Part time effort versus the Canucks as the Blackhawks fall again - Boston News, Weather, Sports | FOX 25 | MyFoxBoston

Part time effort versus the Canucks as the Blackhawks fall again

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

For the second straight game the Chicago Blackhawks offense was held in check as they fell in Vancouver 2-1 in a shootout. As the game went on the Hawks did play more effectively but Friday night wasn't their best effort. Besides Corey Crawford and rookie Brandon Saad, there were not many players who brought their "A" game. In the later going some of the bigger names kicked into gear but the Canucks did a nice job of slowing the Blackhawk attack.

Early on the Hawks were playing as individuals, not as a collective group and there were many turnovers. Patrick Kane stood out as someone trying to do too much on his own. No excuses given for Kane as he tried to skate through the Canuck defense without much success, but his linemates were not much help.

Patrick Sharp had an off night even though he assisted on the lone goal, but once again failed to connect in the shootout. Dave Bolland had another sluggish effort and to make matters worse suffered an injury early in the third frame. Bolland appeared to twist his right leg and fell awkwardly on his own trying to make a line change. No details have been released about Bolland's lower body injury but it didn't look good. It is doubtful Bolland will see action Saturday night and unless a Rockford Ice Hog replacement is called up, Kane may see time as the second line center.

Crawford was strong and his effort in the opening period helped the Hawks to stay in the contest. Unfortunately for Hawk fans, Crawford allowed one goal in the shootout and his counterpart Roberto Luongo was perfect. Crawford was very good Friday night but Luongo made the bigger saves in the third period and in overtime.

The bright light for Chicago was their young left winger Saad, who created space and drove the net. Saad hasn't recorded any points on the season but he is gaining confidence. He has the speed and strength to create space and almost scored a couple of goals versus the Canucks.

Playing with Marian Hossa is not an easy task. Hossa likes the puck and is a creative player who also shoots when he has the chance. Jonathan Toews plays mostly in a straight line and likes to shoot the puck as well. Saad could be a little too similar to his linemates in some ways as he does shoot often, at times too often. That said Saad appears to have the speed to keep defensemen off balance. To his credit, Saad hasn't forgotten his defensive assignments very often.

Eventually Saad will score a goal and he will have a bit less pressure to deal with. If he keeps creating chances, Saad should last the entire season in Chicago. The injured Daniel Carcillo won't be back for a few weeks and by that time, Saad may look more comfortable playing with Toews and Hossa.

There are a few things that have become apparent and are problematic.

As was the case for much of last season and has been the story lately, teams are effectively defending against the Hawks attack. The focus to always skate the puck into the offensive zone hurts against clubs that can defend well. In the past two games it took awhile for forwards to get the puck deep into the offensive zone. A chip and chase game may not be what is desired but it is best to take what is given to you.

When pucks are turned over, a lot of pressure is placed on the defense. With the pressure comes a physical pounding and more minutes for Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook. The closer the game the more Joel Quenneville gets away from spreading out playing time. Saturday night will be a test for Keith and Seabrook and a few others who were relied on heavily in Vancouver.

Slow starts are not good as it is almost always more difficult to play from behind. A few good hits early would help wake everyone up and it would make the task easier in the later going. In general there has been a lack of physical play.

Although hit totals can be misleading for a puck possession team, the Blackhawks didn't have the puck much in the opening 40-minutes. After the second period, the Hawks were outhit 13-3. Niklas Hjalmarsson and Marcus Kruger in the opening two periods had absorbed more hits combined than their teammates dished out. In a big rivalry game, Vancouver was credited with 22 hits on the night to the Blackhawks six.

Lastly, when the powerplay suffers, the Hawks are getting outplayed five on five. The lack of a large body to screen the opposing net minder hurts. The powerplay look pretty as they can pass the puck around the perimeter for almost an entire two minutes but that doesn't lead to enough goals. Finding an effective screen setter is a must, without traffic good goalies win.

Saad may deserve an opportunity to play in the middle on the power play as he has some size. Maybe Bryan Bickell, who seems more involved this season, can stand in front of the net. Andrew Shaw tries but doesn't appear to be the answer and the same can be said for Viktor Stalberg. This would be the time to try new faces as the powerplay has gone cold. In tight checking games, the Hawks have to find a way to generate more offense.

There is no time to lament the loss to the Canucks. Although the Flames were resting on Friday, this is a prime time to notch two points. The Flames have struggled this season and if the Hawks bring a hard working effort they can skate out of Calgary with two points. Ray Emery will probably get the start and he needs to improve on his lone effort this season.

Al's Shots

I tweeted before the shootout Hossa should replace Sharp as one of the top three shooters. That didn't happen and Nick Leddy took the fourth shot as Hossa remained on the bench.

In my mind, the truth is many star players don't like to participate in a shootout.

The Sedin twins stayed on the bench and didn't shoot Friday night either. I joked on Twitter that Hossa and the Twins have a no-shootout clause in their contracts. That isn't so but an important veteran player can influence a head coach. It isn't coincidence many stars that score frequently are not among the top players selected for shootouts.

I personally would rather see a different scoring system and to play a longer overtime period. If the contest is tied after that so be it, but it won't happen with Gary Bettman as commissioner. I almost feel bad for players a hard fought game is decided and in such a way.

The Hawks put a lot of hope that Toews and Kane will score the majority of the time, but it really would be best to find an additional shootout specialist.

Follow me on Twitter @AlCimaglia

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