Hawk Talk: Blackhawks need to dictate pace


Hawk Talk: Blackhawks need to dictate pace

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

By Tracey Myers

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.

Preview: Blackhawks host Flames Monday on CSN

Preview: Blackhawks host Flames Monday on CSN

The Blackhawks (3-3, 6 points) take on the Calgary Flames (1-4-1, 3 points) on Monday, and you can catch all the action on CSN. Coverage begins with Blackhawks Pregame Live at 7 p.m. Be sure to stick around after the final horn to get analysis and player reaction on Blackhawks Postgame Live.

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Richard Panik fueling Blackhawks' top line

Richard Panik fueling Blackhawks' top line

Richard Panik was coming off his first career hat trick last week when he was asked about solidifying his spot on the top line with Jonathan Toews.

“I wouldn’t call it mine, for now,” Panik said.

The right wing’s hesitancy was understandable: Outside of some Blackhawks veterans, your place on a line is only as good as your last game.

But considering how he’s playing right now and the amount of goals he’s scored, you’d think Panik will be a top liner for a little while longer.

Panik scored the game-tying goals against his former team, the Toronto Maple Leafs, with 88 seconds remaining in regulation on Saturday night. There was probably a little feeling of vindication for Panik on that goal – Panik spent last season with the Leafs’ minor-league team until he was traded to the Blackhawks. But no matter the opponent, Panik’s been a scoring threat.

“We didn’t expect six goals in six games but we knew he’d be an offensive threat for us,” Toews said. “He’s showing consistently. He had the hat trick – when you have a game like that, the puck keeps finding you and he’s making no mistakes around the net. He’s shown he can score goals in any which way.”

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Part of the reason Panik’s back on the top line was the Blackhawks wanted to get more balance among the forwards. Marian Hossa, a longtime sight on that line, is on the third. But again, it’s all in what you do with the opportunity.

“The position he ended up being in was probably more so [for] being ready every game, consistent, doing the right things,” coach Joel Quenneville said after Saturday’s game. “He has all the tools we look for. He’s coming up with loose pucks, hanging around the net, going to the hard areas, giving us some physicality and finish as well. That was a big one, for sure, so he’s been a very pleasant start for us and for himself.”

The Blackhawks will always take goals no matter who scores them. But it’s how and from where Panik’s scoring those goals that’s especially good for the Blackhawks. Constantly looking for a net-front presence, Panik’s providing it. Most of his goals have been within a few feet of the net.

“Yeah, I’m just trying to find the space in front of the net and the goals are scored from there,” he said. “That’s the area I want to go to and it’s working.”

In six games Panik has already reached the totals he had in his 30 games with the Blackhawks last season (six goals, two assists). Panik approaches every game on the first line like it could be his last up there, and considering how often the Blackhawks change combinations that’s a smart approach. But the Blackhawks were looking for more consistent scoring on that top line, and as long as Panik helps provide that, he’ll stay put.

“Consistency was my biggest weakness. I’m just focusing on that, bringing it every night,” Panik said. “I think I know what I’m capable of. I know I can play on this level. Now I have an opportunity. I just have to take advantage of it and keep playing this way.”