Blackhawks must seize opportunities, points

324419.jpg

Blackhawks must seize opportunities, points

Thursday, Nov. 25, 2010
12:11 PM

By Tracey Myers
CSNChicago.com

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- The Chicago Blackhawks had one thing in mind when they embarked on this lengthy road trip. Well, actually they had two: get closer as a group on and off the ice and, more important, get points.

According to coaches and players, they're doing well with the former. The latter, however, still isn't up to their standards.

So with that in mind let's talk momentum: creating it, sustaining it, using it. The Blackhawks thought they had some coming into Wednesday night's game against the San Jose Sharks. The team had played, arguably, its best game of the season against Vancouver on Saturday night. Coach Joel Quenneville recognized that it was the benchmark.

"The way we played in Vancouver is something we want to get right back and that's got to be our mindset, got to be our standard," he said following the Blackhawks' practice on Tuesday. Yes, if that game couldn't be completely repeated, then a reasonable facsimile would certainly suffice.

And one of the best ways the Blackhawks could have done that on Wednesday was with their power play. Yes, the Blackhawks were taking their licks via the Sharks' heavy hitters, but some of those hits (including two boarding calls on San Jose) yielded scoring opportunities with power plays.

But given a special-teams shot to take momentum, the Blackhawks couldn't land the shots to do it. They may have missed their biggest chance when they had 44 seconds' worth of a 5-on-3 in the second period. They couldn't gain puck possession immediately, lost several seconds regaining it, then were hesitant on passes to Blackhawks right in front of the net.

Score there, and it's still 3-2 Sharks. But it's a swing nonetheless. The Blackhawks haven't done well with the 5-on-3 at all this year -- 0-for-4 now -- and it's been costly. Even in Vancouver their power play got them just one goal (1-for-8). But when you score six even-strength efforts, you don't have to worry about the power play as much.

Here's a quick look at the Blackhawks' power play on this trip:

vs. Edmonton: 1-for-3, five shots on goal
vs. Calgary: 0-for-2, two shots on goal
vs. Vancouver: 1-for-8, 21 shots on goal
vs. San Jose: 0-for-4, seven shots on goal

Against San Jose, power-play success would've offset their mistakes. It actually may have given them a lead before any of the mistakes even happened. San Jose, meanwhile, went 2-for-6 on theirs.

"We just have to be better on our power play and penalty kill," said Jonathan Toews. "That makes a huge difference for us against a team like that. We weren't good enough in both those areas."

Quenneville wasn't happy with playing from behind on Wednesday. He shouldn't be, because the Blackhawks shouldn't have been. But once it was done the chance to gain the tie, the lead, the momentum remained. It just wasn't done.

The Blackhawks have two more chances on this road trip, with Anaheim and Los Angeles on Friday and Saturday. A .500 road trip won't help a .500 team get too far in the standings.

The Ducks are always heavy on the penalties, so the Blackhawks need their power play working again. They need pucks at the net, traffic in front of opposing goaltenders. The opportunities will likely be there. The Blackhawks need to grab those, and points, soon.

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.