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Saturday, October 31

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Blackhawks Tue Oct 28 2008

Mixed Results For Hawks More Of The Same

The past week has seen more of the same from the Blackhawks, even with the hiring of new coach Joel Quenneville. A win, a shootout defeat, and a loss has left the team with an even keel 3-3-3 record. Coach Q took over from Denis Savard after the Hawks struggled to a 1-2-1 start, and while the Hawks earned points in 4 of his first 5 games, some of the same problems have remained once the fervor from the coaching change wore off.

Last Wednesday, against Edmonton, the Blackhawks were nearly flawless in earning a 3-0 victory. The team controlled the tempo and puck possession with an aggressive fore check, while the defense locked down the Oilers and goalie Nicolai Khabibulin picked up the shutout. Particularly impressive was the Hawks' penalty kill, which gave up a single shot in nearly 10 minutes of ice time. Wednesday was the Hawks at their best, clicking on all cylinders.

Saturday, the Hawks welcomed the defending Stanley Cup Champion Detroit Red Wings to a highly-charged United Center, with mixed results. While the young Blackhawks are striving to reach the top tier of NHL teams, Detroit provided a lesson on what the view is like from the top in erasing a 2-goal third period deficit to earn a 6-5 shootout win.

It was a tough game for the Hawks to lose, but provided a valuable lesson on how quickly fortunes can turn. Chicago peppered Wings goalie Ty Conklin with 41 shots, but their soft defensive play allowed 44 shots against Khabibulin as well. Detroit's power play also put on a clinic for the struggling Hawks' special teamers, going 2-for-3 while Chicago scuffled for a 1-6 edge with the man advantage. Despite the tough loss, there were a number of positives, including the Hawks impressive offensive output, along with their late rally to tie the game on Patrick Kane's 5-on-3 power play goal. The cliché goes to be the best, you have to beat the best, and though the Hawks did not earn the victory, they showed that when they are on their game they can play with the best.

Last night however, the Hawks provided the ugly to go with the good and bad, in a 3-2 loss to the Minnesota Wild. Despite outshooting the Wild 36-18, defensive breakdowns and turnovers gave the Wild all the help they needed to end the Hawks six-game point streak. Goalie Cristobal Huet had only 15 saves, but the defensive help in front of him was non-existent at times, leaving wide open passing lanes and odd-man rushes. In the offensive zone, despite the high number of shots, the Hawks failed to generate sufficient traffic in front of the net, allowing Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom clear sightlines and few scoring opportunities. Overall, it wasn't a horrible game for the team, but the areas they have struggled in all year came to the forefront yet again to leave the Hawks winless on the road in four tries this season.

With a three day break before back-to-back games Friday and Saturday, the Hawks will have plenty of practice time to work on some of the fundamentals still missing from their game day in and day out. Also, with the longest stretch of practice days since taking over the team, coach Quenneville may be making more adjustments to the Hawks overall strategies in an effort to shore up these weaknesses.

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