Blackhawks can't stop Sedins, trail series 2-0

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Blackhawks can't stop Sedins, trail series 2-0

Saturday, April 16, 2011
Posted: April 15, 11:34 p.m. Updated: 12:56 a.m.

By Tracey Myers
CSNChicago.com

VANCOUVER, British Columbia Joel Quenneville issued the edict on Thursday, a day before Game 2.

Were asking everybody to take a bite out of this series, not just the top guys.

WATCH: Kane, Hossa know they must step up

But on Friday night those other guys, those role players, those non-super stars whatever you want to call them, they were the Blackhawks top guys. No, in Game 2, it was those unsung guys who needed the top guys to lend some bite.

Ben Smith scored twice and Viktor Stalberg added another, but the Blackhawks couldnt muster one more in a 4-3 loss to the Vancouver Canucks in their Western Conference quarterfinal series.

The Canucks had to sweat this one out more than they did Game 1, but they nevertheless take a big 2-0 lead in the series. The series now heads to Chicago, where the Hawks have to win at least one to force a Game 5 in Vancouver.

On a night when the Hawks big guns were held all but silent, others stepped up. It was Smith who ended the Blackhawks playoff drought, which was nearly five consecutive periods he scored with 5:10 left in the second. It was Stalberg slipping one through Roberto Luongo early in the third and Smith again midway through the period.

And in a standup move afterward, Smiths thoughts werent on the goals he scored but the ones he couldve prevented, especially Alexander Edlers late second-period one, which went off Smiths stick.

Thats my fault. The stick shouldnt be in the lane the body should, he said. That was a tough one, especially with 13 seconds left (in the second). Its playoff time and you have to sacrifice the body.

Yes, but he still scored. They werent pretty goals. They were rebound goals or, as Marian Hossa called them, greasy goals. But they were nevertheless three goals, and they were three goals more than the Blackhawks could get past Luongo in Game 1.

When those guys score big goals for us we have to take advantage of that, said defenseman Brent Seabrook.

But the Blackhawks couldnt. Save Patrick Kanes secondary assist on Smiths second goal, the top guns were held silent. And as impressive as Smith and others were on Friday night, they arent going to win this series for the Blackhawks. Despite their work, they couldnt even steal Fridays game without help.

Coach Joel Quenneville obviously recognized the missing pieces and was especially disappointed in the Hawks power play. Neither mustered much of a threat.

We need more from our top guys, he said. Our PP was the part that really slowed us down in the game. (That was) tough to watch.
Ben Smith celebrates one of his two goals with Bryan Bickell and Marcus Kruger. Smith wasn't excited afterwards though, instead showing his disappointment over Alexander Edler's shot that deflected off his stick and past Corey Crawford. (AP)
The Blackhawks leaders have had a lot on their shoulders this season. Theyve had to be the torch bearers for a team that underwent a ton of offseason changes and had to find a new identity. Theyve played a lot of minutes, supported a lot of games. And obviously the Canucks are going to zero in more on the Patrick Sharps, Kanes and Jonathan Toews than the Smiths. But this is the time of year where the top players are needed the most.

Obviously you only have three goals in the series and the newer guys have been stepping up, Kane said. The guys who were here last year, the year before in all that, this is big time. Its time to step up now and hopefully we can take control of the series.

Briefly

Bryan Bickell was injured on Friday night and did not finish Game 2. Coach Quenneville didnt have an immediate update on him. Tomas Kopecky was out of Game 2 with an upper body injury. He is listed as day to day.

Jake Dowell and John Scott were the Blackhawks healthy scratches. Mikael Samuelsson (flu) was a late scratch for the Canucks.

Tracey Myers is CSNChicago.com's Blackhawks Insider. Follow Tracey on Twitter @TramyersCSN for up-to-the-minute Hawks information.

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Rangers tonight on CSN

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Rangers tonight on CSN

Watch as the Blackhawks take on the New York Rangers tonight on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live. Then stick around after the final buzzer to watch Blackhawks Postgame Live for highlights and analysis.

Click here to watch the game or download the NBC Sports App, your home for live streaming coverage of the Blackhawks.

Five Things to Watch:

1. Best in the West vs. best in the East?

The Blackhawks and Rangers square off tonight as two of the best teams in the league, with each at or near the top of their respective conferences in the standings. The Rangers are two points away from first place in the East, but own the best goal differential of any team at plus-29. The Blackhawks sit atop the West with 37 points and have the second-best goal differential in the West at plus-10. Still a long, long way to go, but perhaps an early Stanley Cup Final preview?

2. Four stars sidelined.

The Blackhawks are already without Corey Crawford and Jonathan Toews due to injuries, and now Brent Seabrook has been added to the list. Luckily for the Blackhawks, they have a surplus of defensemen and won't have a problem finding a guy prepared to step in. But Seabrook is irreplaceable on and off the ice, and he's been really good on it this season. For the Rangers, Rick Nash is out with a groin injury while Jimmy Vesey was scratched last night due to an upper-body injury, making his status unknown for tonight. Lots of firepower will be watching the game from the press box.

3. Jimmy Vesey.

Speaking of Vesey, the Blackhawks went all-out for the reigning Hobey Baker Award as college's top player in the offseason by including Patrick Kane in their recruiting pitch. Vesey's decision reportedly came down to the Blackhawks and Rangers — and it sounded like Chicago was the frontrunner — but he ended up choosing to stay closer to home by picking New York. He's made an immediate impact, scoring nine goals and adding seven assists in 27 games. Three of those goals have been game-winners. If he plays (he's battling an upper-body injury, as mentioned above), it will be interesting to see the reception he gets from the United Center crowd when he steps onto the ice — although it's possible he doesn't get one at all. 

4. Scott Darling vs. Henrik Lundqvist.

Former Blackhawks netminder Antti Raanta, who lost his backup job to Darling in 2015, got the start for the Rangers last night against Winnipeg, which means Henrik Lundqivst is expected to anchor the crease tonight. The last time — and only time — Darling faced the Rangers, he earned his first career NHL shutout when he stopped all 25 shots en route to a 1-0 victory in March 2015. Lundqvist wasn't in goal for that meeting, so it will surely be a fun matchup for Darling as he goes head-to-head against a former Vezina Trophy winner.

5. Limit quality chances.

The Rangers have been a dangerous team offensively this season, scoring the most goals of any team with 99. That's good for 3.54 goals per game. They've been successful in that area because of the contributions they're getting from up and down the lineup, highlighted by Michael Grabner's team-leading 13 goals. The Rangers average only 28.4 shots per game, which ranks fifth-worst, but their shooting percentage at even strength is far and away the best in the league at an astonishing 11.39. Watch out for those quality shots.

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Blackhawks improve faceoffs in Jonathan Toews’ absence

Blackhawks improve faceoffs in Jonathan Toews’ absence

Yanic Perreault came onto the ice as the Blackhawks wrapped up practice on Thursday.

It’s been a relatively common sight the last few seasons. Most of the time, Perreault has helped out when a particular player is struggling from the faceoff dot. That was true with Artem Anisimov earlier this season. But with Jonathan Toews sidelined the Blackhawks have been even more focused on improving upon and winning faceoffs. Thanks to the extra diligence, they’ve done that.

The Blackhawks’ overall faceoff performance has steadily improved. They’ll see how it goes again on Friday night when they face the New York Rangers, their eighth consecutive game without Toews.

“We’re working almost every practice and trying to get better on faceoffs,” Anisimov said on Thursday. “If we win the faceoff, we start with the puck and it’s pretty good. You can go to the offensive zone or win in the offensive zone you start with the puck and you have the opportunity to shoot the puck all day and get chances. It’s a big part of the game.”

Enter Perreault, who was a great faceoff man during his NHL career. The Blackhawks players say Perreault offers a wealth of information in each session.

“It’s different every day. The whole science behind it, he’s been great since he was brought in,” Marcus Kruger said. “He always has something new he wants us to work on, whether it’s just timing or body-positioning or something like that. It’s a lot of different stuff and we work on new stuff every day.”

Rasmussen agreed.

“It’s a lot of things you can work on,” he said. “You try to work on being in a low position so you get stronger. [There are] a lot of small things on how you can go against other guys that do it certain way, and you have to find your own way, too.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

Their first game without Toews, against the Anaheim Ducks, was dismal. Part of that is the Ducks having some tremendous face-off guys. But Toews is the Blackhawks’ best at the dot – he’s won 60.3 percent of the time this season – so that first game without him was rough.

Here’s how things have progressed for the Blackhawks, with faceoffs won and lost and percentage, in Toews’ absence.

Opponent Wins-Losses Percent
Ducks 18-49 27 percent
Kings 21-37 36 percent
Panthers 39-35 53 percent
Devils 22-27 45 percent
Flyers 22-31 42 percent
Jets 31-27 53 percent
Coyotes 30-28 52 percent

So yes, there’s been improvement.

“I think we hold our own,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “Yan works well with our center men, they take pride in trying to be the best they can and now they’re taking some important faceoffs and some they probably haven’t taken in the past, whether they’re defensive or special-teams faceoffs. They’ve all won some important faceoffs for us at key times, too.”

The Blackhawks have done their best filling the void left by Toews, especially on faceoffs. There’s been a lot of work put into it, especially with Perreault following practices. But the results have been there.

“We know we’d like to start with the puck, and we had a couple of tough games when Jonny went down initially,” Quenneville said. “But it’s been much better since.”