden
CSNChicago.com

Blackhawks versus Flyers.

The other Keystone State team as a Finals foe, after Pittsburgh swept them last time.

Back on March 13th, Cristobal Huet played one of his better games as the goalie competition was still up for grabs, leading 2-1 with just over two minutes left at the Wachovia Center. But a breakaway goal tied it, and Chris Pronger capped a rush for the winner with just 2.1 seconds left. in the only meeting this season. One of Pronger's main jobs now will be trying to quiet down Dustin Byfuglien. 6'4, 260 against 6'6, 220 with an extremely nasty streak. This is where the Flyers expected him to take them when they acquired him last off-season. He won a Norris Trophy in one of his nine seasons in St. Louis, playing under Joel Quenneville. These Flyers have two more regular D-Men 6'3 and another 6'5.

You want questions in the crease? They also have a goalie named Michael Leighton. In, out, waived by Carolina, on to Philly, hurt, back in again, and the owner of three shutouts in the East Final versus Montreal. He was a sixth round pick of the Hawks in 1999, went 8-21-10 for them when he got his first Big Chance in '02-'03 and '03-'04. Duncan Keith was a minor league teammate at Norfolk. His backup: Brian Boucher: 1-10-3 with the Hawks three years ago. Patrick Sharp and Ben Eager will face their most recent ex-teams before being traded to the Hawks.

Keith, Seabrook, Pronger, Toews, Richards. Team Canada.

Philly's gotten healthier after showing the heart of Rocky by stunning Boston in coming back from the brink, down three games to none, in round two. They made the playoffs on the final day of the regular season - beating the Rangers in a shootout, then stunning heavily-favored New Jersey in the opening round.

They're getting strong secondary scoring now. Sound familiar? They've got guys for United Center fans to hate: Carcillo, Hartnell, Laperriere.

They fired their coach in December when they were above .500, then hired a guy who won a Cup in Carolina (with Andrew Ladd), and they promptly started 2-8 under Peter Laviolette.

Their captain eagerly grabs the Prince of Wales Trophy Monday night. Our captain acted as if the Campbell Trophy would give him a life-threatening illness if he touched it Sunday afternoon.

They're the latest team to participate in the Winter Classic and make the Stanley Cup Finals - where they've lost in their last five attempts. Just like the Blackhawks. At least their last Cup-hoisting was a mere 35 years ago. Not 49.

How soon can Saturday get here?

What we learned about Blackhawks during five-game road trip

What we learned about Blackhawks during five-game road trip

"Every game now is a playoff game, pretty much. We've got to approach it like it's life or death."

Those were the words of Drake Caggiula and that was the mindset for the Blackhawks going into their five-game road trip in Western Canada, which was easily their most important swing of the season to date, given the circumstances. All five teams were ahead of them in the Western Conference standings, the Blackhawks were knocking on the door of a playoff spot and they had a chance to prove themselves ahead of the Feb. 24 trade deadline.

The Blackhawks finished the trip with a 1-4-0 record, picking up only two out of a possible 10 points. They ended the weekend sitting six points out of the final wild card spot with two games in hand but four teams to jump. It's not impossible to get back in the race, but the cards are certainly stacked against them.

So what did we learn about this team?

The easy narrative would be to say the Blackhawks shrunk in games that had playoff-type implications, but that‘s just not true. They simply failed to capitalize on their opportunities, and they had plenty of them.

In Game 1 against Winnipeg, the Blackhawks held a 2-0 lead before allowing a shorthanded goal in the second period that was the first of five unanswered for the Jets, who went on to win 5-2. The Blackhawks went 0-for-3 on the power play and were outscored (1-0), outshot (3-2) and out-chanced (4-2) during those three opportunities. That was their downfall.

In Game 2 against Edmonton, the Blackhawks held a pair of one-goal leads — 2-1 in the first period and 3-2 in the second period — but couldn’t close the deal despite the Oilers playing without the NHL's best player in Connor McDavid. Again, a huge missed opportunity that was there for the taking.

In Game 3 against Vancouver, the Blackhawks peppered a season-high 49 shots on goal on Jacob Markstrom, 25 of which came from high-danger areas, but couldn't crack the code. It was one of their most dominating performances of the season from start to finish and yet they weren't rewarded for it.

In Game 4 against Calgary, the market quickly corrected itself when the Blackhawks scored a season-high eight goals on 28 shots in an 8-4 win over the Flames. It’s the exact response they were looking for, with all four lines contributing on the scoresheet.

In Game 5 against Winnipeg, the Blackhawks scored the first goal, then fell behind 2-1 before evening things up at 2-2 in the final minute of the second period. The game was up for grabs. But the Jets scored 1:36 into the third period after a shot from the point deflected off Alex DeBrincat’s stick and in, and it turned out to be the game-winning goal.

Look, there are no moral victories at this time of year. An ugly win beats the heck out of a pretty loss.

If the power play doesn't go 0-for-14, we might be having a different discussion because it had a chance to change the complexion of each game except the last one — because, well, there were no penalties called on either side, which was the first time that's happened in an NHL game this season.

But the Blackhawks have no margin for error and they're learning that the hard way.

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3 Takeaways: Blackhawks have hole to climb out of after road trip

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USA TODAY

3 Takeaways: Blackhawks have hole to climb out of after road trip

Patrick Kane had a goal and an assist, but the Blackhawks lost 3-2 to the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday to close out their five-game road trip. Here are three takeaways:

Bad trip

After losing in Winnipeg, the Blackhawks finished their five-game road trip with a 1-4-0 record. They began the trip last Sunday in Winnipeg with a 5-2 loss. 

Sunday's game against the Jets had flashes of good, but it was mostly strong plays from the go-to guys like Kane and Jonathan Toews. All three Jets' goals came from deflections off shots from the point. Overall, the effort and productivity paled in comparison to the lone victory of the trip, Saturday's 8-4 win over the Flames in Calgary on Saturday. 

The Blackhawks, six points out of the second wild card spot, will return home and face the New York Rangers at the United Center on Wednesday. They have 23 regular season games remaining. 

Kane keeps climbing 

With a two-point outing in Winnipeg, Kane tied former Blackhawk Steve Larmer for 87th on the NHL all-time points list with 1,012. 

"Showtime" set up Ryan Carpenter for the first goal of the game at 15:44 of the first period by backhanding a pass towards the front of the net for the crashing Carpenter to bury.

Kane scored with less than a minute remaining in the second period to tie it 2-2 off a three-way passing play with Jonathan Toews and Dominik Kubalik. Kane has 27 points (seven goals, 20 assists) in his past 18 games. 

With the primary assist on Kane's goal, Toews earned his sixth point (two goals, four assists) of the road trip. 

0.0

Sunday's Blackhawks-Jets game was the only NHL contest this season to have zero penalties. This was good news for Toews, who had five minor penalties over the prior four games. 

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