Hawk Talk: Poor starts costing the team late

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Hawk Talk: Poor starts costing the team late

Thursday, Nov. 4, 2010
Updated 4:39 PM

By Tracey Myers
CSNChicago.com

As I got ready for another rendition of all things bloggy this morning, I was armed with my routine a.m. cup of joe. Appropriate, really. I can't get off to a good start without it.

Meanwhile, the Blackhawks just can't get off to a good start.

The Blackhawks keep repeating two bad habits in this early going. One is their inability to stop late regulation goals, the other is their lack-of-panache starts.

They were bitten by both on Wednesday night but let's face it, one leads to the other.

The Blackhawks started woefully slow, got down 2-0 and then needed to extol double the energy just to get back into it. Come to the end, they've got to be tired, right? Enter the mistakes again, in the waning minutes, and bye-bye potential points.

Remember folks, hockey games are like marathons. Your performance needs to be strong, and more importantly, consistent over the duration. Try to sprint in the middle miles to make up for early lost time and you'll have nothing in the tank for the finish.

So there's my theory on the bad endings. But that doesn't explain why the Blackhawks have terrible starts. What reason is there to be lax in the first 10, 15, 20 minutes?

"There's really no excuse for that," said Fernando Pisani. "We need to pride ourselves on being a high-energy team that gets things going. That has to be a template for success."

I asked a few Blackhawks prior to Wednesday's game about being wary of the Devils. They were facing the scenario as with Edmonton last Friday: a struggling, frustrated team was coming into the United Center at the end of a road trip. Play our game, that's the answer I got from a few. And that's fine, if they would've played their game in the first period. Instead they gave up the puck, couldn't clear, etc., and it put them in a hole.

"We've got to take pride in getting better starts," said Viktor Stalberg. "It doesn't matter who's out there. Especially on home ice we have to take advantage of our crowd. We've got to get our fans in the game, and have to get a better start to do that."

It doesn't help that the Blackhawks are fighting through injuries. All teams go through them, but on Wednesday the Blackhawks put defensemen on forward lines to compensate for the injured Marian Hossa and Dave Bolland. Jordan Hendry and John Scott have forward pasts, but not much at the NHL level. They played less than eight minutes combined on Wednesday, and did not play past the midway point of the second period.

The Blackhawks sent true forwards Ben Smith and Ryan Potulny back to Rockford on Tuesday. You have to figure the team's salary cap issues factored in the decision.

But I digress. Back to the beginning, or lack thereof in the Blackhawks' case. Trouble is, folks, I have no reason or excuse for it because there isn't any reason or excuse for it.

The Blackhawks need better performances out of the starting gate, simple as that. If they get that they can avoid deficits, they can avoid playing catch-up and they can avoid pointless -- make that point-less -- endings.
Briefly

Former Blackhawks goaltender Antti Niemi received his Stanley Cup championship ring from Blackhawks vice president Al MacIsaac Thursday morning in St. Louis.

Niemi was also scheduled to get the start Thursday night against the Blues according to the San Jose Mercury News; it was his first start since he suffered a 4-0 loss to the Calgary Flames on Oct. 24.

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

Tanner Kero latest to try and fill Artem Anisimov's skates

Tanner Kero latest to try and fill Artem Anisimov's skates

PITTSBURGH – Tanner Kero's been thrown into a lot of different situations in his time with the Blackhawks, be it third- or fourth-line center or penalty kill.

But with Artem Anisimov out, the second-line center spot has become new top-line, left-wing spot: The Blackhawks will keep trying guys out until they find one that works. Kero's the latest to get that opportunity, and since it worked well on Monday, he'll be there again on Wednesday.

Kero will center Artemi Panarin and Patrick Kane again when the Blackhawks host the Pittsburgh Penguins. The line had a good start to Monday's game against the Lightning in Tampa, scoring the team's first two goals — Kero assisted on Panarin's opener.

Coach Joel Quenneville liked Kero's first go-around there.

"Defensively he's in a good spot — he's usually in a reliable spot in his own end — he made a couple of nice plays offensively and didn't change his game too much," Quenneville said. "It's not easy playing with guys at that next level. It's certainly a great challenge and a great opportunity, so I thought he did a great job, took advantage of it. We'll see how he does going forward but we'll keep him in there for [Wednesday's] game and that gives us some more options."

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Learning on the fly can be part of a rookie season, especially when injuries arise. Jonathan Toews said Kero's handled everything well this season.

"Come to think of it, it's one of those little things that maybe goes over my head but he's definitely one of those versatile players who's as consistent as ever," Toews said. "He has, for his age, an incredible level of maturity and he carries that with him wherever he goes. You're seeing offensive improvement, too. He was making some good plays with Bread Man and Kaner. He's showing he can do it all and I think his work ethic and attitude's a source of that success."

Earlier this season Kero was with guys like Ryan Hartman and Vinnie Hinostroza. They were all familiar with each other from their Rockford days, and that showed. Playing with two guys you don't know so well? It's a bit of a challenge, and one the three talk out. But ultimately, Kero said you have to rely on your instincts. 

"You go over things before the game and on the bench, get a feel for what you might want to do. But then you just have to play hockey," Kero said. "You have to trust your game, make plays. You know they're going to make plays with the puck so you try to use your speed and get open and try to go to the net, create space for them and a little traffic in front and try to capitalize on opportunities."

Anisimov will be out another 1-2 weeks. Asked if Anisimov has started skating back in Chicago yet, Quenneville said, "I don't think so but I'm not positive. But he's progressing." Filling Anisimov's skates isn't easy, as evidenced by the Blackhawks' search for his temporary replacement. Kero is the third guy to get that shot, and he took advantage of his first showing.

"Obviously it's a great opportunity to play with two great players," Kero said. "You just try to do everything you can and do the little things right."

Briefly

- Marian Hossa and Duncan Keith didn't practice on Tuesday but both are expected to play against the Penguins.

- Corey Crawford gets the start against Pittsburgh.

- Hartman, scratched after a rough game against the Florida Panthers, is probably back in against the Penguins.

Blackhawks sign prospect Matheson Iacopelli to entry-level contract

Blackhawks sign prospect Matheson Iacopelli to entry-level contract

The Blackhawks officially agreed to terms with prospect Matheson Iacopelli on a two-year entry-level contract that begins next season and runs through the 2018-19 campaign.

He will report to the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League.

The 22-year-old forward recently completed his sophomore season at Western Michigan, where he scored a team-high 20 goals and added 16 assists in 40 games. It was a huge bounce-back year after recording only one goal and six assists in 27 games during his freshman season.

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A third-round pick (No. 83 overall) by the Blackhawks in 2014, Iacopelli possesses a dangerous shot and is a big-bodied winger at 6-foot-3, 206 pounds. His two-way game still needs fine-tuning, something he will certainly work on in Rockford, but he gives the IceHogs another much-needed scorer.

Iacopelli is the fourth Blackhawks prospect to sign this season out of college, joining John Hayden, Anthony Louis and Luc Snuggerud.