Blackhawks check out for the break | Bleader

Blackhawks check out for the break


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Duncan Keith
  • Horge/Wikimedia Commons
  • Duncan Keith
The Blackhawks get a week off for the All-Star break, and they looked like a team that needed it Tuesday night against Nashville at the United Center. They seemed a step slow in the first period, as when Jamal Mayers, sensing danger with the puck slipping out in front of the Hawks' net, whiffed on a clearing swipe, allowing the Predators' Crag Smith to sweep in a shot. With Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp injured, coach Joel Quenneville spread his veterans out—for instance, having Andrew Brunette shepherd rookies Jimmy Hayes and Brandon Pirri. But no sooner had they put together a good stretch than, their very next shift, Hayes was caught slow trailing Mike Fisher in the slot, and Fisher turned a centering pass into another goal that prompted Corey Crawford to snap his goalie stick over the crossbar. (Just stick around on those same highlights.) Quenneville put Crawford's frustration into words, saying, "The first two goals were very generous on our part."

It took the Hawks until the third period to regain the initiative, when on a power play Dave Bolland converted a sweet pass from Marian Hossa into a goal (next on the highlight reel) that got the crowd back into it. Yet the potential comeback was snuffed out when the Hawks drew a penalty for too many men on the ice in the final two minutes, and the Preds scored an empty-net goal to make the final 3-1. That dropped the Hawks to fourth in their division—the tightest and most competitive in the National Hockey League—and sixth in the Western Conference, which sets the Stanley Cup playoff seedings.

Now the Hawks get a week to rest up and allow more time for Toews and Sharp to recover before embarking on a critical nine-game road trip to open the second half. Yet just as important as getting those key players back is tightening up the defense—not just in front of the goal, but end to end.

"How well we check is going to be what gets us there," Quenneville said, "there" of course being deep into the playoffs.

"As for winning the Stanley Cup," defenseman Duncan Keith said, "it takes a lot of hard work, a lot of effort, and a full team game. We have the ability to play a team game...but we need to do it consistently."

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