Oduya's blast caps furious rally by Blackhawks

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Oduya's blast caps furious rally by Blackhawks

Johnny Oduya has had several good games since joining the Chicago Blackhawks at the trade deadline. He had a great one on Friday.

Oduya had a goal and an assist, his first of each in his new uniform, as the Blackhawks came back to beat the New York Rangers 4-3 at the United Center. The Blackhawks, who were down 2-1 with about seven minutes left in regulation, remain in sixth place in the West with 81 points, four behind fifth-place Nashville.

Oduya has definitely brought balance to a Blackhawks defense that needed another veteran presence. Just 62 seconds after Patrick Sharp scored his 26th on a pretty tic-tac-toe play with Marian Hossa and Patrick Kane, Oduyas slapshot put the Blackhawks ahead 3-2.

He was unbelievable tonight, Kane said of Oduya. Forwards love to play with a guy like that who can make those plays and get you the puck with speed. He was great tonight and definitely our best player.

Oduya said on a team like this with such high skill you try to feed as many pucks to the forwards as you can. On the other hand I still try to play good defensively, be responsible and break up plays and use my skating. Hopefully I can jump into some more plays and create more offense.

Oduyas puck moving has been strong. And his move to shake a Rangers defenseman and ensuing shot which was redirected by Andrew Shaw for his seventh this season was what the Blackhawks needed at the time. But coach Joel Quenneville was as happy with Oduya at the other end.

The way he defends is what we appreciate. He kills plays quick in the puck areas and supports the attack, Quenneville said. (All of his games) have been good but that might have been the best.

Still, it took a while to get a few goals against the Rangers. Be it their tight defensive game or stellar goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, the Rangers werent giving up much for a while. Then the Blackhawks caught a few breaks and found a few openings en route to scoring three in the final seven minutes of regulation.

(Hes a) tough goaltender, one of the best in the league. Hes tough to even get chances on; he smothers everything, Kane said of Lundqvist. For us to get a win against him, a tough game like that when youre down 2-1 with that much time left, I think it pumps everyone up and gives us some confidence.

Getting confidence is one thing. Riding the wave of it for a while is another, and with only 13 games left the Blackhawks need to do just that. And they need to take advantage when they get bounces and breaks.

Much like they did Friday night.

Once we get out of trying to make a better play and simplify and put pucks there, hopefully we get a favorable bounce, Quenneville said. And we got a couple (tonight).

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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