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.

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.”