Hawks get hit and beaten without the correct effort in Vancouver - FOX 10 News | fox10phoenix.com

Hawks get hit and beaten without the correct effort in Vancouver

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

On Monday night the Chicago Blackhawks were not engaged throughout the opening 40 minutes and the result wasn't a surprise. Vancouver defeated the Blackhawks 3-1 and it could have been worse if not for Corey Crawford. The Hawks did respond with some energy and pride in the final frame but it was too late. As far as the Blackhawks were concerned the best part of Monday night's game was when it ended.

On the bright side, Crawford played better than in recent starts and Ray Emery was dressed as his backup. Last week Emery had been out with a lower body injury and it appears now he could get a start or two over the final three regular season games. Crawford held his team in the game as this one could have gotten ugly.

On the downside the Blackhawks chased the Canucks for most of the game but were still outhit by a wide margin 37-23.

Usually the Hawks are going to be outhit as they don't have many physical forwards. The defense is not made up of big hitters either, so as a team the Hawks don't bring that type of smash mouth hockey. This club is constructed to possess the puck and thus create scoring chances.

That's what was missing on Monday night.

The Hawks weren't skating and controlling the pace of play. The Canucks went out of their way to throw as many body checks as possible over the first two frames. To combat the physicality the Blackhawks needed to skate and pass the puck quickly and they did neither. If they did the Canucks, who were so focused on hitting could have been caught out of position.

The Canucks are a very good skating team and can play a sound defensive structure. They also have more than one line that can score goals and their defense contributes to the offense.

The Hawks showed they can win against more physical clubs all season. A recent example was when they shutout the Blues on the road 2-0, but that type of effort was missing Monday night. Vancouver is a deeper squad than St. Louis with more playoff experience. That is true, but for the Hawks to win in the playoffs they need to combat the physicality with an efficient effort.

Vancouver had some injuries on the blueline but the Blackhawks didn't expose that weakness. The correct plan was not executed. Pucks were not chipped in and there were not enough players willing to win board battles. That's an issue to be concerned about when the playoffs begin.

Monday night the line that started playing with a purpose first was the third line. Andrew Shaw, Bryan Bickell and Viktor Stalberg were about the only players who created scoring chances and some puck possession by using hard work. That line accounted for seven of the 23 Chicago hits but more important was how they played.

When the playoffs begin the pressure and physicality will be cranked up. Teams will look to defeat the Hawks the way the Canucks did Monday.

The Blackhawk defense men will be hit and hit often, especially the third pairing. Sheldon Brookbank and Johnny Oduya will be targets and it had an effect on them versus the Canucks. Teams will look to control the play especially when Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook are not on the ice.

The Chicago offense starts with their defense. When the blue liners feel rushed and can't pass the puck successfully the offense stalls. If the Hawks aren't passing well and skating they become the team chasing the puck and that will lead to poor results. It did in Vancouver and a better effort will be needed in the playoffs to avoid a disappointing end to the season.

Those that worry about the Hawks not being as physical as most teams really shouldn't because that isn't going to change. That's not the main issue because they have won all year without being the most physical team on the ice.

The playoffs are a different type of hockey but for the Hawks to be successful they have to play effectively. That involves skating and passing quickly and accurately, so by moving the puck they become more difficult targets. Being tough will involve not being leery of getting hit and not playing in a rushed fashion.

Vancouver showed how to defeat the Blackhawks in the postseason. In reality the Hawks did much of the damage to themselves by not playing their game.

Maybe the focus will be stronger as the Hawks travel to Edmonton for a Wednesday night tilt. The Oilers have proven to be a problem and to win the Presidents' Trophy, two points may be needed in Edmonton. Pittsburgh trails the Hawks by three points but they could win out.

Even if Pittsburgh keeps rolling the Blackhawks will finish with the best record in the league if they win their next two games.

Al's Shots

The one hope for Hawk fans is there wouldn't be any injuries during the last handful of games. Unfortunately Dave Bolland left the game in the opening period after playing only five shifts.

I spoke about Bolland Monday in a SiriusXM interview saying he appears to be playing hurt.

I don't know what ails Bolland now, maybe it could be something beside his back and foot that have given him problems throughout this season. Whatever the issue is the Blackhawks would be better off with a healthy Bolland in the playoffs.

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