Feb 22, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane (88) leads left wing Bryan Bickell (29) over the blue line during the first period against the Boston Bruins at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
Could things get any worse than this? The Chicago Blackhawks have just had two embarrassing losses in a row, being defeated 4-1 to the Colorado Avalanche on Friday, and 6-2 to the Boston Bruins on Sunday. The Colorado game looked bad, but it was a walk in the park compared to the tilt against the Bruins. Can we find anything positive? Here are my 5 takeaways from this weekend’s games.
5. The Kaner “Slump”. Ok, here’s something positive. Patrick Kane hadn’t been held for 3 games in a row without a point until Friday night against the Colorado Avalanche, when he was again held off the score sheet. It wasn’t for lack of trying; he played a team high 21:29 minutes (yes, even more than Duncan Keith’s 21:22 minutes), and also had the team high 6 shots on goal.
This “slump” ended on Sunday, when Kaner assisted on one of the only 2 goals of the contest against the Boston Bruins. It was by far the high point of the game for the Hawks. Goaltender Tuukka Rask took a penalty when he came out of his crease and handled the puck in a restricted area. On the ensuing power play, Duncan Keith passed to Kane, who then fed it to Jonathan Toews for the goal. This goal came with only 1.4 seconds to go in the first period.
The assist by Kane gives him 64 points on the season. This places him in a first place tie for points in the league with Nicklas Backstrom of the Washington Capitals.
4. Defensive Woes. Michal Rozsival actually had a good night on Friday. Yep, I said that. At one point in the second period, Keith was uncharacteristically stripped of the puck, which caused a breakaway chance for the Avs. Rozy actually caught up to the play and broke it up. He had 20:02 minutes of ice time, which is pretty good for him.
Meanwhile, Kyle Cumiskey quietly had a decent night, with 15:13 TOI. He only played 6:24 minutes in the previous match up against Detroit. It was his partner, Brent Seabrook, who made a bad pass to the center of the ice that was retrieved by Tyson Barrie for the first goal of the contest.
Even Johnny Oduya had a great defensive segment in the third.
So the weak links were playing well and the solid defensive core was giving up turnovers. What’s up with that? Well. Let’s fast forward to Sunday’s matchup against the Boston Bruins.
Oduya left the game in the first period after being hit hard by Milan Lucic, and never returned. Perhaps we all take Oduya for granted, because things rapidly went downhill from there. The Hawks were consequently forced to lean on their remaining 5 D-men for the remainder of the tilt.
David Rundblad was for some reason replacing Cumiskey after his solid showing Friday night. Rundblad had a very high (for him) 20:17 minutes of ice time, and played ok, actually getting an assist on the second goal of the night. His shot was deflected by Bryan Bickell, who was credited with the score.
Meanwhile, Seabrook again looked pretty shaky defensively at times. Rozsival reverted back to his usual self. He was slow and out of position, and a -3 for the night.
What to do? Rundblad and Cumiskey are young and unproven, Keith and Seabrook are struggling without being able to play together as much, Oduya is now out for “a few games” with and upper body injury, and Roszival shows up once every 20 times he’s needed. Meanwhile, Trevor Van riemsdyk’s return date is still up in the air. A trade is looking more and more like the thing to do.
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3. The Line Blender is Back. What do you do when the Chicago offense just doesn’t seem to be producing? You change up the lines of course! At least that’s what Coach Quenneville does. In the third period of the Colorado tilt, Patrick Sharp spent some time on the first line with Toews and Hossa, while Brandon Saad was out on the ice with the third line of Shaw and Bickell. Was this to reward Sharpie, or to try to spark the third line with Saad’s presence? Who knows, but it really didn’t work.
That was absolutely nothing compared to the change-ups for the Boston game. EVERY line was changed. Bryan Bickell was on the first line with Toews and Hossa. Marcus Kruger centered the second line with Versteeg and Kane. The third line was comprised of Sharp, Richards, and Carcillo. The fourth line featured Saad, Shaw, and Hartman.
It was a disaster. Now granted, these lines got tinkered with throughout the game. But no matter what the combinations, nobody could get anything going. The passing was off. The Hawks lost most of their battles for the puck. There was no pressure, and no net front presence. They were simply out of sync.
Daniel Carcillo also replaced Ben Smith in the lineup for this game. He had 6:29 minutes of ice time, no shots on goal, and a fight that didn’t help anything (he lost by the way). Did I mention this game was a disaster?
To complicate matters even more, now Joakim Nordstrom has been recalled from Rockford, and Ryan Hartman has been sent down. We shall see how Nordy re-mixes into the line up.