Hawk Talk: D-flating Weekend for Blackhawks

Hawk Talk: D-flating Weekend for Blackhawks

Sunday, Mar. 14, 2010
9:41 P.M.

By Chris Boden
CSNChicago.com

Niklas Hjalmarsson is one of the least-experienced Blackhawks at the NHL level. But he spoke wise beyond his years in assessing the team's play of late after a second come-from-ahead loss in 24 hours. In essence, he said they'll only last a "few games" in the playoffs if they continue playing as they have lately.

That's the bigger story coming out of Sunday's 4-3 home defeat than the severity of Alex Ovechkin's penalty for his hit on Brian Campbell. And the absence of Ovechkin only made the pain of the defeat hurt a little more. Tack on the fact that the much-criticized goalkeeping was actually solid for both games, and the concerns might be considered even greater. After all, that's what the players have been telling us during this goaltending debate.

The Hawks have a month to fix it so their young defenseman's prediction doesn't come true. The defensive coverage - or lack of - created those opportunities against the Flyers and the Caps, who are still pretty potent without their two-time MVP. Those are the kinds of games that'll be sitting there when the post-season bell rings - late 2-1 leads on the road....3-0 third period leads at home. And unfortunately for the guys in the middle of the roster "scratch" game, two of them ended up taking costly high-sticking penalties in that last period - Jordan Hendry and Colin Fraser. That's asking for nothing but trouble against the NHL's top power play. Not to mention one third period shot on goal for a team that racks up the most per game in th entire league.

Stan Bowman's main moves prior to the trade deadline were for defensive depth, acquiring the likes of Nick Boynton, Danny Richmond, and Jassen Cullimore - guys with NHL experience to be on-call at Rockford. Judging by the first impression of the way Campbell landed, he may have to tap into those resources for at least one, and perhaps two if Kim Johnsson needs some time. Dustin Byfuglien could move there in a pinch, as well. But another issue will be continuing to search for ways to decrease the reliance upon Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook while trying to correct the defensive issues down the stretch. Keith had almost 59 minutes of ice time in those 24 hours, Seabrook 53.

The Hawks are off to some warm weather this week. That alone won't solve things, because it's three games in four nights, and the Ducks, Kings and Coyotes will try to exploit them in similar ways until they show they can deliver again for 60 minutes. Vancouver's also back home after their 8-5-1, 14-game road trip, and might start nipping at their heels for the 2 seed if the Hawks aren't careful. If it comes to that, the Hawks might avoid the much talked-about "18" or "27" matchup, but it certainly wouldn't help erase Hjalmarsson's concern.

Like all slumps that each of us eventually encounters in our various walks of life, part of it is probably mental now. Once the first signs of "uh-oh" pops up, the thing snowballs. That is, until they figure out a formula to stop it. Even though they're a respectable 13-8-5 since that infamous third period, maybe they need that trip to Minnesota to close out this month. Perhaps they'll find some of that mojo that hasn't quite seemed the same since that 5-1 lead after two disapperared in a flash during their last trip there in early January.

Hawks Talk Podcast: Marian Hossa keeps producing as Blackhawks find chemistry

marian-hossa-hawks-again-1206.jpg
USA TODAY

Hawks Talk Podcast: Marian Hossa keeps producing as Blackhawks find chemistry

In the latest episode of the Hawks Talk Podcast, Pat Boyle is joined by Steve Konroyd and Tracey Myers following the Blackhawks 4-0 shutout win over the Coyotes.

The crew breaks down how the Blackhawks keep finding ways to win, how Marian Hossa has remained a top-six forward and how the team seems to have finally found some chemistry without Jonathan Toews and Corey Crawford.

Listen to the latest episode below:

Five Things from Blackhawks-Coyotes: Is Brent Seabrook OK?

Five Things from Blackhawks-Coyotes: Is Brent Seabrook OK?

The Blackhawks weren’t exactly reeling — they had only lost two straight games, matching their longest losing streak of the season. Still, they didn’t like the direction in which they were going, especially offensively.

Tuesday was a test in terms of playing another game without Jonathan Toews, another game without Corey Crawford and finding a way against a team that’s struggled this season. The Blackhawks passed the test, finding their offense and denying the Arizona Coyotes in a 4-0 victory.

This week doesn’t get any easier for the Blackhawks, who might be without another top player. We’ll find out more about that in a few days. So before we call it a night, let’s look at Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ victory over the Coyotes.

1. Slow start, but another first-period lead. Seriously, I’m just going to type this paragraph up for every game and just switch out the name of the opponent. On Tuesday the Coyotes, who played Monday night in Columbus, outshot the Blackhawks early. But thanks to Artem Anisimov’s power-play goal, the Blackhawks led 1-0 after one. It wasn’t a shocker that the Coyotes came out strong early. But again, off the back-to-back, they looked like they were losing steam as the game continued.

2. Brent Seabrook does not return. Seabrook got tangled up with Jordan Martinook late in the second period and, after being down a few moments while holding his head, went to the locker room. Coach Joel Quenneville said he’ll see how Seabrook is on Wednesday — the Blackhawks don’t practice again until Thursday. The Blackhawks have good depth at defense, as we’ve seen throughout this season. Still, missing Seabrook is always a loss.

[SHOP BLACKHAWKS: Get your Blackhawks gear right here]

3. Marian Hossa scores his 13th and 14th of the season. In some previous seasons that might not mean anything tremendous, other than the Blackhawks would take every one of them. But on Tuesday night, in his 27th game of the season, Hossa surpassed his goal total of last season (13 in 64 games). His second, a breakaway off a pass from Niklas Hjalmarsson, put an exclamation point on this one. So, is it time to just admit Hossa is a cyborg? “I’d believe it. I wouldn’t put it past him,” Scott Darling said. “I still can’t believe how fast he is. He’s one of the fastest players I’ve ever been with. He’s an impressive human being.”

4. Scott Darling with the shutout. Maybe it didn’t seem like that overwhelming of a shutout (22 stops), but it was a good outcome for the backup goaltender, who was tremendous on Sunday but nevertheless took the loss to Winnipeg. Darling was still facing a tough situation in the third period — seeing zip. The Coyotes didn’t get their first third-period shot on goal until there was less than six minutes remaining in it. “It’s not ideal. But I guess it’s better than seeing 30 shots in a period,” Darling said. “Beggars can’t be choosers. You just have to stay with it mentally.”

5. Quick strikes in the second period. We’re all familiar with 17 seconds. On Tuesday the Blackhawks had 19 seconds. They scored twice in that time frame (Hossa and Dennis Rasmussen). From that point on, the Blackhawks looked comfortable and confident. Said Quenneville, “We had the puck a lot more. That’s been what we’re trying to get to where we want to go. Tonight was a good step.”