The So-Cal Blackhawks Connection

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The So-Cal Blackhawks Connection

With Calgary in town to face the Blackhawks Sunday night, the Flames former Head Coach and General Manager is reportedly dotting Is and crossing Ts to take over behind the Los Angeles Kings bench for the fired Terry Murray and Interim Head Coach John Stevens. Darryl Sutters wrapping up the business of getting back to the NHL after being fired as Flames GM about a year ago. That means the crosstown southern California rivals will be coached by former Blackhawks teammates, thanks to an earlier coaching call by a third member of the 1985-86 Hawks.

A few weeks back, Anaheim GM Bob Murray pulled the plug on coach Randy Carlyle about as reluctantly as Kings GM Dean Lombardi was forced to with Terry Murray last week. Bob Murray a co-captain on that Hawks squad with Sutter 26 years ago brought in Bruce Boudreau just two days after he was fired by Washington. Boudreaus seven-game Blackhawks career took place that same season. Those two are reunited in the difficult task of trying to resuscitate the Ducks to the level they played in the second half of last season.

Sutter, meanwhile, is a curious move. If theres anyone whos not L.A., its Darryl. Or any of the Sutter brothers, for that matter. Yes, he has long and strong relationship with Lombardi, but his reputation as a task-master, the fact he hasnt coached in five years, and his defense first philosophy make me wonder if this will be a good fit. Defense hasnt been the Kings problem (with the NHLs 5th-best goals-against average entering Saturday night), its their league-worst offense.

Meanwhile, another former Blackhawk was involved in the leagues sixth head coaching change this season on Saturday. Randy Cunneyworth who played briefly for the Hawks 18 years ago takes over for the rest of the season in Montreal after the firing of Jacques Martin. Cunneyworth was an assistant under Martin, but only speaks English. The last Canadiens head coach who didnt speak French as well was Al McNeil back in 1970, before Scotty Bowman took over and won the Stanley Cup the next season. Good luck with the media and fans there, Randy. The Habs visit the United Center to face the Blackhawks Wednesday.

One other note: During a casual get-together with reporters Friday morning before his teams game with the Hawks, Boudreau was asked about his memories of that brief stint here as a player. He said the organization treated him well, but he wished it lasted longer than seven games. Pully (Coach Bob Pulford) never put me in, he laughed.

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

Here are some of Saturday's top stories in Chicago sports:

Five Things to Watch: Bulls visit Bucks in final regular season meeting on CSN

Jonathan Marchessault's hat trick leads Panthers rout of Blackhawks

Javier Baez won’t change his style around Cubs after World Baseball Classic: ‘We’re not showing anybody up’

White Sox: Carlos Rodon feels reassured after clean MRI

Marian Hossa named Blackhawks' nominee for 2017 Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy

Brett Anderson’s personality mixing well with Cubs: ‘I don’t hate anybody yet’

Former Bulls center Joakim Noah suspended 20 games for violating NBA's anti-drug policy

Rule 5 pick Dylan Covey takes advantage of showcase as White Sox down Indians

Joe Maddon breaks down the Matt Szczur vs. Tommy La Stella decision for Cubs

2017 NFL Draft Profile: Illinois OLB Dawuane Smoot