Blackhawks

Hawks still soul-searching after humiliation

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Hawks still soul-searching after humiliation

Friday, March 18, 2011
Posted 8:08 p.m.

By Tracey Myers
CSNChicago.com

GLENDALE, Ariz. Joel Quenneville couldnt figure it out. Neither could Jonathan Toews. Nobody could, really.

Minutes after suffering their worst loss of the season, all standings and precious-points-needed considered, several members of the Chicago Blackhawks were at a loss to figure out why their effort against the Dallas Stars was so bad.

Or why it was not there at all.

Im not a psychologist. I dont know why we decided to pack it in like that, Toews said after the lopsided 5-0 loss. Im not pointing fingers at anyone, including myself. Our best players have to be our best players and we werent tonight. And everyone followed suit.

On Thursday morning both the Blackhawks and Stars said about the same thing. It was a big game on Thursday night. There was a lot riding on that game. Problem is, only one team actually showed that on the ice.

Its one game, an important one and we didnt give ourselves a chance to get in. Thats the tough part, Quenneville said. We go back to the Calgary game a while ago. We were flat and not competing. Tonight, its tough to give a good answer why.

Now if Quenneville was talking about that terrible loss in Calgary in November, theres some excuse. The Blackhawks were still finding their way, still getting used to a lot of new pieces in their post-Cup reconstruction puzzle. If he was talking about the last loss in Calgary, it was a poor effort just days after the Blackhawks played one of their best against Vancouver, despite losing 4-3.

If the Blackhawks lose to Dallas like they did in Vancouver in early February, they could probably live with it. They wouldve lost the good fight, lost trying to the end. But thats not how Thursday went. It was one sided from the start, with the Blackhawks showing more frustration than fight.

As defenseman Brent Seabrook said we just werent very good tonight, right from the start. We didnt come out hungry enough.

True. But why that hunger was absent was a mystery.

This is not the way we wanted to start this (road trip), especially when we have a lot of time and rest between games. Theres no excuse for that, Toews said. We shouldnt forget about this one too quick.

So how do the Blackhawks respond to Thursdays letdown? Do they think about it? Do they get it out of their heads as quickly as possible? One way or another, do they learn from it?

Were going to be in the desert a couple days to dwell on this, Marty Turco said. Im not sure how itll pan out, but Im pretty sure by the drop of the puck Sunday, its going to be a different team (game) from us.

The Blackhawks will end Friday night as they did Thursday, sitting seventh in the Western Conference. Vancouver hosts Phoenix tonight, but those two teams that are already ahead of the Blackhawks in the standings. The nail biting begins again on Saturday, with a full slate of fellow conference scratchers and clawers playing.

There was no good explanation for Thursdays mess. There does, however, have to be a strong response to it.

A couple of guys consider themselves leaders of this team, whether they wear a letter or not, and we werent good enough tonight, Toews said. Those guys, and we know who we are, will respond. And the rest of the guys will follow. Thats how our team works.

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

Reports: Blackhawks among finalists for a pair of international forwards

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AP

Reports: Blackhawks among finalists for a pair of international forwards

The Blackhawks are always active in the overseas market. Over the last few years, Dominik Kahun, David Kampf, Michal Kempny, Jacob Nilsson, Artemi Panarin and Jan Rutta are among the notable Chicago signings that have come from there. 

And they continue to be an attractive destination.

The Blackhawks have reportedly expressed interest in 24-year-old Russian winger Ilya Mikheyev and 26-year-old Swedish forward Anton Wedin, and the feeling is mutual.

Of the 30 NHL teams that have checked in on Mikheyev, TSN's Darren Dreger reported on Tuesday that the Blackhawks are among the finalists — although it appears the Toronto Maple Leafs could be the frontrunners. Mikheyev, who's 6-foot-2, 194 pounds, racked up 45 points (23 goals, 22 assists) in 62 games this season for Avangard Omsk of the KHL, and tallied 11 points (four goals, seven assists) in 13 postseason contests. His decision is expected to come this weekend.

Wedin has also reportedly narrowed his list, which includes the Blackhawks. He had a breakout season in the Swedish Hockey League, where he compiled 27 points (14 goals, 13 assists) in 32 regular-season games and nine points (two goals, seven assists) in seven playoff contests with Timra IK.

The 5-foot-11, 194-pound winger is expected to make his decision either before or after the 2019 IIHF World Championship, depending on whether or not he plays for Sweden.

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Why fixing penalty kill is crucial for Blackhawks in 2019-20

Why fixing penalty kill is crucial for Blackhawks in 2019-20

Just how important is special teams in the NHL?

Of the 16 teams that qualified for the postseason, 14 clubs had at least one special teams unit that was ranked in the top half of the league and 12 teams had at least one unit ranked in the top 10.

The Blackhawks finished the season with the 15th-ranked power play and 31st-ranked penalty kill. The Blackhawks' 72.7 percent kill rate is the lowest the league has seen in 30 years.

“The penalty kill is something that clearly has to be better," GM Stan Bowman said. "That was a big disappointment this year, no question about that. So we have to devote some resources to that. Some of it might be players, if we get some players that have that kind of experience or have a history. Part of it is tactically can we find ways to be better. We have a lot of time now to study it and put a lot of our focus on that.”

Jeremy Colliton did not rule out getting external help to improve the PK.

“We’re going to look at everything, for sure," he said. "We’re going to look at obviously tactically and we’re going to look at the personnel and how we’re using guys and try to put them in the best situation we can. And maybe that’s new, different guys who weren’t getting the opportunity. Or maybe that’s someone from outside.”

The Blackhawks did manage to fix their power play issues this past season. When Colliton became head coach on Nov. 6, the Blackhawks power play was near the bottom of the league. By December, the man advantage was dead last, cashing in on fewer than 12 percent of their power plays.

Colliton made Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Alex DeBrincat, Dylan Strome and Erik Gustafsson his top power play unit and from Dec. 20 till the end of February they were the league's best unit, converting on 35.2 percent of their power plays.  

Gustafsson’s addition to the power play was a major factor in the unit's improvement.

"A big part of our power play progression and transformation from being at the bottom to being in the top group," Bowman said of Gustafsson. "I was really pleased with that and we're going to need him next year for sure.”

If the Blackhawks penalty kill can make strides like the power play did, Colliton’s crew will likely be playing at this time next season.

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