Patience replaces panic during Blackhawks surge

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Patience replaces panic during Blackhawks surge

When the Blackhawks were in Nashville last week, coach Joel Quenneville talked about the Blackhawks response, or lack thereof, when they trailed.

We havent responded to being scored on, he said at the time. Lets try to be tight in that area. If we do get scored on, lets not get distracted.

At the time, the Blackhawks were plenty distracted by that winless streak. When teams struck first they werent responding well or sometimes even at all. But as the Blackhawks have built another winning run they have been responding the right way.

The Blackhawks have trailed 1-0 in their last three games but have won each of them; in fact, theyve held their opponents to just that first goal in each, too. Its a distinct change since the Blackhawks losing streak, when a quick one-goal deficit usually turned in to much more, fast.

So whats been the difference in this winning streak?

Weve done a better job of just sticking with the system and playing our game, defenseman Brent Seabrook said. Wed think we had to get it back right away and wed get off track and loosen everything up. And if we didnt score theyd get quality chances and it seemed like it snowballed from there.

Quenneville said the Blackhawks have practiced patience more.

Weve stayed with it and maybe we dont have to chase and feel we need a goal right away. When we do that we get on the wrong side of pucks, he said. Theres confidence in our team now, where before when we were in that stretch and wed get scored upon, you could see and feel the team sag. It was noticeable on the ice and the bench. But weve kept our composure in our games.

It took a little longer to get leads on some of these guys, Quenneville said. But we got the response we like.

Yes, it took the Blackhawks until the third period to take leads on both the St. Louis Blues and Detroit Red Wings. But they got them eventually, and what helped them greatly was not giving up more than that one goal to each team.

You look back at bad losses: in Edmonton we get down a goal or two and we try to play a chuck-in game, run-and-gun, and thats not how we want to play, Viktor Stalberg said. The last couple of games weve been sticking to the system and it seems to be paying off. Were slowly taking over games, getting momentum and chances and getting scoring from all our lines which has helped out a lot.

The Blackhawks have been finding the right answers in their victories. Sure, theyd love to avoid any deficit, even a 1-0 one. But when theyve fallen behind lately, they havent been panicking.

Theyre responding.

Through those nine games we were taking high risks and they werent paying off, Bryan Bickell said. Even though were down one or two we just have to stick to the system. Its been working out great and hopefully we keep on doing it. Its a lot more fun to win than lose.

Blackhawks acquire Michael Latta from Kings in swap of minor leaguers

Blackhawks acquire Michael Latta from Kings in swap of minor leaguers

The Blackhawks made a minor league deal on Saturday, announcing the acquisition of forward Michael Latta from the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for defenseman Cameron Schilling.

Latta, 25, has two goals and four assists in 29 games this season with the Ontario (Calif.) Reign of the American Hockey League.

He has four goals and 13 assists in 113 career games in the National Hockey League, all with the Washington Capitals from 2013-16.

Latta, who was a third-round pick (No. 72 overall) by the Nashville Predators in 2009, will report to the AHL's Rockford IceHogs. He carries a $600,000 cap hit, and is a restricted free agent at the end of the season.

Schilling ranked second among defensemen on the IceHogs with 17 points (seven goals, 10 assists) in 40 games, and had a minus-3 rating. The 28-year-old blue liner signed a two-year contract worth $575,000 per season with the Blackhawks in July 2015.

One-goal victories are great but Blackhawks’ method has to change

One-goal victories are great but Blackhawks’ method has to change

See the Blackhawks get off to a slow start. See the Blackhawks get outshot. See the Blackhawks lean on their goaltending. See the Blackhawks find some offense in the third period. See the Blackhawks win.

This is a story the Blackhawks have written and played out plenty this season. Despite all evidence that it should work out to the contrary, the Blackhawks continue to pull out victories. But as we're well into the second half of the season, how much longer can they win with this formula? And is this, more than anything, a testament to how much they need to acquire someone (or plural) at the deadline to bolster their forward lineup?

Entering Sunday night's game against Vancouver the Blackhawks remain second in the Western Conference, two points behind Minnesota. Not surprisingly, they enter Sunday coming off another one-goal victory, a 1-0 decision over Boston on Friday night. Friday's game was cut from the same cloth as so many other one-goal games this season (please see above for the script). 

Here's how the Blackhawks are doing in one-goal games (through 48 games played this season) and how they've done in previous seasons:

Year Record
2016-17 18-7-5
2015-16 17-7-9
2014-15 22-13-6
2013-14 17-8-15
2012-13 19-3-5 (lockout yr.)
2011-12 22-6-11
2010-11 16-13-9
2009-10 23-9-8

The Blackhawks played 41 one-goal games (half of their regular-season games) in the 2014-15 season. Thirty of their 48 games this season have been one-goal games. But again, it comes down to how you're winning those games, and the Blackhawks are winning just about all of them in the same way: deal with a slow start and come back in the third period, relying on goaltending the entire time.

Being outshot the amount of times the Blackhawks have this season remains alarming. Sure, sometimes a lot of shots don't mean a lot of quality chances. But it's still better than minimal shots, and any shot can be an opportunity for a rebound, a deflection, something. From our stats guru Chris Kamka, here's a breakdown of the Blackhawks' shots per game vs. opponents, dating back to 2008-09:

Year Shots/Gm Opp. Shots/Gm Diff.
2008-09 32.7 28.6 +4.2
2009-10 34.1 25.1 +9.1
2010-11 32.2 28.7 +3.6
2011-12 31.5 28.6 +3.0
2012-13 31.1 26.2 +4.9
2013-14 33.1 27.2 +6.0
2014-15 33.9 30.2 +3.8
2015-16 30.5 30.8 -0.3
2016-17 29.3 31.1 -1.7

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

It's no surprise that the Blackhawks' differential was especially good in their Stanley Cup-winning seasons (and even 2013-14, when they went to the Western Conference Final). Those Blackhawks teams were deep, especially at forward. They weren't waiting for the perfect shooting opportunities as much as just firing. They had great four-line rotations, something they've sorely been lacking the past two seasons, which makes a difference with puck possession.

The Blackhawks will see what's available at the trade deadline. As I wrote a few days ago, there will be names out there but, considering some teams are still hoping for playoff spots, you take mentions for what they are right now. Over the next few weeks the picture will become clearer, and adding the right depth could rekindle that four-line rotation.

We've said throughout this season that the Blackhawks can't keep this up. We said it in November, and December, and now. Understand where we're coming from here; the Blackhawks can absolutely keep winning one-goal games. They've shown that in recent seasons and in the postseason, when the ability to do that is critical. But it's doubtful they can keep doing it the way they have most this season.