Hawk Talk: Blackhawks need to dictate pace

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Hawk Talk: Blackhawks need to dictate pace

Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2011
Posted: 6:10 PM

By Tracey Myers
CSNChicago.com

Joel Quenneville stood at the podium on Tuesday night, appearing to be somewhere between simmer and slow boil. For the second game in a row, the Chicago Blackhawks lost. And for the second game in a row, the Blackhawks started with their trademark pace before letting their opponents and their opponents games take over.

It was like the last game. Philly went up 1-0 and we slowed down. (The Wild) made it 2-2 and we slowed down, Quenneville said Tuesday night. When we slow down and look for plays, we get victimized by the other teams being patient."

This has become a 2010-11 Blackhawks problem: when it comes to tempo and pace, theyve lost their dictatorship. Last years Blackhawks, more often than not, set the tempo and stuck with it. They dictated the pace, the speed set to high, and controlled the puck. And if the opposition couldnt keep up, well, too bad.

Its confounding that this is the Blackhawks problem. Theyve got plenty of speed. Theyre loaded with speed. Speed is the one thing they didnt lose with all their offseason moves. And for the first 20 minutes on Tuesday, that pace and speed was on full display. The Blackhawks were all over the Wild, controlling, skating. Dictating. The result? They went into the locker room with a 2-1 lead and the United Center crowd as revved up as they were.

And then it went away. Whether the Blackhawks just decided to sit back or the Wild decided to lull them into their methodical game, the Chicago's control and successful pace game was gone.

We had a lot of energy, pressure in the first period, captain Jonathan Toews said. We didnt keep that going for 60 minutes. Again, we wanted an easy win and we werent going to get it from that team.

An easy win. There are none of those in the NHL now, especially in the Western Conference where every night is a jockey-for-position fight. At the same time, the Blackhawks have often made it harder on themselves by getting away from their own game. When the pace is there, the victories usually have been, too.

The Blackhawks have had some of their best games this season against similar paced teams. They swept the Los Angeles Kings. Theyve beaten the Detroit Red Wings by a combined score of 8-2 their last two meetings. No worries of pace changing with those two, so no problem.

But not every team has that same mindset and tempo. For every Los Angeles or Detroit theres a Nashville, St. Louis and Minnesota thats going to try to trap you, slow you and methodical play you to death.

The Blackhawks of last year forced opponents to play their game. They were in control. This years group has to do the same thing. The talent and the wheels, especially, are there. The desire to be dictators has to be, too.

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

Hawks Talk Podcast: What's the cause of recent struggles?

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USA TODAY

Hawks Talk Podcast: What's the cause of recent struggles?

On the latest Hawks Talk Podcast, Pat Boyle and Steve Konroyd discuss the latest slump and how much does Artem Anisimov's injury play a role in their struggles?

Konroyd tells us he was surprised by Ryan Hartman's benching in Tampa.

The guys play the game, playoff minutes or press box minutes?  They run through the players who are on the bubble when it comes to postseason play.

They also discuss the Hawks chances of overtaking Washington for the President's trophy.

Plus, Konroyd breaks down possible first round opponents: St Louis, Calgary and Nashville.

Tanner Kero latest to try and fill Artem Anisimov's skates

Tanner Kero latest to try and fill Artem Anisimov's skates

PITTSBURGH – Tanner Kero's been thrown into a lot of different situations in his time with the Blackhawks, be it third- or fourth-line center or penalty kill.

But with Artem Anisimov out, the second-line center spot has become new top-line, left-wing spot: The Blackhawks will keep trying guys out until they find one that works. Kero's the latest to get that opportunity, and since it worked well on Monday, he'll be there again on Wednesday.

Kero will center Artemi Panarin and Patrick Kane again when the Blackhawks host the Pittsburgh Penguins. The line had a good start to Monday's game against the Lightning in Tampa, scoring the team's first two goals — Kero assisted on Panarin's opener.

Coach Joel Quenneville liked Kero's first go-around there.

"Defensively he's in a good spot — he's usually in a reliable spot in his own end — he made a couple of nice plays offensively and didn't change his game too much," Quenneville said. "It's not easy playing with guys at that next level. It's certainly a great challenge and a great opportunity, so I thought he did a great job, took advantage of it. We'll see how he does going forward but we'll keep him in there for [Wednesday's] game and that gives us some more options."

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Learning on the fly can be part of a rookie season, especially when injuries arise. Jonathan Toews said Kero's handled everything well this season.

"Come to think of it, it's one of those little things that maybe goes over my head but he's definitely one of those versatile players who's as consistent as ever," Toews said. "He has, for his age, an incredible level of maturity and he carries that with him wherever he goes. You're seeing offensive improvement, too. He was making some good plays with Bread Man and Kaner. He's showing he can do it all and I think his work ethic and attitude's a source of that success."

Earlier this season Kero was with guys like Ryan Hartman and Vinnie Hinostroza. They were all familiar with each other from their Rockford days, and that showed. Playing with two guys you don't know so well? It's a bit of a challenge, and one the three talk out. But ultimately, Kero said you have to rely on your instincts. 

"You go over things before the game and on the bench, get a feel for what you might want to do. But then you just have to play hockey," Kero said. "You have to trust your game, make plays. You know they're going to make plays with the puck so you try to use your speed and get open and try to go to the net, create space for them and a little traffic in front and try to capitalize on opportunities."

Anisimov will be out another 1-2 weeks. Asked if Anisimov has started skating back in Chicago yet, Quenneville said, "I don't think so but I'm not positive. But he's progressing." Filling Anisimov's skates isn't easy, as evidenced by the Blackhawks' search for his temporary replacement. Kero is the third guy to get that shot, and he took advantage of his first showing.

"Obviously it's a great opportunity to play with two great players," Kero said. "You just try to do everything you can and do the little things right."

Briefly

- Marian Hossa and Duncan Keith didn't practice on Tuesday but both are expected to play against the Penguins.

- Corey Crawford gets the start against Pittsburgh.

- Hartman, scratched after a rough game against the Florida Panthers, is probably back in against the Penguins.