Three (months) down, three to go

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Three (months) down, three to go

The Blackhawks put together a very good first half, but the very end of it has raised a couple of red flags.

Between the leadership in the dressing room and the coaching staff, this team has a history of finding ways to right its ship when it shows signs of listing. Every team has its rough patches as it goes through a season, and the Blackhawks have matched their season-high three-game losing streak with none other than Detroit coming to town - trying to make it four (especially after losing here last Friday). After riding high through December, one has to wonder if the Dog Days surrounding the All-Star break have come a bit early for this team since that last meeting with the Wings that closed out 2011. We've been hearing "outworked" from players after recent losses. It's nice of them to admit it, but that doesn't really fly with the fans who show up. It's the bar they've set for themselves.

Aside from finding ways to become consistently good on the special teams that have been a roller coaster the first half of the season, allowing the fourth-most goals in the West has to be one of Stan Bowman's and Joel Quenneville's biggest concerns. Heading into the weekend, only the 12th, 14th and 15th teams in the conference (Calgary, Anaheim and Columbus) had allowed more.

It goes beyond the group that has "D" listed next to their names, because there have certainly been enough breakdowns that don't rest solely on their shoulders. The second pairing will be watched closely over the next few weeks, and judging by the revolving door, none of the three candidates to join Steve Montador on the third pairing has consistently distinguished himself. Barring any injury-related needs that must be addressed, that's certainly what Bowman will be shopping for, trying to outbid other teams looking for the same thing as he seeks a trade partner.

The other tough deal he'll seek to find ideally involves finding a second-line center. Short of that, though, just finding a player who'd provide consistent production beyond Toews, Hossa, Sharp and Kane would be a bonus. That quartet has been tremendous through 41 games, even with Patrick Kane not scoring goals at his expected rate. But they can't do it all themselves, all the time. The occasional offensive involvement from the blue line is always welcome. But if you look at the first half numbers of some of the players Bowman and Quenneville have been counting on to raise their stats, it makes you wonder how long the team is willing to wait for something that hasn't happened yet. Sure, the primary roles of some of those players isn't necessarily offense. But you'd have to believe the bosses are looking for more - earning Quenneville's trust, and allowing him to get four lines rolling without having to turn to The Big Four.

In dropping four of these last five games, those four individuals have combined for four goals and 11 points. Recent call-ups Jimmy Hayes and Andrew Shaw and defenseman Brent Seabrook have combined for five of their other six goals in that stretch. Of the seven assists compiled by the other forwards in those five games, Jamal Mayers and the now-suspended Daniel Carcillo have two apiece.

These Blackhawks remain better than a lot of teams in the West. There are a handful of clubs certainly playing better than they have these last ten days, and it doesn't take a long slump to shift the standings and potential playoff seeding. As they showed for most of October and December, they're capable of being the best, even when they feel they're still not playing up to their potential. Who knows - maybe they have issues with odd-numbered months.

Now we get to watch whether this is as challenging as it gets for this team and they again show their resiliency. If that defense and goaltending tighten up again. Whether the special teams get consistent and climb the rankings. If they can get the offensive balance the brass envisioned. And if not, how patient, or bold, management will be with the roster in order to become the best team when April rolls around.

Morning Update: Blackhawks lose to Flyers; Bulls fall in Dallas

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USA TODAY

Morning Update: Blackhawks lose to Flyers; Bulls fall in Dallas

Here are some of Saturday's top stories in Chicago:

Complete Bears-49ers coverage on CSN

Rough second period sinks Blackhawks in loss to Flyers

Bulls fall flat in blowout loss in Dallas

The 3 Bears necessities for win No. 3

Penn State erases three-touchdown deficit to best Badgers in Big Ten Championship Game

How Cubs are setting the expectations for winter meetings

Blackhawks: Corey Crawford undergoes appendectomy, out 2-3 weeks

Illini defense dominant in capping bounce-back week with win over VCU

Blackhawks sign goalie with no NHL experience to serve as emergency backup

Wide receiver Corey Holmes will transfer from Notre Dame

Rough second period sinks Blackhawks in loss to Flyers

Rough second period sinks Blackhawks in loss to Flyers

PHILADELPHIA — Ivan Provorov admitted he was motivated to make his second career game against the Chicago Blackhawks a lot better than his first.

The 19-year-old rookie defenseman did just that, scoring twice and prevented one by the Blackhawks to help the Philadelphia Flyers beat Chicago 3-1 on Saturday.

Provorov was on the ice for five Blackhawks goals in their 7-4 at home over the Flyers on Oct. 18.

"I didn't play my best in that game, but I put it behind me, learned from it and it was a better result tonight," Provorov said "I tried to use it as a positive thing and prove that's not me."

Provorov scored 31 seconds apart early in the second period to help the Flyers get their fourth straight win. Brayden Schenn also scored and Steve Mason stopped 26 shots.

Artemi Panarin scored his ninth of the season for the Blackhawks, who lost in regulation for the first time in five games, snapping a 3-0-1 streak. Scott Darling had 27 saves in his eighth appearance of the season.

Darling was pressed into action after starter Corey Crawford underwent an emergency appendectomy.

"His procedure went pretty well today, he's probably going to be out two to three weeks," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "Thanks to our medical staff and the Flyers' medical staff today. They did a great job of helping us out."

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

Chicago was also without captain Jonathan Toews for the fourth straight game. Sidelined with a lower body injury, Toews remained in Chicago and is questionable for Sunday's home game against his hometown Winnipeg Jets.

The Blackhawks opened the scoring 3:44 in when Panarin took a pass from Artem Anisimov and one-timed a shot past Mason for his ninth of the season and his first in five games.

Provorov took over from there. The Flyers' top pick in the 2015 NHL draft (seventh overall) tied the score 3:02 into the second period when he blasted a shot past Darling for his second career NHL goal.

Provorov gave the Flyers the lead 31 seconds later when he wristed a shot that fluttered past Darling's blocker for the first two-goal game of his career.

"He is a guy that continues to work at his game, and continues to build," Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said of Provorov. "He didn't do a whole lot different tonight than he has really over the last 10 games. It was nice to see a couple of those pucks go in for him. They were good plays by him and the other guys on the ice, obviously that is really important for us at that time in the hockey game."

Schenn gave the Flyers a 3-1 lead at the 8:37 of the second, taking a nice feed from rookie Travis Konecny and beating Darling from close range for his fourth.

The Flyers' biggest save of the night might have come from Provorov, who swatted a bouncing puck out of the goal crease with 3:22 remaining in the second period to preserve a two-goal lead.

The Blackhawks thought they scored when Richard Panik jabbed a loose puck under Mason's legs. But Provorov reached behind the goalie and swatted the puck off the goal line. After a video review, the officials ruled the replay inconclusive, denying Panik the goal.

"They obviously look at it real closely," Blackhawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson said. "Of course we wanted the goal but you just have to trust that they are doing everything they can and I do think they look at is as much as they can, so they know more than I do, but obviously we wanted to have that goal, but it happens."

NOTES: Flyers D Radko Gudas was a healthy scratch for the first time this season and was replaced with D Brandon Manning, who missed the previous two games with a concussion. ... Blackhawks D Trevor van Riemsdyk returned to the lineup after missing 23 games with an upper body injury.

The Flyers' biggest save of the night might have come from Provorov, who swatted a bouncing puck out of the goal crease with 3:22 remaining in the second period to preserve a two-goal lead.

Chicago backup goalie Scott Darling, pressed into action after projected starter Corey Crawford underwent an emergency appendectomy, finished with 27 saves.