Blackhawks

Hawks problems? A lot of little things, adding up to 5

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Hawks problems? A lot of little things, adding up to 5

Whats wrong with the Blackhawks that a consistent, 60-minute commitment to defensive responsibility wouldnt solve?

The first question to the biggest culprit of this five-game slide is whether the current roster is capable of pulling that off. Based on the 53-game body of work, the answer is no. You've gotta see it to believe it. So far, weve rarely seen it.

Unless theres a belief in the locker room theres a switch the players can flip whenever they want to, a single point earned over the past five games lays the groundwork for a perilous road ahead. Not just for the six games that remain on this trip, but for the longer road haul. Defense and goaltending might be the two most important ingredients to winning a Stanley Cup and right now, there are three teams in their own division doing a better job with those ingredients than the Blackhawks.

Even before this slump, general manager Stan Bowman knew he needed help. Based on Fridays pregame comments, there arent yet any dance partners for what he (and others on a Cup-quest) has in mind. No one is giving up or has the player(s) hes looking for, or the price is too high, or no one is ready to throw in the towel on their own seasons. If his team doesnt start playing better between now and the Feb. 27 trade deadline, his job gets a lot tougher.

He remains true to The Core and at least through this season, looking only for additional pieces around players who have produced and won in the past for one of the best coaches in league history. But there are only so many buttons Joel Quenneville can push.

This team has a couple of young players going through their first full NHL seasons who have been regularly slotted in Top 4 and Top 6 roles. They will be so much better two more years and 10 more pounds from now.

They have two players who have given them nothing offensively this season after showing such third-line promise in last years playoffs. The last two games, as theyve continued to alternate between opportunities and healthy scratches, both have taken penalties which have led to power-play goals. Thats part of the reason the center they played with last spring cant find his consistency.

Theres a top defensive pairing once again putting in between 25 and 30 minutes per game, and so focused on covering up for their teammates defensive malaise they've been unable to jump into the offense, which makes the team so much better.

But wait, theres more.

A goalie who is still considered the future at that position (and should be) adjusting to being "The Guy" after finally earning that title a year ago when he wasnt "The Guy." His confidence hasnt been helped by teammates relying on him to cover their own mistakes. This team was built their starting goalie having to be very good (which hes proven he can be), but its forcing him to be great.

What we know about the most recent roster addition is that it hasnt supplied an immediate impact through three games. We also know the player whos generally expected to lead this team in goals has two in his last 21 games, and sits sixth on the team in that category.

Theres a few other things, too, but well start applying the brakes.

Expect Ray Emery to take the net for awhile, because if it has to be up to the goalie, he gives them the best chance right now. And until Bowman can pull the trigger on something, the opinion here is a callup or two from Rockford might be the only way to get better, personnel-wise, for this next three-game stretch.

While its still all about how a team is playing two months from now, and teams go through rough patches every season, the Blackhawks have collected just 13 points over the last 15 games. The question is whether theyre truly better than that, or if thats just what this team is -- which would be a huge disappointment from Rocky Wirtz and John McDonough down to the paying customers and viewers at home.

The feeling here is theyre certainly capable of being the former. But the longer theyre not

Nothing a nice three-game sweep of Colorado, San Jose and Phoenix cant cure. Right now its easier said than done.

Four takeaways: Blackhawks on wrong side of history in loss to Lightning

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AP

Four takeaways: Blackhawks on wrong side of history in loss to Lightning

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 6-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning at the United Center on Sunday:

1. Blackhawks on wrong side of history 

Earlier this year the Blackhawks made history by appearing in five straight overtime games to start the season, something no team in NBA, NFL, NHL or MLB history has ever done.

But Sunday they found themselves on the wrong side of it after allowing 33 shots on goal in the second period alone. It tied a franchise high for most given up in a single period — March 4, 1941 vs. Boston — and is the most an NHL team has allowed since 1997-98 when shots by period became an official stat.

"It's pretty rare to be seeing that much work in a period," said Cam Ward, who had a season-high 49 saves. "But oh man, I don't even know what to say to be honest. It's tough. We know that we need to be better especially in our home building, too. And play with some pride and passion. Unfortunately, it seemed like it was lacking at times tonight. The old cliche you lose as a team and overall as a team we weren't good enough tonight."

Said coach Joel Quenneville: "That was a tough, tough period in all aspects. I don’t think we touched the puck at all and that was the part that was disturbing, against a good hockey team."

2. Alexandre Fortin is on the board

After thinking he scored his first career NHL goal in Columbus only to realize his shot went off Marcus Kruger's shin-pad, Fortin made up for it one night later and knows there wasn't any question about this one.

The 21-year-old undrafted forward, playing in his his fifth career game, sprung loose for a breakaway early in the first period and received a terrific stretch pass by Jan Rutta from his own goal line to Fortin, who slid it underneath Louis Domingue for his first in the big leagues. It's his second straight game appearing on the scoresheet after recording an assist against the Blue Jackets on Saturday.

"It's fun," Fortin said. "I think it would be a little bit more fun to get your first goal [while getting] two points for your team, but I think we ... just have to [turn the page to the] next chapter and just play and be ready for next game."

3. Brandon Saad's most noticeable game?

There weren't many positives to take away from this game, but Saad was certainly one of them. He had arguably his best game of the season, recording seven shot attempts (three on goal) with two of them hitting the post (one while the Blackhawks were shorthanded).

He was on the ice for 11 shot attempts for and five against at 5-on-5, which was by far the best on his team.

"He started OK and got way better," Quenneville said of Saad. "Had the puck way more, took it to the net a couple of times, shorthanded."

4. Special teams still a work in progress

The Blackhawks entered Sunday with the 29th-ranked power play and 25th-ranked penalty kill, and are still working to get out from the bottom of the league in both departments. In an effort to change up their fortunes with the man advantage, the Blackhawks split up their two units for more balance.

They had four power-play opportunities against Tampa Bay and cashed in on one of them, but it didn't matter as it was too little, too late in the third period — although they did become the first team to score a power-play goal against the Lightning this season (29 chances).

"Whether we're looking for balance or we're just looking for one to get hot, I think our power play has been ordinary so far," Quenneville said before the game. "We need it to be more of a threat."

Four more minor penalties were committed by the Blackhawks, giving them eight in the past two games. That's one way they can shore up the penalty kill, by cutting back on taking them.

Blackhawks tie franchise record for shots on goal allowed in one period

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks tie franchise record for shots on goal allowed in one period

Well, things could be going better for the Blackhawks during Sunday's game against the Lightning.

In the second period Sunday, the Blackhawks surrendered 33 shots on goal, tying a franchise record for most in a single period. The previous instance occurred March 4, 1941 against the Boston Bruins, a game that the Blackhawks lost 3-2.

While the Blackhawks tied a franchise record for shots on goal allowed, they actually set an NHL record at the same time. The NHL did not begin recording shots on goal as an "official" statistic until the 1997-98 season.

Consequentially, Sunday's 33 shots on goal allowed in the second period is the "official" record, even though the Blackhawks accomplished the "feat" nearly 80 years ago. Confusing, huh? 

Unfortunately for the Blackhawks, they also surrendered three goals and scored zero in addition to the plethora of shots on goal allowed. They recorded just six shots on goal in the second period themselves, trailing 4-1 by the time the third period started.