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

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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.

Marian Hossa named Blackhawks' nominee for 2017 Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy

Marian Hossa named Blackhawks' nominee for 2017 Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy

The Chicago chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association has selected Marian Hossa to be the Blackhawks' nominee for the 2017 Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, which recognizes perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.

The 38-year-old winger has bounced back in a huge way following a 2015-16 campaign where he had only 13 goals and 20 assists in 64 games. 

Hossa is tied for second on the team with 24 goals and ranks sixth on the club with 42 points in 66 contests this season. He ranks fourth among active players with 1,131 points, and recently surpassed Pat Verbeek to move into 35th all-time in goals scored with 523.

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Three finalists from the 30 NHL teams will be named at the end of the regular season.

Pit Martin (1969-70) and Bryan Berard (2003-04) are the only two players in Blackhawks history to win the honor.

Johnny Oduya feeling better, more up to speed with Blackhawks

Johnny Oduya feeling better, more up to speed with Blackhawks

Perhaps the best thing about the Johnny Oduya trade back to the Blackhawks, for both parties involved, was that Oduya wasn't needed immediately.

It's not that the Blackhawks didn't want the veteran defenseman, who helped them win Cups in 2013 and 2015, back in the lineup as soon as possible. Oduya was coming off an ankle injury, one he re-aggravated and missed about a month when he was with the Dallas Stars. He needed time to fully heal and with the Blackhawks in good shape in the standings and with solid depth at defense, he could.

Now with the playoffs right around the corner, Oduya is feeling more like himself.

Outside of missing two games that were the second halves of back-to-backs, Oduya has been playing steadily since March 9. Oduya's minutes have ranged from around 16 to 21 in games. He said he's now 100 percent healthy from his injury and he's feeling the difference on the ice.

"It makes a big difference," Oduya said on Thursday, prior to facing the Stars for the first time since his trade back to Chicago. "I mean, obviously sometimes you get more or less lucky, depending on what you get and the style of play and what you do or not. Skating is a part of my game I try to use as much as possible to get in good position and try to take away time from the opposition as much as possible.

"Even with battling and things like that, of course it's nice to feel more confident," Oduya added. "In any situation, you're in you want to feel confident on the ice."

The Blackhawks have seen that confidence in previous postseason runs and are looking to see it again in Oduya. Coach Joel Quenneville considers Oduya, "Mr. Reliability."

"You look back at what he delivered for us, not just the regular season, but he's been solid and reliable in the playoffs. He's assumed some important matchups and important minutes," Quenneville said. "Last year, we didn't have him on the back end and watching him this year, it was the perfect fit him coming back."

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The Blackhawks' defensive group hasn't changed much since Oduya's first stint here. The system probably hasn't been altered much, either. Still, Oduya's not taking anything for granted and is trying to get back on the same page quickly.

"Same as the last time I came into a great hockey team and I really just want to get up to speed and up to date as quickly as possible," Oduya said. "Little things that may have changed. I want to fit in as well as I can. That's the idea anyone has coming in late in the year. The guys here make it pretty easy; the coaching staff is familiar with the way I play and helps speed up things a little more."

The Blackhawks are trying to be their best heading into the postseason. So is Oduya. He needed a little extra time to get back to health and he may still need a little time to get back to speed, but he's just about there. 

"I feel pretty good. Of course it's a lot easier when you have guys around you you've seen before, a coaching staff," Oduya said. "It's a work in progress, anyway. I want to be better, I want to evolve with the team and want us to be better, too. It's a work in progress."