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Blackhawks Thu Nov 11 2010

Loss of Focus = Loss of Game

Fourteen seconds. 35 seconds. In those short amounts of time, the Blackhawks gave up a pair of goals at the United Center to lose nearly identical 2-1 games to the Edmonton Oilers on Sunday and the Phoenix Coyotes last night. To pour salt in the wound, those two teams are in the bottom third of the conference, representing what should have been some easy points during a favorable stretch of games. Instead, with a pair of games left this weekend before the circus trip out west begins next Wednesday, the Hawks have gone 2-5 against teams with a combined record of 33-39-15, leaving Chicago's record under .500 at 8-9-1. Worse, despite a favorable number of games on home ice to open the season, Chicago's lost four straight and are 4-7 at the Madhouse, after losing only eight games there all last season.

So what ails the Blackhawks? While they've had injuries to key players and a heavy stretch of games after a short offseason, the issues come down to two intertwined items, chemistry and effort.

Though I'm starting to feel like a broken record in repeating these two, it's clear that this team is not quite firing on all cylinders, and it's getting past the point where blaming the large amount of roster turnover is allowable. The Hawks are nearly a quarter of the way through the season, and it's time for the team to start playing like these games matter, because in the end, they do. The past stretch of games has seen the forwards loafing on their defensive responsibilities and defensive breakdowns and poor breakout passing leading to turnovers. More importantly, for a team that thrives on puck possession, the Hawks have been losing a lot of battles along the boards, never giving their offense a chance to set up and attack. And a lack of focus has lead to some big letdowns, as evidenced by the quick goals the last two games. In fact, the Hawks have given up eight goals on a shift directly after either team has scored, a sign that they're either resting on their laurels after scoring or still dwelling on the goal they gave up, rather than fighting to get it back.

Last night's effort was stronger than Sunday's lazy stroll, as the Blackhawks were dominant in the first, but defensive lapses by Duncan Keith led to two straight 2-on-1's and those two goals in a half minute, and it took the Hawks nearly a period to recover from. Chicago was the better team on the ice last night for the majority of the game, but the mental battles did them in, combined with a shutdown D by the Coyotes in the 3rd that gave the Hawks few great scoring opportunities.

Saturday's game in Nashville against the struggling Predators will give the Hawks a chance to play fully loaded, as Dave Bolland is expected back from his injury. While coach Joel Quenneville has been experiment with different lines as much out of necessity as a desire to get the offense moving, Saturday's game along with Sunday's home tilt against the Anaheim Ducks will give him a chance to establish some consistency, and hopefully some positive attitude (and wins) before the long circus road trip.

 
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