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


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.

Five Things from Blackhawks-Blue Jackets: Same mistakes resurface

Five Things from Blackhawks-Blue Jackets: Same mistakes resurface

COLUMBUS, Ohio – We’ll save you some time tonight. The Blackhawks lost another one in familiar fashion. You can guess what our focus will be, so let’s get right to it.

Here are Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ 3-2 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets.

1. We’re trying not to pick on the penalty kill again, but… it cost them again. The Blackhawks gave up their 10th and 11th power-play goals in their first five games on Friday night. Opponents are planting themselves in front of Corey Crawford and, be it screens or tips, they’re capitalizing. Long-distance shots are getting through far too often. “I think our focus always has to be 5-on-5. When our effort and our energy and our work ethic is there it usually translates into our special teams and I don’t know. It’s frustrating," Jonathan Toews said. "We definitely have to keep pushing to find a solution. Even when it seems like we’re doing a good job bounces go against us. We deserve all the criticism and we just have to keep finding ways, dig deep and really try to dig ourselves out of this thing.”

2. The seven-defenseman set. Quenneville didn’t want Trevor van Riemsdyk sitting out too long, and for a few days it looked like Brian Campbell was going to be the odd-man out tonight. Instead the Blackhawks went with seven, which gave them the chance to rotate and put Campbell back on his natural left. With that, however, the forward lines were naturally skewed. Patrick Kane played nearly 29 minutes. Quenneville said earlier this season that it wouldn’t be something the Blackhawks would try often. Speaking of van Riemsdyk…

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

3. Van Riemsdyk hurt again. You have to feel for van Riemsdyk. He finally got healthy last season playing in all 82 games after knee and wrist injuries sidelined him the previous one. Now it looks like he’ll be out again after he went hard into the net late in the second period. Van Riemsdyk got tangled up and his right arm/shoulder collided with the post.

4. Tyler Motte gets his first. The University of Michigan product scored his first career NHL goal, a rebound off a Toews shot in the second period. Considering the game’s outcome, however, Motte’s enthusiasm was tempered. “It was exciting. It felt good to chip in offensively but obviously the real story is us losing another game,” he said. “We were better in the offensive zone but there are still some things to improve on. The most important thing is winning games.”

5. Brandon Saad great but stymied. The former Blackhawks left wing had some tremendous scoring opportunities on Friday. He had a team-high seven shots, most high quality, but Crawford stopped him every time. Just in case anyone needed a reminder of what the kid is capable of, regardless of which sweater he’s wearing.

Penalty kill struggles again in Blackhawks’ loss to Blue Jackets

Penalty kill struggles again in Blackhawks’ loss to Blue Jackets

COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Blackhawks were trying a different look on Friday, going with seven defensemen. But at the end of the night, it was something all too familiar contributing to their downfall.

Tyler Motte scored the first goal of his NHL career but the Blackhawks gave up two more power-play goals in their 3-2 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday night. It was another night on which special teams doomed the Blackhawks; through the first five games of their regular season, their penalty kill has now allowed 11 goals.

And the loss could also sting them, personnel-wise. Trevor van Riemsdyk went hard into the post late in the second period and did not return. Coach Joel Quenneville said van Riemsdyk, who has had his injury issues in the past, “may be out for a bit.” Quenneville added that he’ll know more on Saturday.

Quenneville dressed seven defensemen to get everyone playing. Van Riemsdyk had been a healthy scratch the previous three games. It also gave him a chance to put Brian Campbell back on the left, his normal side. But regardless of the new defensive look, the penalty kill remained its unreliable self.

“It just seems a lot of times it’s a quick play off a faceoff and it’s in our net,” said Duncan Keith. “It’s a few different things and obviously, we as players, we need to take ownership of it and figure out a way to get the job done. You watch it, there’s lots of different things.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

Blue Jackets forward Nick Foligno was set up right in front of Corey Crawford on both of their successful power plays. On the first, a Zach Werenski goal, Foligno set the screen. On the second, he tipped David Savard’s shot. The Blackhawks’ confidence has to be shaken, and that never helps.

“It’s the same way 5-on-5: I think when you’re snake bitten you tend to try too hard and do too much. That can end up hurting you as well,” Jonathan Toews said. “As forwards I think that’s the No. 1 thing. We have to be better getting in shot lanes. It started on the road against Nashville, they scored two goals going right past our forwards and it kind of led one game after another to today.”

Still, the Blackhawks had a great chance to find an equalizer at the end. They got a power play with 3:26 remaining. Despite some good scoring chances, and Crawford pulled for an extra attacker, the Blackhawks couldn’t capitalize. Columbus goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 32 of 34 shots in the victory.

The Blackhawks can’t stop the bleeding on the penalty kill. It’s cost them in all three of their losses and it’s made their two victories closer than necessary. They know what the problems are. They have to fix them fast.

“Both plays could have been prevented, whether it was a block, clear, just got to get sharper, more determination and try to stay out of the box,” Quenneville said. “Starts from the faceoff to a clear to shots and recognize when there’s a chance to pressure. We had a couple of opportunities there. they end up in our net right now.”