The "D"-termining factor for the Blackhawks

652510.png

The "D"-termining factor for the Blackhawks

"If you look at our goals-against, we gotta tighten up. I think we have the team for it and that's too high right now. Hopefully, on the road trip, we can focus on keeping the goals-against down and have a great last 30 games."

Niklas Hjalmarsson sees it like the rest of us.

Dave Bolland knows it, too.

"Our defensive game -- that's what I think everybody's breaking down, taking care of our own zone. That's one thing we need to focus on," Bolland said.

Giving up just two goals (before the empty-netter) in the rematch against Nashville was an improvement from Saturday night. But even those were off costly turnovers in their own zone that the Predators, well...preyed on, and cashed in.

"Generous" is how Joel Quenneville called it. And it's those mistakes against one of the league's hottest teams and hottest goaltenders that basically hands over two points to a division rival, especially when you're playing without two of your top three offensive players.

Can the Blackhawks clean things up in these last 30 games with the personnel that's in place? It will be the biggest determining factor in where they finish in the Central and West, and how long they last in the playoffs.

The Hawks are the only NHL team without a shutout. The goaltending needs to be better, but more importantly, the entire group in front of them must improve a 2.82 GAA that puts them tied for 20th in the NHL. Last season, the Hawks had the league's 12th-best defense. When they won the Stanley Cup, they ranked sixth.

Right now, just two teams in the West (Anaheim and Columbus) own a worst goals-against average. Of the three division rivals they'll meet 10 times over the final 26 games that will be the biggest determining factor where they'll finish, St. Louis leads the league in that category, Detroit is fifth and Nashville ninth.

The top defensive pairing of Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook will get five days off the ice before returning to practice Monday in Vancouver. From a team standpoint, it's good they're not involved in All-Star weekend, as their ice times have been climbing once again -- Keith back to averaging more than 26 minutes, second in the league. They'll need to be great the rest of the way, but all of their teammates have to be much better.

"We're one of the top teams that has a lot of goals-against," Keith said Tuesday morning. "It's something we need to continue to get better at. It has to be a full team effort -- it's not one player or one group, it's the team."

Quenneville didn't hesitate a short time later when asked about what'll hold this team's fate after this weekend.

"Tighter defensively as a team. We all have some responsibilities in how we play without the puck," Quenneville said. "It's the quality of chances we're giving up and the type of goals. We've got to get better in that area going on the road. It doesn't have to be pretty. I think we'll be playing uglier games."

There's no doubt the coachng staff's message is out, but the execution's been missing and has kept the Hawks from cashing in even more than they did in playing 19 of the last 26 at home following the Circus Trip. As they enter the nine-game stretch that keeps them out of the United Center for nearly four weeks, a "whatever it takes" attitude will be what it takes. Two points will be more important than style points.

Central Division gets major shakeup as Predators acquire P.K. Subban

Central Division gets major shakeup as Predators acquire P.K. Subban

If you’re a hockey fan and were on Twitter around 3 p.m. Central time today, you probably looked skeptical as the trade news hit.

As first reported by Nick Kypreos, P.K. Subban is heading to Nashville and Shea Weber is going to Montreal.

We can imagine your reaction because we had it too. Eyes bulged. Mouths gaped. You checked the accounts of those venerable scribes tweeting the news because the accounts had to be fake, right?

Nope, it was true. And just like that, another Central Division team will have a very different look come the fall.

Sure, the Predators lost a great defenseman in Weber. He has a howitzer of a shot that has left those brave (read: crazy) enough to block it in plenty of pain. Jonathan Toews tweeted good luck to Weber, and “thanks for leaving our division.” Yeah, Weber left an impression. His shot left a bigger one, sometimes in the colors of black and blue, and Central foes won’t miss seeing it five or six games per season. But with Subban the Predators will do just fine. Subban is a great player and charismatic individual, possessing one of those personalities of which the NHL doesn’t have nearly enough.

Welcome to another Central change. St. Louis is facing some. The Blues already traded goaltender Brian Elliott. Per Post-Dispatch reporter Jeremy Rutherford, Kevin Shattenkirk expects the Blues to trade him. David Backes’ and Troy Brouwer’s status with the team is up in the air.

Minnesota hasn’t made any big changes player-wise (yet) but did at the top, hiring Bruce Boudreau in May. The Wild have gotten to the postseason regularly lately but haven’t gotten too far – they can thank the Blackhawks for three of those exits. Minnesota probably needed a new voice.

But does hiring Boudreau, a consistent regular-season coach who’s struggled to get the big postseason victories – again, see the Blackhawks two years ago – improve Minnesota’s chances?

The Blackhawks have gone through this makeover thing just about every year, and they’ve already done it again this offseason. Andrew Shaw’s trade to Montreal, that same Montreal that just sent Subban packing, means they’ll be missing a net-front presence that Shaw brought on a steadier basis than anyone else the past five seasons. It’s not the only void they need to fill. A veteran defenseman wouldn’t hurt. Neither would another forward with some experience. They have some cap space, but will there be enough to get both?

The Subban-Weber trade is one of those blockbusters we don’t see often anymore. It’s staggering. It’s eye-popping. There won’t be anything as big as this for a while but, with free agency opening on Friday, there will nevertheless be other changes in the NHL.

The Central is already looking a little different. Imagine what it’ll look like by September.

What's the next move for the Blackhawks?

What's the next move for the Blackhawks?

When the Blackhawks traded Andrew Shaw it meant the team gave up a key player, but also got essential breathing room under the NHL's hard salary cap.

While losing Shaw is a blow, the team netted draft picks and salary cap relief. The move came just after Bryan Bickell and Teuvo Teravainen were traded for a pair of draft picks.

CSN Chicago's Blackhawks Insider Tracey Myers went on SportsTalk Live to talk about the Blackhawks' recent moves and what's ahead in the video above.

The question now becomes what's next? The Blackhawks have holes to fill heading into the season and now do have some room under the salary cap.

Myers said adding a veteran defenseman is arguably the top priority and Brian Campbell and Andrew Ladd are mentioned as possibilities.

How the Blackhawks will replace Shaw specifically will be tough. Recently signed prospects Tyler Motte and Nick Schmaltz could help to add some depth, but it's hard to rely on those players right away.

Watch the video above to see the full discussion of what the Blackhawks can and should still do in the rest of the offseason.

Canadiens agree to six-year deal with former Blackhawks forward Andrew Shaw

Canadiens agree to six-year deal with former Blackhawks forward Andrew Shaw

The Blackhawks probably would've liked to be the ones to sign Andrew Shaw to a long-term deal. Instead, it was the Montreal Canadiens.

The Habs announced Monday they agreed to terms on a six-year contract with Shaw, who according to reports will take home an annual average salary of $3.9 million.

"We are very pleased to have agreed to a long-term deal with Andrew Shaw," Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin said in the announcement. "As I mentioned last Friday following his acquisition, we are adding a solid character player to our team, a reliable player who plays with grit and a two-time Stanley Cup champion with the Chicago Blackhawks over the past five seasons. Andrew will add more leadership to our team. I had the opportunity to discuss with him over the past few days, and I sense his determination and excitement in joining the Canadiens’ organization for many years to come."

The Blackhawks, in another salary-cap squeeze this offseason, traded Shaw to the Canadiens last week in exchange for a pair of draft picks.

In five seasons with the Blackhawks, Shaw totaled 137 points, scoring 70 goals and tallying 67 assists. He was a key member of a pair of Stanley Cup winners in 2013 and 2015. In 67 playoff games, he registered 35 points.