Hawks problems? A lot of little things, adding up to 5

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Hawks problems? A lot of little things, adding up to 5

Whats wrong with the Blackhawks that a consistent, 60-minute commitment to defensive responsibility wouldnt solve?

The first question to the biggest culprit of this five-game slide is whether the current roster is capable of pulling that off. Based on the 53-game body of work, the answer is no. You've gotta see it to believe it. So far, weve rarely seen it.

Unless theres a belief in the locker room theres a switch the players can flip whenever they want to, a single point earned over the past five games lays the groundwork for a perilous road ahead. Not just for the six games that remain on this trip, but for the longer road haul. Defense and goaltending might be the two most important ingredients to winning a Stanley Cup and right now, there are three teams in their own division doing a better job with those ingredients than the Blackhawks.

Even before this slump, general manager Stan Bowman knew he needed help. Based on Fridays pregame comments, there arent yet any dance partners for what he (and others on a Cup-quest) has in mind. No one is giving up or has the player(s) hes looking for, or the price is too high, or no one is ready to throw in the towel on their own seasons. If his team doesnt start playing better between now and the Feb. 27 trade deadline, his job gets a lot tougher.

He remains true to The Core and at least through this season, looking only for additional pieces around players who have produced and won in the past for one of the best coaches in league history. But there are only so many buttons Joel Quenneville can push.

This team has a couple of young players going through their first full NHL seasons who have been regularly slotted in Top 4 and Top 6 roles. They will be so much better two more years and 10 more pounds from now.

They have two players who have given them nothing offensively this season after showing such third-line promise in last years playoffs. The last two games, as theyve continued to alternate between opportunities and healthy scratches, both have taken penalties which have led to power-play goals. Thats part of the reason the center they played with last spring cant find his consistency.

Theres a top defensive pairing once again putting in between 25 and 30 minutes per game, and so focused on covering up for their teammates defensive malaise they've been unable to jump into the offense, which makes the team so much better.

But wait, theres more.

A goalie who is still considered the future at that position (and should be) adjusting to being "The Guy" after finally earning that title a year ago when he wasnt "The Guy." His confidence hasnt been helped by teammates relying on him to cover their own mistakes. This team was built their starting goalie having to be very good (which hes proven he can be), but its forcing him to be great.

What we know about the most recent roster addition is that it hasnt supplied an immediate impact through three games. We also know the player whos generally expected to lead this team in goals has two in his last 21 games, and sits sixth on the team in that category.

Theres a few other things, too, but well start applying the brakes.

Expect Ray Emery to take the net for awhile, because if it has to be up to the goalie, he gives them the best chance right now. And until Bowman can pull the trigger on something, the opinion here is a callup or two from Rockford might be the only way to get better, personnel-wise, for this next three-game stretch.

While its still all about how a team is playing two months from now, and teams go through rough patches every season, the Blackhawks have collected just 13 points over the last 15 games. The question is whether theyre truly better than that, or if thats just what this team is -- which would be a huge disappointment from Rocky Wirtz and John McDonough down to the paying customers and viewers at home.

The feeling here is theyre certainly capable of being the former. But the longer theyre not

Nothing a nice three-game sweep of Colorado, San Jose and Phoenix cant cure. Right now its easier said than done.

Jonathan Toews donates $1 million to community center in Winnipeg

Jonathan Toews donates $1 million to community center in Winnipeg

Jonathan Toews was the highest paid player in the NHL this past year, and he's giving back to the community that helped him become one of the best players in the league.

The Blackhawks captain donated $1 million to the Dakota Community Centre in Winnipeg, where he was born and raised, making it the largest ever private donation to a community centre in Manitoba.

“From my earliest days playing hockey, Dakota Community Centre has always played a pivotal role in my upbringing and my career," Toews said in a statement. “Today, I continue to be honoured to have my name associated with the Sportsplex on the Dakota campus. My parents have instilled in me the importance of giving back, and I believe that in supporting Dakota, we will see endless possibilities for the Community Centre’s future and transformation in the lives of our community members.”

[SHOP: Buy a Jonathan Toews jersey here!]

Toews will also serve as the honorary chairman for the Dakota Futures Capital Campaign, which will support the construction of a new 60,000-square-foot, $20-million fieldhouse and future development of the campus.

The fieldhouse will include a 30,000-square-foot gymnasium that will contain multiple court sports, such as basketball and volleyball, sport training and conditioning, all of which will be connected to the Jonathan Toews Sportsplex. It's expected to open in the fall of 2017.

The Sportsplex was named in Toews' honor in 2010, and includes two indoor ice rinks, a gymnasium, and strength training facilities, among others.

“We are so proud that Jonathan has chosen to give back to the community in this way," said Toews' parents Andrée Gilbert and Bryan Toews. "Our family has such fond memories of hockey practices and friendships made at the Dakota Community Centre. We look forward to the opening of the new Fieldhouse and the continued growth of the Dakota  campus. Through programs for all ages and acting as a gathering place in our community, the Dakota Community Centre transforms thousands of lives each year."

Blackhawks: Dennis Rasmussen's defensive roots run deep

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks: Dennis Rasmussen's defensive roots run deep

In Sweden, the defensive tutelage apparently starts very early in your hockey career.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a decent or a great forward: you’re learning to play defense and you’re learning to play it well.

“When we were younger the coaches always taught us to play a team game and be responsible,” Dennis Rasmussen said on Tuesday morning. “I think they have a program in Sweden where they teach the coaches to be a certain way, and that’s one of the things they say: even if you’re a skill guy, you have to play defense, too.”

Outside of the fact that it sounds like Sweden is full of coach Joel Quennevilles, the defensive-minded approach has served Rasmussen well with the Blackhawks. An injury gave him a chance when the season began but thanks to his steady play, especially on defense, he’s carved out a solid spot in this lineup. On Tuesday night he was back at center, where he’s most comfortable, and adding a little offense in the Blackhawks’ 4-0 victory over the Arizona Coyotes.

Rasmussen had a strong training camp. That, coupled with Andrew Desjardins’ injury in the final preseason game meant Rasmussen stayed with Chicago. It’s worked out well, with Rasmussen providing reliability among the bottom six.

“He’s been good,” Quenneville said. “I think he’s helped out penalty killing wise. I have to commend him on how he’s approached the whole year. It looks like he’s taking advantage a little bit more of the opportunity.”

Speaking of that penalty kill, that’s another part of the game Rasmussen was required to do in Sweden. It was one more thing that’s proven beneficial in his time with the Blackhawks.

“If you’re one of the best players when you were younger you were playing PK, too,” he said. “I always played a lot of power play and PK. if I’d only been playing power play when I got here, it would’ve been more of an issue. But I’m used to the PK before.”

If Rasmussen’s a little frustrated with any part of his game, it’s generating offense. He pointed to Sunday night’s game against the Winnipeg Jets, when he came up empty despite opportunities – “I created a lot of chances but of course I’m not happy with how it developed,” he said. “I had a couple of really good chances last game I should have scored on. That’s one thing I need to do better.” He did capitalize on Tuesday, scoring off a Richard Panik feed in the second period; he nearly scored a short-handed breakaway later in the game.

Rasmussen has been working for a long time on his defensive and penalty killing games. The Blackhawks like what he does and have made him a consistent part of this lineup. He’d like to get the offense going too but if he capitalizes the way he did on Tuesday, it will.

“That’s one thing I have to develop a little bit: take the puck to the net, use my body, have some zone time. That’s been better the last couple of games here,” he said. “As I said before, I need to score on my chances. Hopefully that’s going to come.”