Hawks inch one step closer to a playoff berth

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Hawks inch one step closer to a playoff berth

Friday, April 8, 2011
Posted: 9:06 p.m. Updated: 11:55 p.m.

By Tracey Myers
CSNChicago.com

DETROIT The Blackhawks dressing room was quiet before Friday nights game against the Red Wings. Defenseman Brian Campbell said that could have had two very different meanings.

Either A: Youre not ready or, B: We knew what was at stake and we knew what we needed to do, he said. Im glad it was option No. 2.

Campbell scored the game-winner and the Blackhawks stormed out to a 3-0 first-period lead en route to a 4-2 victory over the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena. The Blackhawks finished the night in eighth place; the Anaheim Ducks, a 2-1 winner over the Los Angeles Kings, remained in seventh.

The Blackhawks also kept their two-point lead over the Dallas Stars, who beat the Avalanche in Colorado, 3-2.

Ben Smith scored his first NHL goal as part of that productive first period that began with Brent Seabrooks goal 27 seconds into the game.

Watch: Quenneville on the team's sense of urgency

It was a huge start and scoring first shift certainly helped, coach Joel Quenneville said. The guys had good energy in the morning skate. It was an important game and you could sense it was a different approach. You could see the urgency was in the guys faces. The first shift exemplified that and we took off from there.

It was the start the Blackhawks needed and they kept up that style of play throughout. They won puck battles and constantly pressured the Wings. They were also aggressive in stymieing Detroits scoring chances, blocking 21 shots.

We were prepared and ready to go, said Corey Crawford, who stopped 26 of 28 for his 33rd victory this season. That was one of our best starts in a while. We came out with a little offense and had them on their heels a little bit. That was great for us to get that.

The Wings, meanwhile, were uncharacteristically off. Defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom said the Wings have had the same issue a few times this season.

Too inconsistent, I think thats our biggest problem, he said. Weve showed up and played well in certain games and in other games we havent played as well or with that desperation you have to play with as you get close to the playoffs. Thats the bottom line, that we as a team have to play better whether were facing a team thats desperate or a team thats not in the playoffs.

Marian Hossa added a power-play breakaway in the second period for the Blackhawks, who are now 4-1-0 against the Wings this season.

Watch: Toews says the team is showing how much they want it

Whether you get that lead or not you have to keep going, said Jonathan Toews. Sometimes its dangerous to have a lead like that early in a game. Its easy to think theyre going to throw in the towel but theyre not that type of team. We did a good job of just staying with it and just finished off a solid 60 minutes.

The Blackhawks will need another 60-minute effort on Sunday. The Stars are still on their tail, the Blackhawks are still jockeying for position, as are the Wings.
Watch: Sharp says it's a desperate situation

In other words, they better stick to Plan B.

We need to get on a roll and play a good game Sunday, Campbell said. Dallas is going to take care of business anyway. Thats my feeling on it. So well be ready to go.

Breaking Through

The Chicago Blackhawks rookie, playing in his second consecutive game, had the puck on his stick and only Detroit goaltender Jimmy Howard to beat. But calmly and quickly Smith won that one on one.

Smith scored his first NHL goal and was part of a strong line with Kane and Michael Frolik in the Blackhawks 4-2 victory over Detroit on Friday. For Smith, its just about seizing an opportunity, be it in this call-up or on a scoring chance.

Kane made a great play poking that puck to me. Any time you get the puck and get some time in the slot, you just try to get it off fast. I was able to do that, Smith said. The first couple of shifts there we were buzzing a bit, we had a little chemistry there. Hopefully it builds.

Kane had two assists and Frolik had another as part of that line. Coach Joel Quenneville liked what he saw with that trio.

That line has been pretty special the couple games theyve been together as far as seeing plays, play recognition and defensively, he said. Kaner made a great poke on (that goal), Smith made a nice finish. They were dangerous all night. Theyre three guys who have good sense offensively and defensively, and in the short amount of time theres already a little chemistry there.
Bolland, Brouwer updates

Dave Bolland, who has been sidelined with a concussion for nearly a month, skated in Chicago on Friday morning. It was a good sign for Bolland, who suffered his concussion when Tampa Bay defenseman Pavel Kubina elbowed him in the head on March 9.

Hes doing better, really progressing there. The fact hes on the ice means hes turning the corner, said Quenneville, who was hopeful Bolland could be ready for the postseason. Certainly the fact hes on the ice gives you signs it could happen. Where there wasnt a lot of hope a while ago thats changed. Anything can happen, but we like the fact that hes improving.

Troy Brouwer, whos day to day with a right-shoulder injury suffered against Montreal on Tuesday, may also be close.

I like his progress, Quenneville said. Right now hes just day to day, but hopefully well see him on the ice soon.

Kruger scratched
Marcus Kruger was scratched for the second consecutive game on Friday night. Kruger came here from Sweden and made his Blackhawks debut against the Florida Panthers on March 23.

I really liked the way he played the first couple of games, Quenneville said. Whether its pace, strength, understanding how we have to play or different ice surfaces, hell grasp that as we go along here. Hes still going to be useful and I still like what he does.
Briefly

Tomas Kopecky left after taking a Viktor Stalberg shot to his left ear with 8:26 remaining in regulation. Quenneville said afterward he was fine.

Crawford got a secondary assist on Hossas goal, his first career NHL point.

Watch: Crawford jokes about his assist

Ryan Johnson played in his 700th career NHL game on Friday.

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

Will lopsided loss shake Blackhawks from their slumber?

Will lopsided loss shake Blackhawks from their slumber?

The Blackhawks have talked the past several games now about how they need to play better, how they need to get back to their 60-minute game. But even when you tell yourself you have to improve the message doesn't always translate into immediate action. That's especially true if, despite so-so play, you're still managing victories or still eking out a point.

Sometimes, you need a jolt to realize you have to get better. Well, that thud the Blackhawks made in South Florida ought to get their attention. 

The Blackhawks' 7-0 loss to the Florida Panthers on Saturday night, that "ugly, ugly game," as coach Joel Quenneville, is the latest in what's been a mediocre stretch for the team. They've been leaning on their goaltending again (please see Minnesota, Montreal, Ottawa and Dallas games). Or they've been leaning on their ability to wake up in the third period after sleepwalking through the first two. Sixty-minute games and four-line rotations, such a big part of the Blackhawks' success through February and early March, have been absent.

Call it the Blackhawks' mid-March malaise.

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It hasn't been more painful because the Blackhawks have still found ways to get points. Or at least they did until Saturday night, when two "yapping" penalties – Quenneville's (accurate) description of Ryan Hartman and Marcus Kruger's unsportsmanlike calls – started the Blackhawks' demise against the Panthers. Players told the traveling media following the game that this was a wake-up call. It ought to be.

Granted, the Blackhawks' late-season issues aren't as bad as some of their fellow Western Conference teams. The Minnesota Wild are 3-10-1 in March. The San Jose Sharks have lost six in a row. This also isn't the first time the Blackhawks have gone through this late-season mediocrity.

Entering the 2015 postseason they struggled to score goals and lost four in a row (five goals in those four games). It turned out alright. Still, best to avoid bad habits.

Perhaps the Blackhawks are in a bit of a swoon because, really, there's not much for which to play in these final few games. They don't care if they win the Presidents' Trophy (and they probably won't). They're currently in first place by seven points following the Wild's 3-2 overtime loss to Detroit on Sunday. Whether the Blackhawks finish first or second, they'll start this postseason at home. 

So is this panic-inducing? No. Is it a concern? Certainly. The Blackhawks can't start thinking they'll automatically flip the switch as soon as the postseason begins.

The Blackhawks want to get their four-line rotation going again. Artem Anisimov returning in the next week or two will certainly help that. They want to get their overall game going again. The Blackhawks have been telling themselves what needs to be done for a few games now. Maybe they needed a wake-up call. On Saturday, they got it. 

Fast Break Morning Update: Blackhawks give up season-high seven goals

Fast Break Morning Update: Blackhawks give up season-high seven goals

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