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.

Fast Break Morning Update: Blackhawks beat Avalanche; Bulls lose to Mavericks

Fast Break Morning Update: Blackhawks beat Avalanche; Bulls lose to Mavericks

Preview: Loyola faces Northern Iowa on CSN

Vinnie Hinostroza, rookies pace Blackhawks past Avalanche

Bulls can't answer Wesley Matthews' game-winner in loss to Mavericks

Jon Lester explains absence from Cubs' White House trip: 'Absolutely nothing political'

Five Things from Blackhawks-Avalanche: Great night for the rookies

White Sox prospect Michael Kopech fires a 110 mph max velocity throw

Bears challenged to replace coaches involved in three all-rookie selections

Fire draft two Charlotte 49ers to close out draft

White Sox Talk Podcast: Zack Collins discusses staying at catcher

Illini dominated in ugly blowout loss at Purdue

Five Things from Blackhawks-Avalanche: Great night for the rookies

Five Things from Blackhawks-Avalanche: Great night for the rookies

DENVER – Well, that was a wild one, wasn’t it?

We’ll spare you the gory-to-glorious details (most of which are in the game story, anyway). So instead, let’s just get to the Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ 6-4 victory over Colorado.

1. Great night for the rookies. The Blackhawks’ newest players were their most prolific players on Tuesday night. Vinnie Hinostroza had two goals. Tanner Kero did too, and added an assist. Nick Schmaltz had a goal and an assist. All of these experiences are great learning curves for the Blackhawks’ youth, and coach Joel Quenneville likes how they’re progressing, not just with scoring but with their overall games. “That’s the part that’ll make them better players and us a better team is playing the right way defensively, being responsible, putting the puck in good areas and going hard to the net.”

2. Top line still too quiet. Line changes were made but the results remained the same, especially for the Blackhawks’ top trio. Ryan Hartman and Richard Panik were up there with Jonathan Toews in this one, but still nada. The three had a combined three shots for the game. Many of you have asked if Toews is still dealing with that back injury. On Tuesday morning he said, “no, it’s been really good, actually.” Still, there’s something up with a top line that, regardless of combination, just can’t get anything going.

[SHOP: Get your Blackhawks gear right here]

3. Terrible second period. The Blackhawks came out of the first in great shape and with a 2-1 lead. But things got messy in the second period. Be it the inability to clear or get the puck deep in the Avs’ zone, the Blackhawks made mistakes. The Avs capitalized, scoring three goals in the second including two in a 63-second span. Outside of Tanner Kero’s goal, the Blackhawks had a forgettable second period. The Avalanche outscored them 3-1 and outshot them 8-4 in the second.

4. Faceoffs lost. The Blackhawks did not do well in this department, winning just 23 percent of their faceoffs. It didn’t cost them the game but they certainly need better nights than they got on Tuesday.

5. Corey Crawford gets through it. Crawford was stellar prior to his appendectomy but hasn’t been at that level since. Quenneville said he considered pulling Crawford during this one but decided to keep him in. Quenneville’s still happy with his goaltending – again, the Blackhawks aren’t where they are right now without it this season. But he said Crawford could be better than he was on Tuesday.