Hawk Talk: Just OK isn't good enough

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Hawk Talk: Just OK isn't good enough

Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Posted: 6:00 p.m.

By Tracey Myers
CSNChicago.com

The first two words in the Boston Heralds story regarding Tuesday nights Bruins-Blackhawks game said it all.

No complacency.

According to the Herald, thats the Bruins mantra right now, regardless of the playoff berth they already gained last weekend. No quit, no stop, no pause in the pursuit of points. And on Tuesday night, it looked like the Bruins were taking that to heart with their 3-0 victory.

The Blackhawks, meanwhile, were missing the fire and determination their coach was hoping to get for a second consecutive night; they had, after all, showed plenty of it in their overtime victory in Detroit on Monday. As a result, the Blackhawks made no headway in their push for a better spot in the Western Conference playoff race.

No, for all the chatter that apparently came from the Hawks bench as a bloodied Shawn Thornton exited, there was no noise where on the ice where it mattered most. The Blackhawks, save Corey Crawfords and some defensemens especially Brent Seabrooks hard work, were quiet. They werent winning the battles. They werent making it tough enough on Boston goalie Tim Thomas. They werent where they needed to be, which is determined to get some points, any points, out of their Beantown visit.

Maybe the Blackhawks suffered from fatigue after Mondays game. Players said absolutely not and coach Joel Quenneville gave me the succinct head shake when I suggested it in the post-game interview. Certainly its no excuse, especially at this point of the season and especially with whats at stake. As defenseman Duncan Keith told the Chicago Tribunes Chris Kuc late Tuesday if its too hard to play two games in a row we probably shouldnt be in the NHL.

The Blackhawks have made things harder on themselves lately. After their stellar eight-game winning streak, theyve been back to being just streaky (4-4-2 in their last 10). The great victories (vs. San Jose, Detroit and Phoenix) have been tempered by the awful losses (Florida and Dallas) and missed opportunities (vs. Anaheim). Its been one step forward, two steps well, maybe not back, but definitely not forward, either. As Brian Campbell said of the last few games, our week was OK, and OK isnt good enough.

Throughout this latest roller-coaster ride, the Blackhawks have said all the right things. These games are big. These points are big. But the words havent translated into on-ice play enough. Yes, theyve had injuries and certainly miss the services of Dave Bolland (concussion) and Patrick Sharp (left knee). But its late Marchearly April. Every NHL team has injuries right now.

Despite not playing again until Friday, the Blackhawks will hold onto eighth place. Thats the kind ofsort of good news. Now for the not-so-good news: Teams such as Nashville and Anaheim can pull further ahead of them and Calgary and Dallas could get closer to catching them.

Complacency, lack of urgency, no matter the term its taboo for playoff-hopeful hockey teams this time of year. The Blackhawks have six games remaining to secure a playoff berth and make a statement in the process. That statement needs to be reminiscent of Mondays hard work, not Tuesdays lack thereof.

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

Blackhawks notebook: A busy draft, free agency and RFAs

Blackhawks notebook: A busy draft, free agency and RFAs

Eight draft picks in about 3 ½ hours. It was a busy Saturday for the Blackhawks, and when general manager Stan Bowman talked that afternoon about the team’s Day 2 haul, he came prepared.

“I have my little cheat sheet,” Bowman said of the paper on which he had written the Blackhawks’ eight newest prospects.

After a few days’ worth of moves the Blackhawks focused on the future, taking nine players over two days at the NHL Draft. It was a successful weekend for the Blackhawks, who hosted the draft for the first time and built up assets, especially on the blue line. Five of the Blackhawks’ nine selections were defensemen.

“One of the things we talked about was looking at the market. There’s a high value on defensemen. We’re not necessarily looking at the draft but our team this year and over the next couple of years; those are the assets that are valuable around the league,” Bowman said. “Look at the trade Calgary made [for Travis Hamonic], defensemen are a valuable commodity. That was a priority coming in and we were able to accomplish it.”

What comes next

The Blackhawks got what they wanted at this weekend’s draft but the focus will soon shift, as free agency opens on July 1. It remains to be seen what the Blackhawks will have cap-wise come a week from now. Currently, according to CapFriendly.com, they’re $1.445 million over the $75 million cap. It’s doubtful the Blackhawks apply the long-term injured reserve tag on Marian Hossa during the offseason. It’s possible they could still trade Marcus Kruger to gain some space. Bowman said, one way or another, “there will be some movement.”

“We’ll bring some players in, I don’t know how many, what position or what level,” he said. “This is where there’s a lot of activity, the couple weeks in the middle of June until the middle of July. That’s when the most changes happen. We’ll go to work, now that we’re past this.”

Wait for it

The Blackhawks also have to decide whether or not to qualify restricted free agents Dennis Rasmussen and Tomas Jurco. Bowman said that’ll be decided by Monday.

“I’ve had discussions with both agents,” he said. “I don’t have an answer right now but we’ll have that worked out in the next day and a half.”

Niklas Hjalmarsson reflects on time with Blackhawks: 'I had the best time in Chicago'

Niklas Hjalmarsson reflects on time with Blackhawks: 'I had the best time in Chicago'

Niklas Hjalmarsson heard some of the rumors, but not to a large degree. The former Blackhawks defenseman wasn’t spending a lot of time on the internet reading up on his potential fate. He figured he’d still stay put in Chicago.

“But when my agent called me about the 10-team list, I understood it was serious. Stan [Bowman] wouldn’t ask for that unless they made up their mind already,” Hjalmarsson said via conference call on Saturday. “That’s when it hit me that I’m probably not going to put the Hawks jersey on anymore.”

Indeed, Hjalmarsson’s next jersey will be that of the Arizona Coyotes, who acquired him in exchange for defenseman Connor Murphy on Friday. Hjalmarsson’s departure marks the end of the line for another Blackhawks core player, and this one is jarring in how it will change the team’s defense.

Speaking of change, Hjalmarsson faces a lot of it himself now. Sure, there’s the obvious change for a guy who’s played his entire career in one place. It’s new surroundings and a new team, on which he knows former Blackhawks teammate Antti Raanta and fellow countryman Oliver Ekman-Larsson.

But the Coyotes have dealt with a lot of upheaval lately. Goaltender Mike Smith is gone. So is veteran Shane Doan. On Thursday, head coach Dave Tippett and the Coyotes parted ways.

“They’re on a rebuild, a lot of new faces, lot of changes,” Hjalmarsson said. “It’s tough to know what to expect but I think they’re a hungry organization that wants to win like other teams. I’m looking forward to try to contribute with playing my game, just try to get the organization back in the playoffs.”

Hjalmarsson should find chemistry with Ekman-Larsson – the two were teammates in the Winter Olympics in Sochi – and Hjalmarsson will likely play a bigger role with the Coyotes. Arizona will probably look to Hjalmarsson a lot during its rebuild, given his Cup-winning history.

The first 24 hours were full of mixed emotions of Hjalmarsson. With his limited no-move clause, he was always a likely candidate to be moved from a Blackhawks team laden will full no-move clauses. He’s turning a page, but he won’t forget his time in Chicago anytime soon.

“I’m trying to always be a positive guy,” Hjalmarsson said. “I spent my whole 20s in Chicago, 10 unbelievable years. I didn’t think I’d win three Cups. Hopefully I can get one more before my career is over. I had the best time in Chicago, enjoyed every single year, playing in front of the best fans in the league. I’ve been spoiled. Now it’s time for me and my family to move on and seize the opportunity in Arizona and create some new fond memories.”