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Wednesday, October 21

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Blackhawks Wed Feb 16 2011

Blackhawks Need to Step Up Their Game

blackhawks-logo.gifIt would be quite the understatement to say that Blackhawks hockey as of lately hasn't exactly been up to the high expectations the team set last season. The Hawks went 6-5 in January, and have gone 2-4 so far this month.

Winger Troy Brouwer told ESPN that the team better turn it around against their upcoming three opponents: the Wild, Blue Jackets and Penguins.

"The next three games at home are very important," he said. "We're looking to take all three games right now. Anything less than that right now is going to be a disappointment."

Agreed. So what can the Hawks do to boost their seemingly slacking performance?

Mom Always Said, Eat Your Veggies
There seems to be some germ-swapping going on in the Blackhawks' locker room. Patrick Kane is currently out with the same flu that plagued Marian Hossa and Jake Dowell. Without delving into what the boys could possibly be doing to spread their illnesses, there clearly needs to be a change in routine.

It's understandable that a non-stop schedule and a sport that isn't so easy on the body can leave one vulnerable to illness. And the flu can knock you on your butt, so no one's expecting these guys to play when they're sick. But, come on. Chug some orange juice, pop some Flintstone's or pick up some Emergen-C. Anything. Just get over your illnesses and bulk up those immune systems.

Stop Playing Favorites
I'd choose a gossip magazine over a Shakespeare play any day. That's just who I am. But that doesn't mean that if you sit Romeo and Juliet in front of me I'm going to suddenly become illiterate.

Starting goalie Corey Crawford currently has an average of 2.13 goals against him this season, compared to Marty Turco's 3.08.

While it's easy to scapegoat a goalie, the defense needs to take some responsibility. Crawford and Turco have different playing styles, and defenders need to adjust accordingly.

The defense seems to play more coherently when Crawford's in, responding to his predictability and more controlled style. But, they've got to know what to do when Turco comes out of the net 10 feet on an approaching center and then does his signature sprawl-and-flail.

Crawford can't play every single game, and the defense needs to learn to not fall apart when Turco's in the net. Whether it's more practice time with each respective goalie, or spending more hours looking at film, the Hawks' defense needs to improve their ability to switch between the two.

Shape Up or Ship Out
If the last leg of the "Disney on Ice" road trip showed us anything, it's that if the Blackhawks can't clinch the victory during regulation time, not much hope holds out for an overtime or shootout.

If the team isn't going to get it done during the first three periods, they either need to make something happen in overtime, or get pucks in the back of the net during shootouts.

Saturday's game was understandable. The team took major line hits due to injury, and remaining players looked exhausted from spending the entire third with only three lines. But when a player like Hossa completely misses the net on a game-winning shot, it's hard not to get physically upset.

This goes for the goalies as well. Turco missed every single save in Friday's game against Dallas. And to pour salt on the wound, all three shooters were his teammates from last season.

If the Hawks can't put more points on the board during regulation, they need to make their shots and saves when it counts.

Stand By Your Man
It's more than just a cheesy country song.

The Hawks need to better protect each other to avoid turnovers. Troy Brouwer and Brent Seabrook are leading the Hawks far and away with hits (116 and 100 for the season, respectively).

While this is expected for defenders, the other guys have some pretty low numbers. Dave Bolland only has 17 hits this season, and Hossa has 13. According to Coach Joel Quenneville, these two, along with newly acquired Michael Frolik, will make up the line that will face Minnesota's best on Wednesday.

The Blackhawks offense needs to step up the aggression in the next three games, or they're going to be going through some big time deja vu from the last two.

After the last leg of the road trip mercifully wrapped last weekend, the Hawks came home battered and bruised -- and it wasn't just physical. With three huge games coming up this week, the Hawks have a chance to change the momentum or crush the glimmer of playoff hope.

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