Blackhawks

Niemi says no; Sharks get revenge on Hawks

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Niemi says no; Sharks get revenge on Hawks

Thursday, Nov. 25, 2010
Updated 1:30 AM

By Tracey Myers
CSNChicago.com

SAN JOSE, Calif. The Chicago Blackhawks found so much success in Vancouver because they played strong with very few mistakes. Errors, especially the opportunistic ones, can be costly.

The San Jose Sharks reminded them of that on Wednesday night.

Blackhawks turnovers led to critical goals, and Antti Niemi got the victory against his former team in a 5-2 Sharks win at HP Pavilion. The Blackhawks are now 2-2-0 on this long road trip, which wraps up with games in Anaheim and Los Angeles over the weekend.

Jake Dowell and Patrick Sharp scored for the Blackhawks. Marty Turco allowed four goals on 28 shots.

The Sharks were doling out the hits from the start on the Blackhawks. Nevertheless, the Blackhawks kept up the tempo and were getting their share of shots on Niemi. The former Blackhawks goaltender stopped 30 of 32.

Maybe during the warmup, seeing the guys on the opposite side, it started to feel like more than just a normal game, Niemi said. I didnt think about it too much, but of course getting a win against them is huge, and on home ice, too. It was great.

Said Brian Campbell, obviously we had some opportunities but we needed to get to the net more. Not to take anything away from him, but he was definitely beatable.

But then the Blackhawks made a few mistakes, and the Sharks pounced on them. Nick Boynton made two costly passes toward the middle that ended up on Sharks sticks and, soon after, in the Blackhawks net. The second, a Joe Pavelski goal, gave the Sharks a 3-1 lead.

He got behind a little on the one, coach Joel Quenneville said. The other ones got to get down the ice. I dont know if we needed to make a play there.

The Sharks physical play also put the Blackhawks on the power play a few times, including twice after boarding calls. But the Blackhawks couldnt muster anything. They also came up empty on a 5-on-3 advantage for 44 seconds in the second period when they were down 3-1.

Yeah we had a couple good looks at it, but we needed to make another play or finish it off, Quenneville said. That was a good opportunity to get ourselves one there. We couldve cashed in there but we didnt.

Jonathan Toews said, We just have to be better on our power play and penalty kill. That makes a huge difference for us against a team like that. We werent good enough in both those areas.

Mistakes proved costly at the end, too. Dowell took a delay-of-game penalty in the third, and Patrick Marleau got around Jassen Cullimore to solidify the Sharks lead at 4-2. Marleau added an empty netter with three seconds remaining.

The Blackhawks were chasing throughout this one as a result of those mistakes. Its not a situation they want to find themselves in often.

I didnt mind our start. We had zone time and were ready to play, Quenneville said. But at the same time, I didnt like having to play from behind all night.

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

Dennis Gilbert defends decision to stand up for Blackhawks teammate Alex DeBrincat

Dennis Gilbert defends decision to stand up for Blackhawks teammate Alex DeBrincat

The Blackhawks racked up a season-high 27 penalty minutes in Sunday's 4-3 shootout loss to the Arizona Coyotes, 17 of which came from Dennis Gilbert alone. And it all came on one sequence.

After watching Coyotes defenseman Jason Demers deliver a hit from behind on Alex DeBrincat that went unpenalized, Gilbert skated half the length of the ice to confront Demers and initiated a fight with the 11-year NHL veteran. The scrap didn't last long, but Gilbert was assessed a two-minute penalty for instigating, five for fighting and a 10-minute misconduct.

DeBrincat said after the game he appreciated Gilbert sticking up for him and so did the Blackhawks bench, most of whom gave Gilbert fist bumps and head taps as he was escorted out. But it came at a time when the Blackhawks were leading 3-2 near the midway mark of the second period and, unfortunately for Gilbert and the team, the Coyotes capitalized on the power play to even things up at 3-3 and it turned out to be the last goal scored in regulation.

"I thought it was a dirty hit," Gilbert said. "His numbers were showing and he decided to follow through and make the hit still. So it's tough, having to get an extra penalty for it. It's no fun and watching them score on the power play, they tie the game up and we end up not getting the win, which is unfortunate. But if you let that stuff happen to players on your team, especially your best players, it's going to keep happening.

"I'm not a fighter by any means; it kind of happens that coincidentally it's two games in a row. But I'm going to stand up for myself and for my teammates. ... I'm not going to sit back and let somebody get taken advantage of, whether it's on the ice or walking down the streets in Chicago."

A lot has been made about whether it was the wrong place and wrong time for Gilbert to stand up for his teammate. But the Blackhawks — both players and coaches — acknowledged it's a penalty they don't mind trying to kill off because the intention sent a powerful message throughout the locker room.

The Blackhawks were eight seconds away from killing off the penalty and this wouldn't be a discussion if they did. Still, Gilbert said he would do it again if he had to because he believes it's the right thing to do.

"I think it's kind of an instincutal thing," Gilbert said. "As a defenseman on a defenseman, it can be hard to orchestrate that. I don't like staged fights. It was an in-the-moment thing. I saw what I thought was a dirty hit and it wasn't penalized, so you've got to address it. Like I said, it's tough being shorthanded, but I think that it's important, especially on your better players, to make sure that guys know if you're going to hit them or take a shot at them, you're going to have to pay a price."

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Penalty kill improving, but Blackhawks struggling to stay out of the box

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USA Today

Penalty kill improving, but Blackhawks struggling to stay out of the box

The Blackhawks' struggles on the penalty kill last season have been well-documented. They ranked dead last with a 72.7 percent kill rate, which was the worst percentage of any NHL team in the past 30 years.

And what made the number more alarming is the fact the Blackhawks committed the third-fewest minor penalties last season, so it's not like they were shooting themselves in the foot in that regard. They simply couldn't rely on their penalty kill in any situation.

"It felt like it didn't matter what we tried to do to turn things around," Jonathan Toews said. "It just kept snowballing in the wrong direction for us." 

That's changed this season, but the Blackhawks haven't been doing themselves any favors as of late.

Since Nov. 29, the Blackhawks have committed the most minor penalties (23) of any team for an average of 3.83 per game over the last six contests. They've also given up the most power-play goals (six) in that span. 

Before that, the Blackhawks had committed just 78 minor penalties across 24 games, which ranked ninth-fewest. They've killed off 79.6 percent of their penalties this season, good for 17th, but the Blackhawks have put their special teams in a difficult position in the last half dozen games and it’s costing them points.

"We have to keep it out of our net and obviously stay out of the box too," Alex DeBrincat said following a 4-3 shootout loss to the Arizona Coyotes on Sunday. "Two of their goals came on power plays, so if we stayed out of the box I think we win that in regulation."

The Blackhawks committed a season-high six minor penalties on Sunday and played 10:07 of the game shorthanded, which was by far their most of the season, according to Natural Stat Trick. Two games prior in Boston, they spent 8:00 of the game on the penalty kill, which tied their third-highest total of the season.

Head coach Jeremy Colliton is pleased with the progression of the penalty kill and how the Blackhawks are pressuring at the appropriate time, denying entries and making big saves. They got away from that a bit on Sunday, but you won’t win many hockey games if you commit six penalties.

Staying out of the box is something that’s the bigger issue.

"I think our PK has been very good," Colliton said. "If we just talk about the last game, we got to focus on getting the puck all the way down and getting our structure back. When we're trying to attack, it's fine. It's great to score, but when we're trying to attack and it doesn't go well, we lack numbers back. They scored off the rush. They entered clean on the second goal and created zone time. We need our numbers to defend the entries."

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