Hawk Talk: Time to split Keith and Seabrook?

Hawk Talk: Time to split Keith and Seabrook?

Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2010
6:53 PM

By Tracey Myers

Niklas Hjalmarsson's punishment was handed down on Tuesday afternoon, when the Blackhawks defenseman got a two-game suspension for his hit on Jason Pominville according to's report. There are all sorts of opinions on whether it was worth suspension or not. Joel Quenneville said postgame Monday he didn't think so. The Sabres did think so. No, there was no bad intent but it was still a bit from behind and a player's head went into the boards.

But I digress. The opinion that ultimately counts is the NHL's, and the ruling has been passed. You wish Pominville a speedy recovery and return from that concussion. As for the Blackhawks, it's time to regroup, especially along the blue line. Because for at least two games, that once deep defensemen corps is running very thin.

The Blackhawks were already adjusting to the loss of Brian Campbell, who has about 3-4 weeks to go on that sprained right MCL. Now Hjalmarsson is out a few games. So the onus falls on those remaining. Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook have taken on much of that load; Keith has played more than 30 minutes in each of the Hawks' first three games, including nearly 34 in the season opener against Colorado.

Here comes the "no kidding" part of my soliloquy: those minutes need to be spread out more. Nick Boynton said after Monday's game that he's just fine with playing more minutes. Rookie Nick Leddy, John Scott, Jordan Hendry (who's been a scratch the past two games but they need him now), all hands have to be on deck.

And is it time to break up that Keith-Seabrook tandem, if but for a few games? I know, the chemistry of the two together is fantastic. Lightning and thunder. When asked about it a few days ago -- before the Hjalmarsson suspension -- coach Joel Quenneville didn't sound too keen on the idea. But that was before all of this, and it may have to be a short-term solution.

Either way, the healthy D-men have to step up and take on more responsibilities. Some will grow up fast, some will grow into new roles. Adjusting on the fly is something all teams have to do at some point of the season. The Blackhawks will find out how quickly they can do it.

Tracey Myers is's Blackhawks Insider. Follow Tracey on Twitter @TramyersCSN for up-to-the-minute Hawks information.

Blackhawks getting much-needed boost on defense with return of Connor Murphy


Blackhawks getting much-needed boost on defense with return of Connor Murphy

After missing all of training camp and the first 30 games with a back injury, Connor Murphy has been activated from injured reserve and is slated to make his season debut when the Blackhawks host the Montreal Canadiens on Sunday.

"Yeah, I'm definitely excited," Murphy said after practice on Saturday. "I've been waiting for a long time."

It's a much-needed boost on the back end for the Blackhawks, who have given up the most high-danger chances at 5-on-5 this season, according to He won't be asked to save the day, but any addition is a positive as the Blackhawks look to snap a six-game losing streak.

"He's a really good player," Corey Crawford said. "But we're not relying on just one guy. We've still got to play better as a team. But to add a player like that will definitely help us."

After starting the season 6-2-2, the Blackhawks are 3-14-3 in their past 20 games and have been struggling as a team to snap out of a funk that's lasted for a month and a half. And that's been a helpless feeling for Murphy, who hasn't been able to do anything about it but will now get that chance to make an impact.

"It's hard any time you miss games, whether it's one or 30," Murphy said. "It's not fun, and especially seeing the team struggle a little bit is harder. I've been lucky enough to be around the room and around the guys to feel a part of it a little bit. But any time you go through skids — there's always ups and downs in a season — but the recent ones have been hard and you feel for the guys. Everyone's working hard and wanting to win, and we're not getting the results. But we show spurts in games and playing hard and doing things well. So I think it'll come and I'm really happy to start contributing."

There will probably be some rust for Murphy to shake off. That's natural. The other challenge is that the Blackhawks made a coaching change while he was on the sidelines and he'll have to adapt to Jeremy Colliton's new defensive zone system in going from a zone coverage to a man-to-man.

"That stuff will come," Murphy said. "I don't know if you want to let that creep in your mind, thinking too much about systems or different personnel. I think just going out and having fun and competing at my hardest will be what I'm looking for."

Murphy accumulated 14 points (two goals, 14 assists) in 76 regular-season games last season, and ranked second on the team with 138 hits. He was partnered with Erik Gustafsson on the third pairing during practice on Saturday, so it appears that's where he'll start.

"It's another guy fighting for ice," Colliton said of Murphy. "We want it to be competitive for roles and roster spots, so positive to have him back and looking forward to seeing him play."

To make room for him on the 23-man roster, Gustav Forsling was placed on injured reserve with a shoulder injury, retroactive to Dec. 5. Colliton said he doesn't believe his injury will be long-term.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Blackhawks easily on your device.

Four takeaways: Lead quickly evaporates for Blackhawks in sixth consecutive loss


Four takeaways: Lead quickly evaporates for Blackhawks in sixth consecutive loss

LAS VEGAS — Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 4-3 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights at T-Mobile Arena on Thursday:

1. Running out of answers

The Blackhawks are running out of ways to explain their slow starts and so are we. Eventually they're going to break through. But it hasn't happened yet, and for the ninth straight game they allowed the first goal.

Not only that, it was the sixth time over that stretch where they allowed the first goal within the first 2:11. Reilly Smith scored nine seconds into a Vegas power play at 1:28 to put his team up 1-0 and Deryk Engelland made it 2-0 at 8:14 when his shot from the point got past Corey Crawford, who was screened by Jonathan Toews. 

At this point, it's more important for the Blackhawks not to allow the second goal rather than the first because it's piled up too many times over this stretch.

"Regardless of how things were going, I think we've played some pretty good hockey for the majority of the last two games," Toews said. "But even when you play well, every team is good and there's no guarantee you're going to win, so we've got to be more consistent with that effort and that speed. We had the pace that we needed tonight.

"Again, they score first, but at least we know that if we give up a few goals or if we go down we can find our way back into games, it's not the end of the world. But starts are big for us and at the end of the day, keep building on our game, improving our process as a team and we're bound to get over this hump. Obviously it's a tough one right now."

2. Earning your bounces

After falling behind 2-0 (again), the Blackhawks pushed back (again). It felt like the same script in Anaheim. Only this time, they earned their bounces.

The Blackhawks had 35 shot attempts in the second period compared to the 
Golden Knights' 16, and responded back with a pair of goals thanks to Toews and Dylan Strome. And both of them got fortunate breaks, which they deserved.

Toews cut the Blackhawks' deficit to 2-1 exactly four minutes into the period when he banked a shot off Marc-Andre Fleury. It was a similar situation for Strome, who scored from a bad angle — outside the left faceoff circle — that Fleury also would've liked to have back to pull the Blackhawks into a 2-2 tie. 

"We showed some heart there," Duncan Keith said. "That was good. Obviously it's a tough building to play in. They came out with a lead and we fought back and got ourselves into it. It was anybody's game going into the third."

3. A short-lived lead

Going into Thursday's game, the Blackhawks hadn't led at any point in a game since Nov. 18 against the Minnesota Wild. Artem Anisimov changed that when he pounced on a loose puck and scored on a breakaway to put the Blackhawks ahead 3-2 for their third unanswered goal at 7:14 of the final frame.

It was their first lead in a span of 527:14 regulation minutes, according to NBC Sports Chicago's stats guru Chris Kamka. But it was short-lived as Vegas responded 41 seconds later.

"It's frustrating," Brent Seabrook said. "You got to work so hard to score goals here and it seems like we give them up pretty quick the other way. The biggest shift is a shift after a goal, whether it's one of their goals or one of our goals. ... Giving up that one and getting it tied again and then the turnover, that was obviously on me. I got to better in the situation."

4. Two goals in 12 seconds

The Blackhawks have been working toward preventing opponents from adding a second goal so quickly after the first. Usually that's happened in the opening frame.

But it trickled into the third period when the Golden Knights scored two goals in 12 seconds, the second of which Crawford felt he was interfered with. But after further review, officials determined there was not enough to wave off the goal and it turned out to be the game winner.

"I'm disappointed because we played really hard to battle back and we're in good position," coach Jeremy Colliton said. "Then obviously it falls apart on us. Disappointing because I want to see the guys get rewarded when we play hard. Clearly, we don't do enough. We have to be better than we are if we expect to get results. But I still feel for the guys."