Hawk Talk: Calling for 60 minutes of 'Intensi-taaay'

356124.jpg

Hawk Talk: Calling for 60 minutes of 'Intensi-taaay'

Thursday, Jan. 27, 2010
Posted: 12:30 PM

By Chris Boden
CSNChicago.com

In 28 years of covering teams here in Chicago (yeah, go ahead...do the math...), I can't begin to tell you how many hundreds of times I've heard the player and coach refrain after a loss:

"We didn't play 60 minutes."

"We didn't play 48 minutes."

That first one's become an unfortunate Blackhawks motto into the All-Star break in the 24 times they've come up short over the first 50 games. That should be enough of a sample size for personnel and personality adjustments to have been made on a roster that lost about half of its players from the Stanley Cup championship team.

The frustrating part for the coaching staff, fans, and even some of the players themselves (most notably an increasingly-irritated Jonathan Toews), is they've shown in stretches within many of the games they've lost that if they just maintained the same approach and intensity throughout, they'd have come away with two points. Not to mention the "pace" that my colleague Tracey Myers examined in her Hawk Talk Wednesday.

Finding ways to dictate that pace, now more than ever, must come from within. As our old friend Norm Van Lier might say as we come up on the one-year anniversary of his passing, "Give me 60 minutes of INTENSI-TAAAY!" in lieu of the 48 he'd ask every game of his Bulls.

If you watch any of our pregame shows on Comcast SportNet, in features that also air on the United Center scoreboard before home games, virtually every time, one of the three keys to victory given by either Assistant Coach - Mike Haviland or Mike Kitchen - involves playing 60 minutes.

Now without going all SaferWallaceReasoner on you, "60 Minutes" involves discipline, recognition, and effort in seizing and maintaining a game's momentum. That ebbs and flows within every NHL game, but every guy putting those elements together over these final 32 games will go a long way in determining whether this team doesn't supplant the 2007 Carolina Hurricanes as the latest unable to defend its Cup the following post-season.

Here's a scary note: The '06 'Canes finished with a 52-22-8 record, the exact record the Hawks had when they went on to win the Cup last season. They weren't bad in '07 under (drumroll, please..) Peter Laviolette, but a 40-34-8 record (88 points) wasn't enough to make the playoffs. Right now, the Blackhawks are projected to reach 92 points, and you can debate whether that'll be enough in this Western Conference where contenders are beating themselves up nightly.

That returning Carolina team lost just four key players to free agency in the off-season: Matt Cullen, Doug Weight, Mark Recchi, and Aaron Ward. These Blackhawks have lost so much more. So there's also a temptation to give this team and coaching staff credit, because they've hung right in there, and remain within striking distance of a fourth seed. Meanwhile the rest of the field they're fighting hasn't had to make those personnel adjustments, other than key injuries - which the Blackhawks have also had to battle.

Roughly a month away from the trade deadline, it's tough to see any big splashes made within this cash-strapped team. Only Pittsburgh and Vancouver have less cap space right now, according to www.capgeek.com. The Hawks have under 1 million at this point, which is why Nick Leddy's doing the Rockford Shuttle. Calgary, San Jose, and Minnesota own the 5th-, 7th-, and 10th-smallest Cap room. But the likes of Anaheim and Los Angeles have 9-to-11 million in projected cap space by the deadline.

Dallas, Phoenix, Nashville, St. Louis and Colorado have the most flexibility. Unless Stan Bowman would want to move one of his bigger-salaried tickets (and find a taker with a match), he'd be limited to moving a combination of smaller pieces to get a more significant "rental" they wouldn't be tied to next season. Your higher-priced unrestricted free agents this summer, on teams who'd be willing to deal with the Hawks, would require significant personnel sacrifices in return (Toronto defensman Tomas Kaberle earns 4.2 million and if Florida's Dale Tallon would want to do business, defenseman Bryan McCabe and his 5.7 million tag and winger Cory Stillman's 3-12 million price, seem steep).

The list of UFAs salaried below 1.7 million on Eastern Conference teams slipping out of contention right now include Radek Dvorak and Marty Reasoner of Florida, Steve Montador, Mike Grier and Rob Niedermayer of Buffalo, and Andy Greene of New Jersey.

The Hawks would need to counter with a younger player or two in return off the current roster just to make those moves and not disrupt the long-term core. But the longer any teams remain on the cusp of the Top 8, the less likely they are to hold a sale. So look East if there's any movement involving the Blackhawks.

So it looks more and more as if what we see is what we'll get. That might not be a bad thing if all the guys making the big numbers start putting up better numbers more consistently. And everyone gives "60" over the next 32. They'll enter the second half completely healthy, barring some tragedy over the weekend in Raleigh (the home of those 'Canes).

After Tuesday's loss to Minnesota, the Hawks aren't back home for three weeks, when the Wild will be there to greet them again. How much better or worse will they be for that rematch, with six roadies in-between?

With the exception of a game against an improving Edmonton team they've already lost to twice, every other game will be against a team fighting with them for the Top 8, a team they're chasing, or one with something to prove against them (Columbus, Vancouver, Calgary, Phoenix and Dallas).

They enter the break in 7th place, by virtue of having one more win than 8th-place San Jose. They're four points out of 4th, two points from 12th, and five points from 14th.

Get your rest, boys.

Be sure to follow Blackhawks Insider Tracey Myers' coverage of the four Blackhawks and coaches Joel Quenneville and Mike Haviland at All-Star Weekend in Raleigh, beginning Friday, here on CSNChicago.com

Chris Boden is the host of Blackhawks Pre and Postgame Live on Comcast SportsNet.

Blackhawks Updates: Jonathan Toews 'not getting better,' out vs. Jets

Blackhawks Updates: Jonathan Toews 'not getting better,' out vs. Jets

Jonathan Toews will be out once again with an injury that’s “not getting better,” and Scott Darling will start when the Blackhawks face the Winnipeg Jets tonight at the United Center.

Toews, suffering from a reported back injury, skated on Sunday morning. But coach Joel Quenneville said later in the afternoon that the Blackhawks will keep Toews off the ice for about three days and then, “get a better assessment in the middle of the week.” Once listed as day-to-day, Toews, who was injured on Nov. 23, will now miss his sixth consecutive game.

“Well, you certainly miss his presence in all aspects of his team game, his leadership is as good as anyone who plays,” Quenneville said. “I still think you have to find a way to do what you can to make a contribution and make a simpler game plan.”

Gustav Forsling is expected to play tonight. With Nick Schmaltz reassigned to Rockford earlier on Sunday – to get playing time but also due to cap issues – Andrew Desjardins will move over to center the fourth line.

Darling will start his second consecutive game and is expected to get a bulk of the work with Corey Crawford sidelined after his appendectomy on Saturday. Lars Johansson was recalled to be the Blackhawks’ backup in Crawford’s absence.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

Connor Hellebuyck will start against the Blackhawks again tonight. Hellebuyck stopped 27 shots in a 4-0 victory over the Blackhawks on Nov. 15.

BLACKHAWKS VS. WINNIPEG JETS

6 p.m.

TV: CSN

Live Stream: CSNChicago.com/NBC Sports App

Radio: WGN 720 AM

Chicago Blackhawks

Artemi Panarin-Artem Anisimov-Patrick Kane

Ryan Hartman-Vinnie Hinostroza -Marian Hossa

Dennis Rasmussen-Marcus Kruger -Richard Panik

Tyler Motte-Andrew Desjardins-Jordin Tootoo

 

Duncan Keith-Brian Campbell

Michal Kempny-Brent Seabrook

Gustav Forsling-Niklas Hjalmarsson

 

Scott Darling

 

INJURIES: Jonathan Toews (upper body), Corey Crawford (appendix).

Winnipeg Jets (via Winnipeg Free Press)

Nikolaj Ehlers-Bryan Little-Patrik Laine

Drew Stafford-Mathieu Perrault-Blake Wheeler

Andrew Copp-Adam Lowry-Marko Dano

Brandon Tanev-Alexander Burmistrov-Chris Thorburn

 

Josh Morrissey-Dustin Byfuglien

Toby Enstrom-Jacob Trouba

Ben Chiarot-Paul Postma

 

Connor Hellebuyck

 

INJURIES: Mark Scheifele (lower body), Joel Armia (lower body), Shawn Matthias (lower body), Tyler Myers (lower body).

Blackhawks recall Johansson, assign Schmaltz

Blackhawks recall Johansson, assign Schmaltz

The Blackhawks will be without their No. 1 goaltender for a few weeks, so the obvious backup call-up came on Sunday morning.

At the same time, the Blackhawks are going to give one of their forwards a little work in the minors.

The Blackhawks recalled goaltender Lars Johansson from the Rockford IceHogs on Sunday morning. They also assigned forward Nick Schmaltz to the IceHogs.

Johansson has a 6-7-1 mark with 2.63 goals-against average and .911 save percentage in 16 games. This comes one day after Corey Crawford had an appendectomy in Philadelphia prior to the Blackhawks’ 3-1 loss there. Crawford, according to the team, is expected to be out 2-3 weeks.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

Schmaltz has a goal and three assists in 26 games with the Blackhawks this season. Schmaltz is one of several forwards who got a top-line opportunity this season and, much like most of the others, couldn’t stick there. He has struggled to find a consistent game.

The Blackhawks face the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday night. Scott Darling is expected to get the start.