The Blackhawks were back on the ice for about a half hour on Saturday, a practice planned as a result of not getting the right result the night before against the Anaheim Ducks.
“It was one of those days, we were going to measure whether or not we skated based on last night’s game,” said coach Joel Quenneville, whose Blackhawks suffered a third defeat to Anaheim on Friday. “So for 20-25 minutes, let’s go, let’s get some pace. We want pace to our team game.”
Pace was high during the Blackhawks’ consistent first-half start. So was consistency through the lines and lack of mistakes. In their last few games the pace has been hit and miss, the line rolling hasn’t been the same -- thank injuries for that-- and the mistakes have been more prevalent. Now the Blackhawks are working to get simple and consistent again, starting against the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday afternoon.
The Blackhawks have leveled off after that insane start but they’re sitting atop the Western Conference standings, the Ducks just three points behind them. Still, they want to be at their best as much as possible, and want to get rid of those costly mistakes.
“We definitely want to get back on track to how we were playing during the streak and even on the road recently,” said Corey Crawford, who will start against the Wings tomorrow. “Our last road trip we were on our game. The last couple games at home -- especially against, L.A., I didn’t have my best game -- there were little breakdowns here and there.”
A game against one of their long-standing rivals could be motivation enough to get back on track. The Blackhawks and Wings played another classic in their first meeting in early March, with the Blackhawks winning in a shootout; repeating that game wouldn’t be a bad idea.
“You look at the games the first half of the season, that was one of the games that stood out in terms of pace and intensity, the excitement and a huge two points at the end,” Quenneville said. “We know the importance of the games and how close teams are bunched up in our conference. We’re disappointed with the result last night. Let’s get back on the other side of it.”
The Blackhawks need to tap into the workmanlike mentality that led to so much success earlier.
“We have to skate and support he puck all over the ice,” Shaw said. “When all four lines are going, that’s when we play our best. We have to commit to the systems and we’ll be fine. We have to get back to the simple things, what we did early in the year. If we do that this last stretch, we’ll be fine.”
The Blackhawks are hardly in panic mode. If they were, they’d be putting Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp in bubble wrap and sending them back on the ice. They’ve slipped a little, but have maintained No. 1 in the West. It’s about consistent play, and the Blackhawks want to get that back now.
“This is a great team. We’re competitive,” Crawford said. “It’s pretty hard to play a full season playing your best all year, every game. Obviously you try to do that, but here and there, there are going to be letdowns. The thing is you have to try and get back to your game as quick as possible.”