Myers: Blackhawks need to play entire 60

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Myers: Blackhawks need to play entire 60

Monday, April 18, 2011Posted: 4:01 p.m.

By Tracey Myers
CSNChicago.com

The first three games of this latest Blackhawks-Canucks playoff series are in the books. Any cobwebs Brent Seabrook may have had in his head after Raffi Torres rammed his shoulder into it sounds like theyre gone.

As mad as the Blackhawks are that Torres escaped suspension, they now have to face another enemy: their own inability to play a complete game, a problem thats plagued them throughout the year. And if they fail to do it again tomorrow they wont get another chance until October.

The Blackhawks are in full backs-against-the-wall, going-for-broke mode entering tomorrow nights potential elimination game against Vancouver. Theres no need to tell them whats at stake especially that half of the group that went all the way last season and would love nothing more than another extended run. Its time for the Blackhawks to empty the tanks and see if they can send the series back to Vancouver.

Theyre a beatable team, Jonathan Toews said. But we havent done that in three games. We havent been able to prove we can be a better team on one single night.

Canucks right wing Jannik Hansen said every team is beatable. And if the Blackhawks are healthy, deep and not suffering from inconsistency all season and within games then this series is closer. But they arent and its not.

The Blackhawks had their best chance to dent Vancouvers armor on Sunday night. The home crowd was with them, the start was strong and the Canucks played what Henrik Sedin called our worst game of the series. But one icky final period later, it was another loss.

I dont know if after the second we think were in a good position and start playing different to force and get another goal or what, Patrick Kane said. If we play like we did in the first period all night we should be successful.

Can the Blackhawks come back from a 3-0 deficit to beat the Canucks? Anything is possible. The Philadelphia Flyers came back from being down 3-0 in the series and even down 3-0 in Game 7 against the Boston Bruins in last springs Eastern Conference Semifinals.

Theres always a chance. But before they get to thinking about a potential seven games, they need a defining and triumphant 60 minutes.

Well see what battle level (we have) and how hard we can compete to keep it going, defenseman Duncan Keith said. We worked hard all season long and were facing an important game and our season could be over. That says it all right there.

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

Blackhawks improve faceoffs in Jonathan Toews’ absence

Blackhawks improve faceoffs in Jonathan Toews’ absence

Yanic Perreault came onto the ice as the Blackhawks wrapped up practice on Thursday.

It’s been a relatively common sight the last few seasons. Most of the time, Perreault has helped out when a particular player is struggling from the faceoff dot. That was true with Artem Anisimov earlier this season. But with Jonathan Toews sidelined the Blackhawks have been even more focused on improving upon and winning faceoffs. Thanks to the extra diligence, they’ve done that.

The Blackhawks’ overall faceoff performance has steadily improved. They’ll see how it goes again on Friday night when they face the New York Rangers, their eighth consecutive game without Toews.

“We’re working almost every practice and trying to get better on faceoffs,” Anisimov said on Thursday. “If we win the faceoff, we start with the puck and it’s pretty good. You can go to the offensive zone or win in the offensive zone you start with the puck and you have the opportunity to shoot the puck all day and get chances. It’s a big part of the game.”

Enter Perreault, who was a great faceoff man during his NHL career. The Blackhawks players say Perreault offers a wealth of information in each session.

“It’s different every day. The whole science behind it, he’s been great since he was brought in,” Marcus Kruger said. “He always has something new he wants us to work on, whether it’s just timing or body-positioning or something like that. It’s a lot of different stuff and we work on new stuff every day.”

Rasmussen agreed.

“It’s a lot of things you can work on,” he said. “You try to work on being in a low position so you get stronger. [There are] a lot of small things on how you can go against other guys that do it certain way, and you have to find your own way, too.”

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Their first game without Toews, against the Anaheim Ducks, was dismal. Part of that is the Ducks having some tremendous face-off guys. But Toews is the Blackhawks’ best at the dot – he’s won 60.3 percent of the time this season – so that first game without him was rough.

Here’s how things have progressed for the Blackhawks, with faceoffs won and lost and percentage, in Toews’ absence.

Opponent Wins-Losses Percent
Ducks 18-49 27 percent
Kings 21-37 36 percent
Panthers 39-35 53 percent
Devils 22-27 45 percent
Flyers 22-31 42 percent
Jets 31-27 53 percent
Coyotes 30-28 52 percent

So yes, there’s been improvement.

“I think we hold our own,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “Yan works well with our center men, they take pride in trying to be the best they can and now they’re taking some important faceoffs and some they probably haven’t taken in the past, whether they’re defensive or special-teams faceoffs. They’ve all won some important faceoffs for us at key times, too.”

The Blackhawks have done their best filling the void left by Toews, especially on faceoffs. There’s been a lot of work put into it, especially with Perreault following practices. But the results have been there.

“We know we’d like to start with the puck, and we had a couple of tough games when Jonny went down initially,” Quenneville said. “But it’s been much better since.”

Jonathan Toews, Brent Seabrook out vs. Rangers

Jonathan Toews, Brent Seabrook out vs. Rangers

Brent Seabrook is out and Jonathan Toews will miss his eighth consecutive game when the Blackhawks host the New York Rangers on Friday night.

Seabrook suffered an upper-body injury in the second period of the Blackhawks’ 4-0 victory over the Arizona Coyotes on Tuesday night. The defenseman fell awkwardly along the boards and was down for a few moments. Coach Joel Quenneville said Seabrook is day-to-day. Quenneville added he’ll decide tomorrow who takes Seabrook’s place in the lineup.

“Seabs has played really well for us on the back end this year and we’ll definitely miss his contributions,” Quenneville said. “We’re looking for someone to step in.”

Toews is feeling better and could skate on Friday. Quenneville would not rule out the possibility of Toews returning Sunday against the Dallas Stars.

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Duncan Keith did not practice on Thursday but he’s expected to play vs. the Rangers. Scott Darling will start.

Quenneville said Corey Crawford, who had an appendectomy on Saturday, is “status quo.”

Meanwhile, Nick Schmaltz, who was assigned to Rockford over the weekend, scored two goals in the IceHogs’ 3-2 loss to the San Antonio Rampage.

“I talked to Norm (Maciver, Blackhawks assistant general manager) about his game, they were extremely happy with how he played,” Quenneville said of Schmaltz. “He scored twice and there could’ve been more.”