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.

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks square off with Stars tonight on CSN

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks square off with Stars tonight on CSN

Watch as the Blackhawks take on the Dallas Stars tonight on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com. Coverage begins at 5:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live. Then stick around after the final buzzer to watch Blackhawks Postgame Live for highlights and analysis.

Click here to watch the game or download the NBC Sports App, your home for live streaming coverage of the Blackhawks.

Five Things to Watch:

1. Scott Darling's regulation shutout streak.

Darling had two shutouts in his first 44 starts of his NHL career, and nearly matched that total in back-to-back games after he pitched a 22-save shutout over the Arizona Coyotes on Tuesday and stopped 36 straight shots before allowing the 37th one to get by in a 1-0 overtime loss to the New York Rangers on Friday. While his shutout streak came to an end, he still hasn't allowed a regulation goal in 124:45 minutes. The Lemont native has been terrific in Corey Crawford's absence and will look to continue that against a divisional opponent tonight.

2. Shoot from everywhere.

The Stars have allowed the most goals of any team (93) this season, giving up 3.21 goals per game. They allowed 2.78 goals per game last year, which was the highest among all 16 playoff teams. Their defense has gotten worse, and their offense has dipped to 18th at 2.55 goals per game after finishing No. 1 in that category a year ago at 3.23. Shoot from any angle and it may find a way to sneak in.

3. Redemption on the power play.

In the first two meetings, which resulted in Chicago wins, the Blackhawks had 10 power-play opportunities but cashed in on only one of those. The Stars are coming off a game where they allowed three goals on the man advantage in a 4-2 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers yesterday and have a penalty kill percentage that ranks fourth-worst at 76.7. They've also given up at least a power-play goal in seven of their last 10 games. It's a vulnerable area for them right now — and has been all year — so it's important the Blackhawks keep pressing.

4. Questionable statuses for several Stars.

After missing 23 games with an undisclosed illness, Jiri Hudler was activated off injured reserve on Friday but did not play in yesterday's game against the Flyers despite coach Lindy Ruff saying he was available. He could draw back into the lineup tonight, although it's not certain. Same with Johnny Oduya, who has been sidelined for the last three weeks with a lower-body injury. Jamie Oleksiak will also have a hearing today for an illegal check to the head on a Flyers forward yesterday, making his status for tonight questionable. Former Blackhawks winger Patrick Sharp, who missed the first two games against his former team with a concussion, is experiencing those symptoms again and remains out of the lineup.

5. Take a lead into the third.

The Blackhawks are 11-0-0 when leading after two periods this season, and are one of just five teams to have a perfect winning percentage in that category. The Stars, on the other hand, are one of five teams that have yet to pick up a win when trailing after two. They're 0-10-2 in that department. Taking advantage of the Stars on the second of a back-to-back early could make putting them away easier if the Blackhawks head into the final frame with a lead.

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Bill Dineen, father of Blackhawks assistant coach Kevin Dineen, passes away

Bill Dineen, father of Blackhawks assistant coach Kevin Dineen, passes away

Bill Dineen, former AHL and NHL coach and father of Blackhawks assistant coach Kevin Dineen, passed away on Saturday morning. He was 84.

Kevin Dineen was not at the Blackhawks’ practice on Saturday. Coach Joel Quenneville called Bill Dineen “a tremendous man.”

“Everyone who had the privilege to meet Bill and be around him loved the guy. He was probably one of the most liked people you’d ever want to meet. Great family man; the kids are just like the dad,” Quenneville said following Saturday’s practice. “We had a good time with him on the dad’s trip last time. Seeing him at that stage and being around hockey again, it was fun to be there.”

Bill Dineen played for the Blackhawks and the Detroit Red Wings. He later was a head coach, mostly in the AHL. He was named the AHL’s outstanding coach twice and led the Adirondack Red Wings to the Calder Cup in 1986 and 1989. He also had an NHL coaching stint with the Philadelphia Flyers from 1992 to 1993, during which he coached Kevin.

AHL president David Andrews released a statement regarding Dineen’s passing.

“During his time as a player and coach, and in the values he instilled in his family, Bill Dineen created a legacy of greatness in the American Hockey League that still resonates today. Our deepest condolences go out to the entire Dineen family at this time.”