Hawk Talk: Defense must get tenacity back

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Hawk Talk: Defense must get tenacity back

Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2010
7:00 PM

By Tracey Myers
CSNChicago.com

Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville had a brief--but pointed--laundry list of things that went wrong for his team defensively on Monday night.

It might have been giveaways, it might have been coverage, it might have been mental mistakes, he said.

It might have been all of that. No, as defensive games go, this was one of the Blackhawks worst. They couldnt get the puck out of their own zone early. They gave the Colorado Avalanche one delectable scoring opportunity after another, chances so prime and open that defenseman Brian Campbell said afterward that every one of us owes (Marty Turco) an apology. Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook were each minus-4 for the game.

Now heres whats really troubling: this is the Blackhawks healthy group. The forward side has been decimated by injuries Dave Bolland was out with an upper-body injury on Monday, joining Marian Hossa, Fernando Pisani and Patrick Kane on the sidelines. Between Rockford call-ups and defensemen playing the part of forwards, Quenneville has been able to cobble lines together.

The defensemen havent had to go through that much shuffling. They have been in their usual pairs for some time now. Theyve all been in the active lineup for some time now. If you want to really go back in time, this is the bunch that was least altered with all the offseason moves.

On Monday, the forwards were not the problem. The Blackhawks scored five goals; when you score five goals, you should win. And despite all the problems on Monday night, the Blackhawks were on the cusp of doing just that. Until that final two minutes, 24 seconds.

Even in recent victories, the Blackhawks have been flirting with disaster. They had big leads against St. Louis and Dallas at home, 5-1 and 4-1, respectively. But both advantages went from sizeable to slim, forcing the Blackhawks to score late to pad their leads again.

The Blackhawks have a big opportunity to rack up some points now, with all but one of their remaining December games here at the United Center. They are about to get some of their forwards back. They also need to get their defensive tenacity back.

Tracey Myers is CSNChicago.com's Blackhawks Insider. Follow Tracey on Twitter @TramyersCSN for up-to-the-minute Hawks information.

Blackhawks fire assistant coach Mike Kitchen

Blackhawks fire assistant coach Mike Kitchen

When Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman addressed the media on Saturday, he said that there would be change. That started on Monday when assistant coach Mike Kitchen was fired.

The move came five days after the Blackhawks were swept out of the first round by the Nashville Predators. Bowman said in a statement that, “we believe this decision is best for our organization moving forward. Mike had an impact on two different Stanley Cup championship teams during his tenure in Chicago. We appreciate his many contributions and wish he and his family success in the future.”

Kitchen has been a member of coach Joel Quenneville’s staff since 2010. The two go back to their playing days, however, when they were teammates with the Colorado Rockies and also the New Jersey Devils. Kitchen was Quenneville’s assistant when the two were with the St. Louis Blues and when Quenneville was fired as Blues coach midway through the 2003-04 season, Kitchen was promoted to head coach.

As part of the Blackhawks’ staff Kitchen’s focus on special teams, mainly the penalty kill. That kill finished the regular season 24th overall in the league, although that has to come with an asterisk. The penalty kill started the 2016-17 season so poorly that it was never going to get too far out of the basement. It did get stronger as the season wore on, and it was fourth overall during the Blackhawks’ short stay in the playoffs.

Which Blackhawks will be participating in 2017 IIHF World Championships?

Which Blackhawks will be participating in 2017 IIHF World Championships?

The Blackhawks' season ended much sooner than expected after being swept in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs by the Nashville Predators.

But for some players, their hockey season may not be finished yet.

The IIHF World Championships begin May 5, and an early postseason exit gives several Blackhawks an opportunity to play in the tournament.

With the National Hockey League saying it will not participate in the 2018 Winter Olympics, players may be more inclined to join given the uncertainty of when they'll be able to represent their countries again — if ever, for some.

Here's an update on which Blackhawks players could be participating:

— Patrick Kane said Saturday he's taking the weekend to mull over Team USA's offer, and will make a final decision in the next "day or two."

— Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Jonathan Toews each declined their invites from Team Canada, electing to use a lengthy offseason to recharge and focus on training for the 2017-18 NHL season.

— Corey Crawford and Nick Schmaltz said they have not been contacted by their respective countries, but both said they would consider going if they are.

— Artemi Panarin has reportedly already accepted Team Russia's offer to play.

— Niklas Hjalmarsson said he's "thinking about" Team Sweden's offer after the NHL's decision not to attend the 2018 Winter Olympics. "Who knows when I'll ever get a chance to play for my country again, so that might be factor," he said.

— Marcus Kruger said he's talking with Team Sweden officials, and has expressed interest in going.

— Marian Hossa said he informed Team Slovakia that he will not be playing: "Let the young guys play."

— Richard Panik will not be participating either, saying he doesn't want to risk injury as he seeks a new contract.