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'Sloppy' Blackhawks get win streak snapped in Calgary

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'Sloppy' Blackhawks get win streak snapped in Calgary

CALGARY, Alberta When youre missing a top player, everyone else needs to pick up the slack and play as mistake-free as possible.

The Blackhawks didnt, and the Calgary Flames made them pay.

Viktor Stalberg and Marian Hossa scored, but defensive lapses were costly in the Blackhawks 5-2 loss to the Flames at Scotiabank Saddledome. The loss snapped a four-game winning streak for the Blackhawks, who were without defenseman Brent Seabrook for the second consecutive game.

And while no one wanted to blame the loss on his absence, the Blackhawks looked like they were really missing him. The defense had several lapses the team had a total 15 giveaways in the game -- and those lapses too often turned into Calgary goals.

I dont know, maybe we thought we were better than we were or looking for an easy game, coach Joel Quenneville said. The start of the second was not good and all five goals were very generous on our part. All our goals were defendable and couldve been handled better. All five of them.

The messy loss also came on the heels of one of their cleanest games, the victory over Vancouver on Wednesday night. Captain Jonathan Toews said the Blackhawks shouldve known Calgary, which had lost three of its last four coming into this game, would come out swinging.

When youre flying around and everythings falling for you, youre going to run into a team thats pissed off and eager to get better like Calgary and things wont be easy for you, he said. We kind of made it easy for them, by the turnovers and little mistakes we made. Sometimes when youre not playing as well as you can, you just have to limit those things and try to hang in there and we didnt do that.

Duncan Keith had a particularly tough night, finishing a minus-4. But it was a night in which no one in a Blackhawks uniform had a memorable night.

We were sloppy and right from the first goal there Id like to have that one back, Keith said. It just seemed like we made some bad mistakes and they capitalized on them.

The breaking point may have come early in the second period, when the Calgary Flames turned two Blackhawks miscues into two goals just 17 seconds apart from each other. Rene Bourque scored the first, with Paul Byron capitalizing on a Nick Leddy turnover on the second.

We couldve prevented (those two goals); I couldve done something different on the second goal, Leddy said. In the second and third we shouldve just gotten back to the little things, supporting the play and getting the puck in deep.

The Blackhawks were reminded on Friday that an opportunistic team will take advantage of mistakes. The Blackhawks have been good at giving up little.

We always measure what we give up and I thought what we gave up tonight was our own doing, Quenneville said. The five goals were all preventable.

Briefly

Michael Frolik (shoulder) was out of this game. His status for Saturday nights game in Edmonton is unknown.

Ray Emery could start Saturday against the Oilers.

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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Recapping breakout OHL season for Blackhawks top prospect Adam Boqvist

Recapping breakout OHL season for Blackhawks top prospect Adam Boqvist

The London Knights set high expectations for themselves going into the 2018-19 OHL campaign. They always do. Their roster is usually loaded with top NHL prospects and this season was no different.

After finishing No. 1 in the Western Conference with 99 points, the Knights looked poised to go on a deep run. They got off to a roaring start in the playoffs by sweeping the Windsor Spitfires (4-0) and kicked off the second round by winning three straight against the Guelph Storm. But then, for the first time all season, the Knights lost four in a row to squander a 3-0 series lead and were eliminated just like that. It was a disappointing finish for a team with Memorial Cup aspirations.

One of the bright spots of the postseason was Blackhawks prospect Adam Boqvist. He was tied for first among all skaters with 10 goals through two rounds; no other defenseman had more than six. And he finished with 13 points in 11 games for a points-per-game average of 1.18.

To summarize his season: Boqvist scored one goal in his first 15 games. From that point on, he finished with 29 goals and 60 points in 50 games, including playoffs. He became an offensive driving force.

It's unclear what his future holds, but with Evan Bouchard expected to turn pro and secure a full-time roster spot on the Edmonton Oilers next season, returning to London would put Boqvist in a position where he could be the No. 1 defenseman in all situations.

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