Interesting note from Adam Jahns of the Sun-Times about Chicago’s’ lengthy film-and-chalkboard session prior to tonight’s game:
The focus was positioning at both ends of the rink.
There are plenty of things to address, whether it’s not having a third player high in the offensive zone, a third caught down low in the defensive zone or how their defensemen react when opponents pinch their blue line.
“We probably let it slide a little when we were scoring many goals and weren’t looking to prevent them at a regular rate,” Quenneville said. “Especially on the road, we want to play tight, and we want to be responsible. An awareness of our positioning is what we’re talking about.”
On Wednesday, it was accompanied by more chalkboard instruction as the Hawks worked in the neutral zone with a variation of the 1-2-2 trap for their game against the San Jose Sharks on Friday.
Chicago ranks 26th in goals-allowed per game (2.96) and, during its current six-game winless streak, has lost games by scores of 5-2 (twice) and 8-4. As such, it’s not a huge surprise they’d dabble in trapping — it is a fairly effective way to curtail opponent’s scoring chances — but still a shock given the ‘Hawks are one of the NHL’s most offensively-gifted teams.
Marian Hossa and Jonathan Toews are top-15 scorers in the league while Patrick Sharp and Patrick Kane are close to a point-a-game clip and hey, let’s be honest — part of Chicago’s identity is that they’re a fun, free-wheeling team.
But the ‘Hawks know that for all their offense, they’re not going anywhere unless they play better defense.
“We did a little more instructional stuff, working to get out of this,” Sharp said. “You want to make it tough for the other team to skate 200 feet with the puck.”
For two periods, the San Jose Sharks couldn’t solve Pekka Rinne.
Maybe it was because of that black cat that found its way on to the ice prior to the start of Friday’s game, or the video review that didn’t go in San Jose’s favor in the opening period.
But that all changed in the final period. It started with Tomas Hertl on the power play finding room just under the glove of Rinne to get San Jose on the board. Joel Ward followed that up with a gorgeous deke, tucking the puck in behind Rinne just as he started to go behind the net, as San Jose was able to take advantage of a defensive breakdown.
Logan Couture added the eventual winner. Within the span of 13 minutes, the Sharks had completely taken over, cashing in on two Nashville penalties and a defensive lapse.
When the onslaught was over, the Sharks skated off with a 5-2 win in Game 1 of this second-round series with the Predators, who only wrapped up a seven-game series win over Anaheim on Wednesday.
Ryan Johansen made it interesting, cutting into San Jose’s lead with under two minutes remaining, but any further comeback attempt was quickly halted by a pair of empty net goals from the Sharks.
The game ended with a dust-up along the boards, before cooler heads did prevail.
Another day, another University of North Dakota player deciding to enter the professional hockey ranks.
This time, it was 21-year-old forward Luke Johnson who turned pro following his junior year, as he signed a three-year contract with the Chicago Blackhawks, the team that selected him in the fifth round of the 2013 NHL Draft.
In 43 games with the NCAA champs this season, Johnson scored 11 goals and 21 points, just shy of his college career high of 24 points set the previous year.
Johnson will forgo his senior year at North Dakota, making him the fourth member of that program’s junior class to turn pro since the end of the season. Keaton Thompson signed with the Anaheim Ducks, Troy Stecher inked with the Vancouver Canucks and Paul LaDue signed with the L.A. Kings.
Senior forward Drake Caggiula, now a free agent, has reportedly narrowed down his list of NHL suitors to six teams.
Brock Boeser, Vancouver’s 2015 first-round pick and coming off an impressive freshman year, will return to North Dakota for his sophomore year, as per Canucks general manager Jim Benning earlier this month.
Perhaps it’s an ominous sign of bad luck to come, but for which team?
Prior to puck drop between the host San Jose Sharks and Nashville Predators in Game 1 on Friday, a black cat hit the ice at SAP Center, taking a nervous stroll along the boards.
Not sure exactly where it came from, although it’s possible someone was feeling extra superstitious before the start of this series.
Official update on the really important story of the evening:
The Dallas Stars scored a late winner, held on in the final minute and eventually struck first in their best-of-seven second-round series with the St. Louis Blues.
Once again, it was the speed and skill of the Stars that proved to be the difference in the end. Radek Faksa scored with less than five minutes remaining in the third period, breaking the deadlock and giving Dallas a 2-1 victory and 1-0 series lead over their Central Division foes on Friday.
As he entered the zone on the rush, Faksa dished off to a flying Ales Hemsky, who was denied by Brian Elliott in alone. But Faksa followed up, jamming in the rebound to give the Stars the lead, as both St. Louis defensemen Jay Bouwmeester and Alex Pietrangelo were caught by the speed of the Dallas forwards on the rush.
The Stars held on from there, as the Blues made a late push to tie the game.
Kari Lehtonen stopped 31 of 32 shots for Dallas, while Elliott was busy throughout the night, stopping 40 of 42 shots.
Elliott was furious after the Stars opened the scoring in the second period, as Antoine Roussel tallied on a rebound after yet another nice Dallas passing play in the offensive zone.
Stars forward Patrick Eaves left the game early in the third period and didn’t play another shift after being hit in the lower part of his leg with the puck from a point shot.