The Chicago Blackhawks have a lot to change, but the main thing is their recent lack of puck management.
The Chicago Blackhawks lost both games to the Nashville Predators in their back-to-back series and there was a lot to be unhappy about. I looked over the series again yesterday, and something stood out to me more than anything: Their newfound lack of puck management.
On the GWG on Sunday night, the Chicago Blackhawks lost the game due to a Kirby Dach “hopeful pass” across the ice in his own zone. It was easily picked off, and the Nashville Predators won the game. I attribute this to a rookie mistake and I wouldn’t be so worried if I didn’t see David Kampf attempt the same pass in the first game.
See, the Chicago Blackhawks were never the best defensively, and I don’t expect the defense to be their strength this season. However, the fact these NHL players are attempting stretch passes DOWN THE MIDDLE OF THE ICE to a streaking linemate is astonishing.
They were horrendous in their own zone, I know that. Their consistency is not where it needs to be, but these are all things I was aware of going into March.
The turnovers? Not so much.
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Something the Blackhawks were focusing on in practice was their transition plays and it paid off against Florida. With that said, they took multiple steps back in this aspect of their game when they added the “hopeful stretch pass”. If the Nashville Predators, without any real offensive threats of note, can capitalize on those turnovers in open ice, imagine what the Carolina Hurricanes can do with those chances.
The Hurricanes have offensive threats in Sebastian Aho, Martin Necas, and Andrei Svechnikov, then they have guys up and down their lineup who can contribute offensively as well.
If the Blackhawks attempt to use their transition “strategy” with “hopeful passes”, they cannot hope to get out of the game with a win. Kevin Lankinen and Malcolm Subban can do everything they can to keep the ‘Hawks in the game, but there is only so much they can do if their teammates are giving the puck to Sebastian Aho on a silver platter.
The fix here is honestly as simple as it gets: Move the puck ahead and look before you pass. Don’t attempt stretch passes unless you can clearly see that the guy is wide open, and don’t attempt anything flashy if you can’t pull it off. Find the open man or dump the puck in, don’t let the Hurricanes pressure you. If Carolina forces a turnover, the Blackhawks will be in for a long, long night.
To win tonight, the Blackhawks need to play a consistent game with high-energy and smart puck management. I expect the intensity level to be increased as they are playing a team who they won’t be surprised by and know what to expect by this point. They need to increase their energy level and desire to win as they are now chasing a playoff spot. How the Blackhawks respond to their two losses will really show where this team is at mentally.