Blackhawks

Undisciplined play, pitiful PK bury Blackhawks

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Undisciplined play, pitiful PK bury Blackhawks

If youre going to take a lot of penalties, you better stop the opposing power play. And if you get those power-play chances yourself, you better take advantage of them.

The Blackhawks could do neither on Sunday night.

Vancouver scored five power-play goals, as many as the Blackhawks have all this season, and the Blackhawks struggled with both special teams in a 6-2 loss at the United Center. It was a forgettable night for the Blackhawks, who hadnt lost a game at home in regulation until this one.

The Blackhawks went 0 for 5 on their power play while letting the Canucks riddle their penalty kill for five goals. But as Jonathan Toews said, it was just a bad game in every way.

The power play, as usual as of late, wasnt very good. The penalty kill went for a hike today, too. But it went beyond that, he said. We didnt play a good game all around. If those things go better for us maybe we can keep it a tighter game and find a way to make a game of it the way we have some of these past games where we havent played our best game and we hang in there. But we didnt give ourselves a chance at all.

Indeed, for all their pregame talk about how much they looked forward to playing the Canucks, the Blackhawks didnt show it on the ice. They came out sluggish and Vancouver took advantage from the start. The Canucks were more determined, stronger and obviously ready to take advantage of their opportunities. The Blackhawks had five power plays but once again couldnt muster a goal on it.

Tonight was disappointing across the board, coach Joel Quenneville said. Some of our execution in both areas was very poor. Give them credit for making nice plays on the power play. But they were results of what we did on several of them. We had some chances around the net (on the power play). I thought we werent terrible there but were looking for production at the end of the night.

The Blackhawks penalty kill had buoyed the team on some of those nights the power play didnt; entering Sunday night, it had nullified 34 of 38 opponent power plays. But against Vancouver it disappeared, giving up one more goal (five) than they had in their previous 13 games combined (four).

A couple of those goals were just about trying to be in the shooting lane and blocking shots, said defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson. Its something weve talked about, too. We just have to be better with stick positioning there so they cant do those cross-ice passes. It was pretty much impossible for (Corey Crawford) to stop those kinds of pucks.

Still, the Blackhawks had a bit of a chance in the second period after Marcus Kruger scored to make it 3-2. But just 43 seconds later the Canucks snuffed out that momentum with Jannik Hansens goal, an even-strength effort.

Thats something we cant allow, Hjalmarsson said. After that, the game was pretty much over. That was obviously a huge goal we let in.

The Blackhawks have done well this first month because theyve stayed in just about every game, giving themselves a chance to collect points each time. That, as well as their all-around game, was missing on Sunday.

We didnt give ourselves a chance at all, Toews said. We shouldve been expecting an effort like that from them. Im not sure why we took them lightly. We played well and did some good things all week. But we didnt show much of that tonight.

Hawks don camo jerseys
The Blackhawks will wear camouflage jerseys during warm-ups on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, before they host the Calgary Flames at the United Center. The jerseys will be autographed by the player that wears them and then will be auctioned online at www.chicagoblackhawks.com until 9 p.m. on Nov. 17. All proceeds will benefit the USO of Illinois.

Autographed jerseys by team ambassadors Tony Esposito, Bobby Hull, Stan Mikita and Denis Savard will also be available at the auction.

Evaluating Blackhawks options after Anton Forsberg is placed on waivers

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AP

Evaluating Blackhawks options after Anton Forsberg is placed on waivers

The Blackhawks have said all along that they don't plan on carrying three goaltenders, but wanted to do so during the three games in four days stretch just in case, with Corey Crawford coming back from a 10-month layoff because of a concussion.

After being encouraged by how Crawford has responded to his return, the Blackhawks placed goaltender Anton Forsberg on waivers Monday morning. Teams have 24 hours to put in a claim for the 25-year-old goaltender and would have to keep him on their NHL roster for 10 games and/or 30 days before he's eligible to go through the waiver process again.

His chances of getting claimed by any of the other 30 teams essentially depends on which teams believe Forsberg would be an immediate upgrade over their current backup — or starter, for that matter — or whether there's an injury to one of the team's two goaltenders that requires a placeholder, like we saw the Carolina Hurricanes do by claiming Curtis McElhinney from the Toronto Maple Leafs after Scott Darling's injury in the preseason.

If Forsberg goes unclaimed, the Blackhawks can assign him to the American Hockey League with the Rockford IceHogs. With Collin Delia and Kevin Lankinen sharing the goaltending duties in Rockford, it's possible Lankinen gets sent to the Indy Fuel in the East Coast Hockey League to get consistent starts under his belt.

A third option, one that isn't very common but we've seen in the past as recently as last October with Maple Leafs goaltender Kasimir Kaskisuo, is that Forsberg can be loaned to any AHL team while still being a part of the Blackhawks organization. This would allow the Blackhawks to keep Delia and Lankinen in Rockford while Forsberg gets his starts in the AHL, too.

Or, the Blackhawks could simply trade Forsberg to another NHL team that could stash him in the AHL, as long as he clears waivers. They did it last season with Chris DiDomenico, who cleared waivers as a member of the Ottawa Senators but was then traded to Chicago for Ville Pokka days later. Had DiDomenico been claimed by the Blackhawks, he would have had to stay on the NHL roster as noted above.

Forsberg was 10-16-4 with a 2.97 goals against average and .908 save percentage in 35 appearances last season but has not appeared in a game yet this year. He was acquired as part of the Brandon Saad package for Artemi Panarin in June 2017.

Blackhawks looking for defensive improvement from everyone, not just defensemen

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks looking for defensive improvement from everyone, not just defensemen

The Blackhawks were able to get away with their defensive lapses in the past solely because of Corey Crawford. When he went down with a concussion last December, those issues were magnified because he wasn't there to mask the flaws.

But it's reached the point where they can't rely on their goaltender to bail them out on a nightly basis, which is becoming another trend. Cam Ward allowed six goals to Tampa Bay on Sunday night, but made 49 saves — including 30 in the second period alone. He did everything he could to keep his team withing some sort of reaching distance and without his timely stops, the scoreboard could've looked much worse for the Blackhawks.

Something's got to change. 

When the Blackhawks talk about tightening things up defensively, they're not just putting it all on the defensemen. All five guys on the ice need to do their part and they're not doing it right now.

"I think we're trying to do too much and running around trying to do each other's job," Jonathan Toews said. "Sometimes we just need to simply and finish our checks and support each other."

No team has given up more even-strength high-danger chances through eight games than the Blackhawks at 110. That's 15.77 per 60 minutes. For reference, the New York Islanders finished worst in the league in that category last season and their number was at 12.96.

It didn't help that the Blackhawks spent nearly the entire second period in their own end on Sunday.

"We just couldn’t get it out of our zone, couldn’t get our stick on it, didn’t see pressure, didn’t feel pressure when we had it, were stripped," coach Joel Quenneville said. "Hence, we didn’t advance it. Kept looking like we were going up the ice and there were going to be some odd-man situations and then we’re the ones who were facing it."

That's one way to eliminate those high quality scoring chances, is getting the puck out of their own zone effectively or else it opens the door for Grade-A opportunities because of self-inflicted wounds. And it usually happens at the end of shifts when guys are tired, which often leads to goals.

"We have to learn how to play without the puck better and learn how to keep it," Quenneville said. "Whether it was our execution going up the ice, first pass poor and then we couldn’t change. A lot of things that happened yesterday were there tonight."

The Blackhawks weren't using three games in four nights as an excuse because Tampa Bay was in the same situation. It was an even playing field in that respect.

It's all about execution from everyone involved, forwards and defensemen. And the Blackhawks feel they're correctable issues.

"Of course," Toews said. "We've had some good periods this season so far. The first three, four, five games, everyone was excited and you guys are all talking to us much differently than you are right now. It's just getting back to playing that smart defensive game and playing with effort and letting our offense do the work. We know what's got to improve. It's right there in front of us."