Pressing Blackhawks searching for answers

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Pressing Blackhawks searching for answers

SAN JOSE The Blackhawks had their version of a tutorial before they departed Colorado on Wednesday, a class session, so to speak, regarding their recent woes.

We were in an educational facility (the University of Denver), we had the perfect theater for a nice session, and we did (have one), longer than we generally do, coach Joel Quenneville said. We talked about details, positioning, more so on the defensive side of things. Thats an emphasis weve gone through, and probably let it slide when we werent preventing goals.

Talking, scheming, practicing, the Blackhawks are doing everything they can to shore things up. But it ultimately comes down to the game, and thats where the Blackhawks have to start bringing it, beginning Friday night against the San Jose Sharks.

The Blackhawks are struggling to find answers, their team defense and the right line combinations yep, they were altered again on Thursday during this six-game winless streak. And theyre feeling the weight of the skid. Defenseman Brent Seabrook said it hurts when you lose this many in a row. It sucks coming to the rink.

I think theres all of that: disappointment, frustration. Everyones concerned with whats going on, Patrick Sharp said. We talked about it the past couple of days, and were going to be a better team for it. Now is not the time to go against each other and point fingers. The only way we can win and get better is by playing as a team.

But when a group is lacking confidence, as the Blackhawks are right now, thats easier said than done. Just like a slumping player who talks of squeezing the stick, the Blackhawks are pressing. And they know thats not going to help right now.

Its tough not to think about it, especially when youre on a skid like this, Patrick Kane said. If we can put everything behind us and worry about one game at a time, then going from there I think its going to help us out and well probably get out of this funk sooner rather than later.

The Blackhawks need results sooner rather than later. This road trip goes from tough to brutal, with the Sharks, Coyotes, Predators and Rangers still ahead. Theyre talking, scheming and practicing. Now it needs to come through in their playing.

Im sure there is (panic). Were doing a lot of different things to work at it. Its challenging to get ourselves out of it, Kane said. Im sure everyone has their two cents to put in. But its the coaches and our job to get out of it.

Fast Break Morning Update: Blackhawks blank Bruins; Bulls fall in Atlanta

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Five takeaways from Blackhawks' shutout win over Bruins

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' shutout win over Bruins

Here are five takeaways from the Blackhawks' 1-0 victory over the Boston Bruins on Friday night:

1. A sluggish start.

The Blackhawks have gotten off to some solid starts lately, scoring the game's first goal in the opening frame in five of their last six contests heading into Friday. But they were lucky to get out of the first in a 0-0 tie this time.

They had 15 shot attempts (six on goal) through the first 20 minutes while the Bruins had 30 attempts (17 on goal). Fortunately for the Blackhawks, Scott Darling stopped all of them that came his way.

Boston's third line of Ryan Spooner, Riley Nash and David Backes dominated possession, leading all skaters with a plus-12 Corsi in the period.  

2. Scott Darling steals two points.

Joel Quenneville decided to go with Darling in an effort to give a slumping Corey Crawford a chance to reset, and the Lemont native an opportunity to play in front of his father away from home, where he's used to watching him shine. It's safe to say he made his papa proud by putting on a great show.

Darling turned aside all 30 shots he faced, including 17 in the first period, for his second shutout of the season and fourth of his career. He has now allowed two or fewer goals in eight of his last 12 starts. 

Asked after the game whether he will earn a second straight start Sunday when the Blackhawks host the Vancouver Canucks, Quenneville responded, "We'll see."

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

3. Special teams not a factor.

In a game that featured only one goal, you'd think the way to crack the scoresheet would be on the man advantage. That didn't happen.

The Blackhawks went 0-for-3 on the power play, while the Bruins failed to cash in on their only two opportunities. Boston entered the contest by going 7-for-17 on the power play in their previous five games, good for a 41.2 success rate.

It was a nice bounce-back game for the Blackhawks' penalty kill unit, which allowed a goal on the man advantage in their previous two games.

4. Third line steps up at crucial moment.

The Blackhawks' third line of Vinnie Hinostroza, Marian Hossa and Tanner Kero had the worst possession numbers among all skaters, each registering a 24 percent Corsi or below. But when their team needed them the most, they stepped up.

With 1:26 left in regulation, Hossa ended his 10-game goal drought by burying home a terrific feed from Kero to snap a 0-0 tie and give the Blackhawks their second consecutive win. It's Hossa's 17th goal of the campaign, which ties Artemi Panarin for second on the team, and his fifth game-winning goal of the year. His 83 career game-winning goals now ranks 24th in NHL history, surpassing Mike Bossy, and remains fifth among active players.

Hossa's goal also moved him within a tie of Pierre Turgeon for 37th on the all-time goals list with 516.

Kero has six points in his last six games, while Hinostroza has two goals and one assist in his past two.

5. Despite recent struggles, Bruins in good hands with Claude Julien.

It seems like this is a discussion every year, but firing Julien would be a huge mistake for a Bruins team that fell to 3-5-2 in their last 10 games. They're still the No. 1 possession team in the NHL, controlling 55.42 percent of the even-strength shot attempts, and give up the fifth-fewest high danger scoring chances with 326, according the naturalstattrick.com. They average the second-most shots on goal per game at 33.9, and allow the second-fewest at 26.5.

To back it up, their PDO is 97.5 percent, the sum of a team's even-strength save percentage and shooting percentage that usually works it way toward 100, which indicates they're due for a fairly large correction. They're not getting bounces right now, but they're playing the right way and a change behind the bench would be a step in the wrong direction, considering Julien is easily a top-five coach in the NHL.