Niemi, Sharks get the best of Blackhawks again

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Niemi, Sharks get the best of Blackhawks again

Thursday, Dec. 30, 2010
10:00 PM

By Tracey Myers
CSNChicago.com

When the Chicago Blackhawks have won lately, theyve been disciplined. Theyve stayed out of the penalty box, staying calm and staying away from costly penalties and draining kills.

But on Thursday, they got away from that disciplined game and it cost them.

Joe Thornton scored the game-winner a few seconds after the Blackhawks killed off their final Sharks power play of the night and Antti Niemi collected his third victory against his former team in the Blackhawks 5-3 loss to San Jose on Thursday night.

The Blackhawks were called for six penalties against San Jose, which had the leagues sixth-best power play fifth-best on the road entering Thursdays game. San Jose scored two power-play goals and added Thorntons not long after another advantage in the third.

The effort was there, but I dont think sometimes the smarts were there, defenseman Brian Campbell said. Against St. Louis, we had a ton of penalties, before that when we won four games in a row, we took either (no penalties), one or two in every game. Especially against a team like San Jose, youre killing off that many penalties you get out of sync.

Coach Joel Quenneville was unhappy with the lack of discipline and some of the calls.

Ill disagree 100 percent with two calls tonight that I dont even know where they came from. One (on Brent Seabrook) put us down 5 on 3 and the other (on Jassen Cullimore) led to the winning goal, said Quenneville, who was also frustrated with how the Blackhawks gave up some of those goals.

We almost got through that 5 on 3, which wouldve been nice. But that open-side play those plays, empty netters are plays we have to defend against and be in proper position, Quenneville said of the Sharks first power-play goal by Benn Ferriero. Our PK has struggled this year, but those tap-in goals are something weve got to get out of our repertoire.

Marty Turco, who stopped 40 against St. Louis on Tuesday, allowed four goals on just 20 shots against San Jose.

I couldve made a couple more saves, couldve been the difference, Turco said. I certainly dont make excuses for myself.

But despite the errors, the Blackhawks battled back. Troy Brouwer scored a power-play goal with 22.9 seconds remaining in the second period and Campbell came through with just a half second left in the period to tie the score 3-3.

That was a big lift going into the third, Seabrook said. We thought we got some energy from the second period.

The Sharks, however, got over it quick.

There were a few F-bombs for about a minute and then we kind of calmed the dressing room down shortly after, said Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle. We just said, Hey, weve still got a chance to win the game. It took about a minute but it did calm down after that.

The Blackhawks were finding success with good, clean hockey. The last two games, theyve had anything but.

We were taking too many penalties and its tough to get back into it sometimes, Campbell said. I still felt the puck battles were pretty strong tonight. But its unacceptable to not do everything right every night.

Foley, Olczyk extended

The Blackhawks re-signed broadcasting tandem Pat Foley and Eddie Olczyk to three-year extensions on Thursday. The deals will keep play-by-play broadcaster Foley and television analyst Olczyk through the 2013-14 season.

Foley has been with the Blackhawks for 28 seasons, calling games for the team from 1981-2006 before returning to the booth to start the 2008-09 season.

Olczyk played 16 seasons in the NHL, including five with the Blackhawks. Hes been a TV analyst for the Blackhawks over the past five seasons.

Mothers days

The Blackhawks will have their moms on their latest road trip when they head to Los Angeles on New Years Day. It will be the first time the Blackhawks have had such a trip. Players figure manners will definitely be in order.

Im sure guys will be on best behavior, defenseman Brent Seabrook said. A lot of please and thank you.

Quennevilles mother will also be attending.

The enthusiasm just from my own mother coming on this trip, usually shes excited for Christmas but shes excited about the moms trip, Quenneville said Thursday morning. Everyones excited. The dads trip was great, a lot of fun.

Niemis return

Niemi stopped 26 of 29 for his third victory vs. the Blackhawks and first back at the United Center. Niemi said it was different coming back.

It was a funny feeling, he said. Today was even more exciting. Getting to morning practice and seeing the Blackhawks trainers was great and made it feel like a little more than just one game.

Briefly

Jack Skille was a healthy scratch against the Sharks on Thursday. Of that, Quenneville said, we had some tough decisions. Jordan (Hendrys) played well up front and we were looking for consistency.

Fernando Pisani was out due to illness.

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 look to bounce back vs. Lightning tonight on CSN

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks look to bounce back vs. Lightning tonight on CSN

Watch as the Blackhawks take on the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com. Coverage begins at 6 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. How will Blackhawks respond to worst loss of season?

The Blackhawks suffered their worst loss of the season on Saturday in a 7-0 rout at the hands of the Panthers. It was the first time they've lost by at least seven goals since 2011 when Edmonton beat them 9-2 and the first time they lost 7-0 since 2001 against San Jose; the Blackhawks lost to Washington 6-0 earlier this year. But by no means was Saturday their worst effort of the season. A questionable interference penalty by Marcus Kruger led to a two-man advantage, which Florida cashed in on with a goal and another shortly after, and it opened up the floodgates. Expect a big bounce-back against a hungry Lightning team.

2. Lightning fighting for playoff lives.

Every game is a must-win for the Lightning with eight games remaining on their schedule. They're three points out of the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference with a game in hand on the Bruins, who currently occupy that spot, but still have to jump the Islanders. The Lightning didn't do themselves any favors by losing three straight in regulation last week, but they've won two in a row and tonight will be the first of a four-game homestand for them.

3. Keep the puck off Nikita Kucherov's stick.

There isn't a hotter player in the NHL right now than Kucherov, who has seven goals and two assists in his last four games. He's had two hat tricks in the past month, and he ranks sixth in the league with 78 points and second in goals with 38. You know how lethal Artemi Panarin's slapshot is from the left faceoff circle? That's Kucherov, but on the right side.

4. Staying disciplined.

The Blackhawks are the second-least penalized team in the league, but they acted out of character Saturday by racking up 30 penalty minutes. They were also slapped with a pair of unsportsmanlike penalties, which isn't something you normally see from Joel Quenneville's teams. Ryan Hartman, who along with Marcus Kruger was penalized for "yapping" at the officials, accepted responsibility for it after the game, and insisted it "won't happen again."

5. Special teams to play key factor?

On the flip side, the Lightning are the second-most penalized team, averaging just over 11 penalty minutes per game. Power plays will be key for the Blackhawks in an effort to keep Tampa Bay's collection of talented young goal scorers off the ice. The Lightning also boast a top-five power play unit with a 22 percent success rate. Both teams would be better served staying out of the box and making this a 5-on-5 battle.

- Check out the latest stats and standings to make sure you’re ready for action

- Channel Finder: Make sure you know where to watch

- NBC Sports App FAQ: All your questions answered

- Latest on the Blackhawks: All of the most recent news and notes

- See what Blackhawks fans are talking about before, during and after the game with Blackhawks Pulse

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.