Hawk Talk: Stars-stuck

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Hawk Talk: Stars-stuck

Saturday, April 16, 2011
Posted: 8:13 p.m.

By Chris Boden
CSNChicago.com

The last time and only time the nucleus of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Brian Campbell and Niklas Hjalmarsson fell into a 2-0 series hole, Marian Hossa was helping the other side.

It was the Western Conference Final two years ago against Detroit. The Hawks came back to win Game 3 at home, then lose in five.

The last time the scoring core of Toews, Kane, Sharp and Hossa came under such post-season scrutiny as a group was about the same time last year. Through three games of the Nashville series, Kane had two goals and an assist, while the other three had combined for four assists. They responded by collecting 22 points together in winning the final three games to punch their ticket to Round Two versus Vancouver.

Regardless of how much gas is left in their tank after carrying the team just long enough to make it to the playoffs, theyll be looked upon now to fight back in this series against a Canucks team many compare to the 2010 Stanley Cup champions. Kanes secondary assist on Ben Smiths second goal Friday night is the only point among the quartet so far.

I cant speak for those guys (Toews, Kane and Hossa), but the only pressure I feel is the pressure I put on myself. That kind of stuff happens in playoff series. Weve been through that before, said Sharp, upon arriving with the team at OHare Saturday afternoon. I turned on the TV after Game 1 and the Vancouver media was talking about how (league scoring champ) Daniel Sedin was shut out. The more important thing to me is finding a way to get some wins.

We exited Vancouver playing two games where maybe we couldve gotten something out of it, but we were nowhere near good enough to be effective, said head coach Joel Quenneville. We expect our top players to all be better, and that probably goes across the board for our entire team. But certainly we need more from those guys, be it offensive zone time, puck possession time, quality scoring chances.

"Our power play has been an area where they can get some positive puck possession and confidence with the puck. But that group provides an area where we have to be improved, and I think that starts with the power play generating some momentum. We havent been very productive in that area, and thats where it can start," Quenneville continued.

No kidding.

The power play that finished the regular season ranked fourth in the NHL is in a 1-for-26 drought the last nine games, and is 1-for-25 against Vancouver this season. Blackhawks ambassador and former head coach Denis Savard said on our Blackhawks Pregame and Postgame Live that the Canucks third-ranked penalty-kill is among the most aggressive in the league, especially up top, cutting down passing lanes, and providing their own short-handed chances. The Hawks have had a first-hand look at that through the first two games.

Opportunity presents itself to be aggressive, explained Sharp, pointing the finger back at their own power play struggles. They certainly like to challenge defensemen up-ice and buzz in the (neutral) zone, but its nothing we cant handle.

Technically, the must-win game isnt the one until the other team is one win away from advancing. In front of what will be an amped-up United Center crowd looking for reasons to derisively chant the opposing goalies last name, center Ryan Johnson thinks the Hawks will need to make sure intelligence, execution, and energy are in synch to get back in the series.

Just because weve come home, the focus cant just be, Hey, we wanna run around, create hits and get the crowd going. Thats the way you get in trouble against a team like this that moves the puck the way they do. Were going to have to do the right things in order to establish a physical game.

Thats something Johnsons ex-team has already established through the first two games: hard, clean hits that can wear a team down over the course of a game and a series. Its something that his team needs to develop against the Sedins and other top Vancouver weapons.

The question is whether they have the right or enough players to do that, defend their own zone, stay out of the penalty box and still create the offense thats been lacking. Thats a pretty long to-do list when youre already down 2-0.

Its that investment that you make early in a series that may not pan out that game, but come Games 5 or 6, as the series goes on, you wear guys down and get guys thinking about it every time they go back and get the puck, or make a play along the wall.

Besides whos scoring and whos not, its another reason why the Presidents Trophy winners need to win just two out of five now, and the defending Cup winners need four out of five.

On the Health Front

(Tomas Kopeckys) progressing. Well see how he is in the morning. Bryan Bickells still getting assessed. Well have a better idea at the morning skate. (Dave Bolland) is 'doubtful'.

Kopecky sat out Game 2 after suffering an upper-body injury early in the series opener. Bickell appeared to have suffered a laceration to the wrist or forearm area from Sami Salos skate in Fridays third period. Bolland would be missing a 17th consecutive game due to a concussion.

Chris Boden is the host of Blackhawks Pre and Postgame Live on Comcast SportsNet.

Ryan Hartman defends teammate, but fight proves to be turning point in Blackhawks loss to Oilers

Ryan Hartman defends teammate, but fight proves to be turning point in Blackhawks loss to Oilers

The NHL implemented the bye week for the first time this season in an effort to give teams a five-day break before the stretch run of the regular season.

Entering Saturday's game, teams were 3-10-3 coming out of those games with many of those losses coming in convincing fashion.

Despite a 3-1 loss to the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday night, the Blackhawks weren't one of those teams. They appeared to be reenergized more than rusty, and it showed in the opening 20 minutes of the game when they fired off 30 shot attempts (12 on goal) compared to the Oilers' 10 (four on goal).

But early in the second period, momentum shifted after Ryan Hartman came to the defense of teammate Tanner Kero, who was leveled by Oilers defenseman Eric Gryba in the neutral zone.

Hartman skated over to Gryba and dropped the gloves near the goal line, afterwards getting tagged with a two-minute penalty for instigating, five minutes for fighting and another 10 for a misconduct.

"It's kind of a no-brainer for me," Hartman said of sticking up for Kero. "I tried waiting long enough so it wasn't an instigator but it's kind of a judgment call I guess, some refs call it different ways. Unfortunately it ended up in a power play for them, but it's something you've got to do."

Hartman said he and the official had a discussion about the instigator penalty for clarity, which was handed to him due to the distance traveled after the hit.

Hartman said after the game that he respects the decision, but teammates and coaches didn't necessarily agree with the call.

"Thought they both had an agreement," Jonathan Toews said of the fight. "It looked like they were both going to go at it. Don’t think Hartsy jumped him by any means. But I guess just because there’s a previous hit immediately before that, then he got the instigator there."

Said Joel Quenneville: "I don't necessarily know that he was going to start the fight. I think he went over there to talk to the guy, so you lose Hartsy there."

And it proved to be the turning point.

Less than two minutes later, the Oilers capitalized on the power play after Matt Benning's shot ricocheted off Blackhawks defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk's skate and into the net, putting Edmonton out in front first.

They wouldn't look back, hanging on to beat the Blackhawks 3-1, and getting revenge on a team that beat them last week 5-1 in their first game out of the bye.

While it may not have been an opportune time to do it, the Blackhawks appreciate Hartman's game and know more times than not, his energy will result in a positive outcome.

"We haven’t seen a lot of fights this year so, no matter what, it always gets us going, especially in our own building," Toews said. "I think the fans love that sort of thing, too, and Hartsy’s been going after guys who are a lot bigger than him this year. We love that fearless play and definitely helps our guys feed off it."

"Hartsy's a competitive guy," Quenneville said. "We like him to have that a little bit of abrasiveness and unpredictably so there's nothing wrong with that. We like the way he competes and what he brings us."

Power play goes quiet: Quick hits from Blackhawks-Oilers

Power play goes quiet: Quick hits from Blackhawks-Oilers

OK, another team lost coming off the bye, the Blackhawks taking a 3-1 defeat to the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday night. But this wasn’t a bad-off-the-bye loss. Not even close.

The overall numbers of how teams are faring out of these bye weeks won’t improve. Tampa Bay lost coming out of its bye week, too. But you wonder about the individual cases, especially when the Blackhawks did so much right and came away with nothing.

Anyway, onto the notables.

What Worked: Most of the Blackhawks’ game. Coming off that long break you wondered how long it was going to take the Blackhawks to get their legs going. Not long at all. They challenged Cam Talbot throughout the game. They had momentum through most of it. They finally got a late third-period goal. They just couldn’t get another one. Coach Joel Quenneville thought the shot selection near the net could’ve been better, and it probably could have. But the Blackhawks wanted a 60-minute effort and got it.

What Didn’t Work: The power play. The Blackhawks were getting on a roll on the road in this department, going 6-for-12 on the advantage in their last five games. But on Saturday it was quiet. They had two power-play opportunities in the first period when they were dominating the Oilers. Nada. Same went for a third-period chance, when they were trailing 1-0. The Blackhawks were starting to gain steam on the power play on the road. It fizzled in this one.

Star of the game: Cam Talbot. The Oilers goaltender didn’t have a great game when these two met last Saturday but he made up for it in this one. Talbot was sharp from the start, stopping 38 of 39 shots, and what rebounds he did give up his teammates cleaned up for him.

He Said It: “I know we have so many games left to narrow that gap. We have them coming up this week. They’re ahead right now. It’s a good hockey team and they’re playing extremely well. We’d like to give them something to think about but coming off a great run off the road and let’s go back out there and try to get it going again.” Coach Joel Quenneville on still trying to catch the Minnesota Wild, who they’ll play on Tuesday.

By the Numbers:

900 – Career regular-season games for Brent Seabrook. The defenseman also had four of the Blackhawks’ 22 hits against the Oilers.

600 – Career points for Jonathan Toews, who recorded the primary assist on Richard Panik’s third-period goal. It was Toews’ 25th assist of the season.

26 – Blocked shots for the Edmonton Oilers. Andrej Sekera had six of them.

19 – Faceoffs won, to five lost, for Toews against the Oilers.