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Blackhawks Tue Jan 20 2015

Blackhawks Hold Team Meeting as Break Nears

Chicago Blackhawks The last 10 games for the Blackhawks haven't necessarily been the best defensively for a team that looked to be on a mission at the start of the season. Going 5-5-0 during this recent stretch might not seem too alarming unless you've watched how each game unfolded along the way.

The team has been playing a little uncharacteristically as of late: a seemingly calmed Dan Carcillo received a six-game suspension after an illegal cross-check on Winnipeg's Mathieu Perrault; Patrick Sharp, channelling his days with the Flyers, got into a scrape with the Stars' Shawn Horcoff, prompting everyone to yell, "Not the face!"; poor defense, allowing too many shot attempts on Corey Crawford, resulted in the Hawks being outscored 33 to 32 during this time frame.

Certainly not time to panic by any means, considering the All-Star break is this coming weekend, but it was deemed necessary by some of the veterans on the team to address a few holes after 45 games played.

Looking at the data via HockeyAnalysis.com, matters don't appear to be too dire. The Hawks still rank right near the top of the league (second) in Fenwick-for at 1,624 and at the top in Fenwick-for per 60 minutes played at 45.5. Even in Fenwick-against, the Hawks are average at best, ranking fourteenth in the league with 1,393 and holding the same position in Fenwick-against per 60 at 39.1.

Odds are the team meeting wasn't called to celebrate Teuvo Teravainen's first professional goal, the first of what will be many to come, so why the urgency?

The Blackhawks' recent decline in goals allowed has helped the Nashville Predators increase their lead in the Central to six points with the Blues sneaking right in for a two-point advantage. Not to mention, the aforementioned Jets are tied with the Hawks with 58 points.

It's somewhat unfamiliar territory for a team that seems to win on a nightly basis, especially at home. But bad goals and shoddy zone clearing make for a poor stretch for any team, especially halfway through the first full regular season since 2012.

The Hawks play two more games before the break -- at home against the Coyotes and Wednesday night in Pittsburgh before Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Corey Crawford make their way to Columbus for All-Star action. Play then resumes next Wednesday for a mini-west coast swing, starting in Los Angeles and then back-to-back nights in Anaheim and then San Jose.

The Hawks' play in their own zone will be key along this stretch, as will other areas of concern such as the ever-dreadful power play (16th in the league at 18.5 percent) and recent faceoff struggles. The All-Star break should provide rest for those needing it and a chance to blow off some steam for those involved. What happens upon return could forge how the rest of the season plays out.

 
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