Blackhawks at half: The good, the bad & the ugly

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Blackhawks at half: The good, the bad & the ugly

Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2011
5:41 PM

By Tracey Myers
CSNChicago.com

LOS ANGELES The Chicago Blackhawks 4-3 victory against the Los Angeles Kings was somewhat symbolic to the first half of their season: a so-so start, moments of brilliant play punctuated by costly errors.

On Monday, the Blachkawks dug in and got the slim triumph. Now they have to dig in if they want to even have a chance at defending their Stanley Cup. Not making the playoffs is always possible. But can the champs say theres no chance they dont make it?

I think its crazy to think were the type of team thats not going to be there. I think thats ridiculous, Jonathan Toews said. We hope things keep getting better from here on, were going to stay optimistic. Well all be pretty disappointed at the end of the year if we cant accomplish our goal of doing that, but its a long season.

For people who make guarantees and say things are going to happen, thats probably not the smartest thing either. Were not going to do that, Toews continued. Were going to let the way we play speak louder than what we say. Hopefully we try to keep playing well.

So the Blackhawks will trudge on and try to solidify a spot among the top eight in the West. Its usually tight in this conference, but this seasons wiggle room is as small as ever. Yes, the wild West is even wilder. So with that in mind, heres a quick look at the good, the bad and the ugly for the Blackhawks through 41 games:

THE GOOD

Jonathan Toews: The captain has shown his resiliency and importance on this team constantly, providing the anchor the Blackhawks need. He proved that again on Monday night, returning to the lineup just two games after suffering a right-shoulder injury.

If Toews was ailing at all, he certainly wasnt showing it. He took a few licks, recorded six shots on goal, still went into the tough areas and was right in front of the net to deflect the game-winner against the Kings on Monday.

Toews, who was voted to play in the 2011 All-Star game, said he wouldnt be there without the fans. Maybe, but the overwhelming talent doesnt hurt, either.

Patrick Sharp: Well say it one more time; he shouldve been on the All-Star ballot. Heres to the forward getting the call to Raleigh, N.C., for the All-Star game later this month. But whether he does or not, Sharp has been stellar and steady for the Blackhawks this first half of the season.

He tallied his 23rd goal on Monday night, leaving him two shy of what he reached last season and 13 away from his career high of 36 set a few seasons ago. Hes been successful no matter what line hes on, hasnt gone more than two games without a point and has scored five-game-winning goals and 19 power-play points. Enough said.

Potent power play: As much as the Blackhawks are struggling in the standings, theyd be even worse off if it wasnt for the success of their power play. Its ranked No. 1 in the league and has bailed them out more than a few times, and Monday was no exception (two goals on four opportunities). Now with that being said

THE BAD

Holey penalty kill: As good as the Blackhawks have been on the advantage theyve been just as poor facing the oppositions. As of Monday they were ranked 25th in the league on the penalty kill. The Blackhawks have allowed a lot of goals in the waning seconds of their penalty kill or just after the kill expired. Its hurt them, and it has to get better.
Injuries: You could probably count on one hand the number of games the Blackhawks have had a completely healthy lineup this season. Brian Campbell missed a month to start the season (MCL). Marian Hossas been out twice (upper- and lower-body). Patrick Kane (ankle) was out three weeks and Toews (shoulder) went down just as Hossa and Kane got back last week.

When the Blackhawks play on Wednesday, itll be the second straight game they should have everyone available. Theyll need that health to continue over the final 41 games.

THE UGLY
Third-period meltdowns: Coach Joel Quenneville didnt hesitate when asked the biggest problem of the first half: No question, the number of games when we were tied in the third period and came up with no points. I dont have the exact number.

My esteemed colleague, Chris Boden, wrote about that earlier this week and gave a breakdown of said games and lost opportunities. The Blackhawks have to reverse that trend immediately.

The Blackhawks know whats at stake and know it will be tricky. They cant lament first-half problems anymore. The page has turned. Their success level and fortunes have to, too.

Its definitely been more of a battle; not every team can waltz through a regular season, defenseman Duncan Keith said. Were in the same position as a lot of other teams. Its a close race, its tight right now, and thats the importance of coming to play every night. You can never have a game now where you dont show up. We need to go out every night and try to get two points.

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

Blackhawks make another change, fire Rockford coach Ted Dent

Blackhawks make another change, fire Rockford coach Ted Dent

Ted Dent was another longstanding member of the Blackhawks' organization. On Tuesday, he was the latest to be let go.

Dent, head coach of the Rockford IceHogs for the past six seasons, was fired on Tuesday morning. Dent spent a total of 11 years in the organization; he was the IceHogs' assistant coach for five seasons before taking the head coaching job for the 2011-12 season.

Just over a year ago, the Blackhawks gave Dent a three-year contract extension that was set to run through the end of the 2018-19 season.

"The Chicago Blackhawks thank Ted for all of his contributions throughout his tenure with the organization," Blackhawks general Manager Stan Bowman said. "He played a major role in helping a number of players reach the NHL level with the Chicago Blackhawks, many of whom became Stanley Cup champions. We wish Ted and his family the best."

The IceHogs didn't have the depth this season they had in previous years, and they struggled all season en route to a 25-39-9-3 record. The struggles got worse after the March 1 trade deadline, when the Blackhawks sent Spencer Abbott and Sam Carrick to the San Diego Gulls (Anaheim Ducks AHL affiliate). At the time, Abbott led the IceHogs in points with 35 (15 goals, 20 assists) and Carrick was second with 28 points (11 goals 17 assists).

After the two were traded, the IceHogs went 4-12-1.

It's the second consecutive day in which the Blackhawks fired a member of their organization's coaching staff. Mike Kitchen, the Blackhawks' assistant coach since 2010, was fired on Monday. Kitchen and head coach Joel Quenneville have been friends going back to their NHL playing days, when the two were teammates with the Colorado Rockies and the New Jersey Devils. Kitchen was also part of Quenneville's coaching staff in St. Louis.

Blackhawks fire assistant coach Mike Kitchen

Blackhawks fire assistant coach Mike Kitchen

When Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman addressed the media on Saturday, he said that there would be change. That started on Monday when assistant coach Mike Kitchen was fired.

The move came five days after the Blackhawks were swept out of the first round by the Nashville Predators. Bowman said in a statement that, “we believe this decision is best for our organization moving forward. Mike had an impact on two different Stanley Cup championship teams during his tenure in Chicago. We appreciate his many contributions and wish he and his family success in the future.”

Kitchen has been a member of coach Joel Quenneville’s staff since 2010. The two go back to their playing days, however, when they were teammates with the Colorado Rockies and also the New Jersey Devils. Kitchen was Quenneville’s assistant when the two were with the St. Louis Blues and when Quenneville was fired as Blues coach midway through the 2003-04 season, Kitchen was promoted to head coach.

As part of the Blackhawks’ staff Kitchen’s focus on special teams, mainly the penalty kill. That kill finished the regular season 24th overall in the league, although that has to come with an asterisk. The penalty kill started the 2016-17 season so poorly that it was never going to get too far out of the basement. It did get stronger as the season wore on, and it was fourth overall during the Blackhawks’ short stay in the playoffs.