Flames too hot for Hawks to handle

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Flames too hot for Hawks to handle

Monday, Feb. 7, 2011Posted: 10:57 PM Updated: 11:59 PM
By Tracey Myers
CSNChicago.com

CALGARY, Alberta You would think that being in 11th place on Monday morning wouldve sparked the Chicago Blackhawks. Or that even the November drubbing they took to Calgary up here last time wouldve sparked them.

But no. And no.

On a night the Blackhawks desperately needed production, urgency and points, they got very little of one and none of the other two.

Patrick Kane scored his 15th of the season, but the Blackhawks came out sluggish and couldnt make it up in late in a 3-1 loss to the Calgary Flames on Monday night. It was another disheartening loss for the Blackhawks, who have now lost four of their last five.

Be it the slow start or the 0-for-4 performance on the power play, the Blackhawks could generate little on the offensive side.

It reminded me of the first period here last time, said coach Joel Quenneville, referring to the Blackhawks 7-2 loss here in November. The play was in our end, we got behind early. We had some stretches in the second period we had moment, but we cant give up that winning goal tonight.

The Blackhawks managed just three shots on goal in the first while the Flames countered with 10 and a 1-0 lead at the end of the first 20 minutes to show for their work.

They had a good start to our game but ours was flat, there wasnt much to it, not a whole lot of intensity, Troy Brouwer said. To have a start like that in such an important game for us is disappointing.

The Flames, meanwhile, were strong throughout the night. A surging squad that distanced themselves a little more from the Blackhawks on Monday, the Flames were tenacious and determined. They got on top first a Mikael Backlund goal off a pretty Lance Bouma pass and didnt relinquish much momentum.

Curtis Glencross scored midway through the period and Rene Bourque added an empty-net goal for the Flames.

The Blackhawks had their chances to tie it, go ahead and build a decent lead with four power plays. But much like their game against Vancouver on Friday, the Blackhawks came up empty. Theyre now 0 for 9 on the power play that not long ago was their modus operandi.

The guys on the power play are the guys can get it done and we just have to find way to bang one home, said Jonathan Toews, who assisted on Kanes goal. There are a lot of times pucks are bouncing around us and not giving each other flat passes. Its frustrating. You can pinpoint one thing like that that makes big difference in your game.

The Blackhawks end Monday as they began it: sitting in 11th in the Western Conference. The desperation level should be growing by now. But as defenseman Brian Campbell said, I hope it grew a while ago.

Its not easy to win hockey games; for us, I dont know if we expect its going to be easy, Campbell said. There are a lot of good teams in the conference. Were not making it easy for ourselves and we have to start proving were a playoff team. Right now, obviously were not a playoff team.

Late call

Defenseman Brent Seabrook was whistled for an unsportsmanlike penalty with 1:14 remaining in the third period. Why Seabrook was sent off wasnt exactly clear when asked if Seabrook said something to officials, Quenneville said likely.

Quenneville said hes fine if the Blackhawks start getting angry with the way things are going, as long as its directed the right way.

I think were better with anger, but it being channeled properly has to be part of it, he said. Thats an undisciplined penalty at the end we cant take.

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 look to bounce back vs. Lightning tonight on CSN

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks look to bounce back vs. Lightning tonight on CSN

Watch as the Blackhawks take on the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com. Coverage begins at 6 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. How will Blackhawks respond to worst loss of season?

The Blackhawks suffered their worst loss of the season on Saturday in a 7-0 rout at the hands of the Panthers. It was the first time they've lost by at least seven goals since 2011 when Edmonton beat them 9-2 and the first time they lost 7-0 since 2001 against San Jose; the Blackhawks lost to Washington 6-0 earlier this year. But by no means was Saturday their worst effort of the season. A questionable interference penalty by Marcus Kruger led to a two-man advantage, which Florida cashed in on with a goal and another shortly after, and it opened up the floodgates. Expect a big bounce-back against a hungry Lightning team.

2. Lightning fighting for playoff lives.

Every game is a must-win for the Lightning with eight games remaining on their schedule. They're three points out of the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference with a game in hand on the Bruins, who currently occupy that spot, but still have to jump the Islanders. The Lightning didn't do themselves any favors by losing three straight in regulation last week, but they've won two in a row and tonight will be the first of a four-game homestand for them.

3. Keep the puck off Nikita Kucherov's stick.

There isn't a hotter player in the NHL right now than Kucherov, who has seven goals and two assists in his last four games. He's had two hat tricks in the past month, and he ranks sixth in the league with 78 points and second in goals with 38. You know how lethal Artemi Panarin's slapshot is from the left faceoff circle? That's Kucherov, but on the right side.

4. Staying disciplined.

The Blackhawks are the second-least penalized team in the league, but they acted out of character Saturday by racking up 30 penalty minutes. They were also slapped with a pair of unsportsmanlike penalties, which isn't something you normally see from Joel Quenneville's teams. Ryan Hartman, who along with Marcus Kruger was penalized for "yapping" at the officials, accepted responsibility for it after the game, and insisted it "won't happen again."

5. Special teams to play key factor?

On the flip side, the Lightning are the second-most penalized team, averaging just over 11 penalty minutes per game. Power plays will be key for the Blackhawks in an effort to keep Tampa Bay's collection of talented young goal scorers off the ice. The Lightning also boast a top-five power play unit with a 22 percent success rate. Both teams would be better served staying out of the box and making this a 5-on-5 battle.

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Will lopsided loss shake Blackhawks from their slumber?

Will lopsided loss shake Blackhawks from their slumber?

The Blackhawks have talked the past several games now about how they need to play better, how they need to get back to their 60-minute game. But even when you tell yourself you have to improve the message doesn't always translate into immediate action. That's especially true if, despite so-so play, you're still managing victories or still eking out a point.

Sometimes, you need a jolt to realize you have to get better. Well, that thud the Blackhawks made in South Florida ought to get their attention. 

The Blackhawks' 7-0 loss to the Florida Panthers on Saturday night, that "ugly, ugly game," as coach Joel Quenneville, is the latest in what's been a mediocre stretch for the team. They've been leaning on their goaltending again (please see Minnesota, Montreal, Ottawa and Dallas games). Or they've been leaning on their ability to wake up in the third period after sleepwalking through the first two. Sixty-minute games and four-line rotations, such a big part of the Blackhawks' success through February and early March, have been absent.

Call it the Blackhawks' mid-March malaise.

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It hasn't been more painful because the Blackhawks have still found ways to get points. Or at least they did until Saturday night, when two "yapping" penalties – Quenneville's (accurate) description of Ryan Hartman and Marcus Kruger's unsportsmanlike calls – started the Blackhawks' demise against the Panthers. Players told the traveling media following the game that this was a wake-up call. It ought to be.

Granted, the Blackhawks' late-season issues aren't as bad as some of their fellow Western Conference teams. The Minnesota Wild are 3-10-1 in March. The San Jose Sharks have lost six in a row. This also isn't the first time the Blackhawks have gone through this late-season mediocrity.

Entering the 2015 postseason they struggled to score goals and lost four in a row (five goals in those four games). It turned out alright. Still, best to avoid bad habits.

Perhaps the Blackhawks are in a bit of a swoon because, really, there's not much for which to play in these final few games. They don't care if they win the Presidents' Trophy (and they probably won't). They're currently in first place by seven points following the Wild's 3-2 overtime loss to Detroit on Sunday. Whether the Blackhawks finish first or second, they'll start this postseason at home. 

So is this panic-inducing? No. Is it a concern? Certainly. The Blackhawks can't start thinking they'll automatically flip the switch as soon as the postseason begins.

The Blackhawks want to get their four-line rotation going again. Artem Anisimov returning in the next week or two will certainly help that. They want to get their overall game going again. The Blackhawks have been telling themselves what needs to be done for a few games now. Maybe they needed a wake-up call. On Saturday, they got it.