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.

For the Blackhawks defense, change is the new normal

For the Blackhawks defense, change is the new normal

Ulf Samuelsson saw the changes the Blackhawks made this season, his hiring as assistant coach being one of them. Soon he’ll be working with the team’s defensemen, another area that’s had some upheaval.

“I think there’s a lot of opportunity here, some uncertainties and some moving parts that I probably, typically haven’t seen going into a season. So that makes it even more interesting and challenging,” Samuelsson said. “So I’m looking forward to this opportunity to really develop and work with some of the younger players.”

From its immediate coach to its personnel, the Blackhawks’ defense is dealing with plenty of change that will continue when the season begins this fall. The Blackhawks have had some addition (Connor Murphy, Jan Rutta and Jordan Oesterle) but dealing with the subtraction (Niklas Hjalmarsson and Trevor van Riemsdyk) will nevertheless be tough. Coach Joel Quenneville said on Friday that pairings are a work in progress.

“We’re going to see when we’re putting the pairs together, whether we're going to reunite [Duncan Keith] and [Brent Seabrook] or look for some balance,” he said. “There are a lot of options. We’ll look forward to that and sorting it out.”

For Murphy, who was acquired in the deal that sent Hjalmarsson to the Arizona Coyotes, there are no set expectations as to where he fits yet.

“With any team you go into training camp proving where you’re going to be. Everyone has to come in and earn certain positions, especially me being a guy who they’re not as familiar with; I have to show what I can do,” Murphy said. “I definitely want to bring a more physical edge to defending at times and be able to skate well, have a good reach, make smart reads and try to help out with whatever’s needed with that.”

As for young players, the opportunity is there. Gustav Forsling admits he wasn’t happy that fellow Swede and role model Hjalmarsson was traded. But Forsling, who looked strong coming out of camp last September, knows he has to take advantage of the situation.

“Of course, I want to take the next step and play more,” he said. “I want to keep progressing my game and keep developing.”

The same goes for Jordan Oesterle, who the Blackhawks signed to a two-year deal on July 1.

“When I wanted to come here the opportunity was tremendous. Just the chance to come in and try to make the top six is there, it’s a battle with a number of us guys but that’s all you ask for in the situation I’m in,” he said. “Just the amount of opportunity that is in front of me just drives me even more. I want to be here and force their hand to keep me here.”

Again, the Blackhawks could re-address defense once they implement Marian Hossa’s long-term injured reserve after the season begins. General manager Stan Bowman said there’s “no exact plan” right now on how they use that space – “that’s probably going to be dictated by where we’re at when we get to October, how the team’s playing, what areas are strong, what areas we want to add to,” he said.

It remains to be seen on that front. Regardless, from coaching to personnel, much has changed with the Blackhawks defense. 

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Blackhawks Convention Opening Ceremonies

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AP

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Blackhawks Convention Opening Ceremonies

On the latest SportsTalk Live Podcast, we're live at the 2017 Blackhawks Convention. 

Brandon Saad and Patrick Sharp join David Kaplan and Pat Boyle to talk about returning to Chicago. 

Later Boyle, CSN Blackhawks Insider Tracey Myers, Chris Kuc and Sam Panayotovich discuss the huge roster changes this offseason. 

Listen to the STL Pod below.