Thursday, Nov. 25, 2010
By Tracey Myers
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.