Blackhawks

Hawk Talk: Down the Stretch They Come

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Hawk Talk: Down the Stretch They Come

Monday, Mar. 22, 2010
8:45 P.M.
By Chris Boden
CSNChicago.com

Another week crossed off in the countdown toward the post-season, and another week of the Blackhawks knowing what they have to do before the playoffsbut still not doing it. Whatever positives were forged in their shutout victory in Los Angeles were quickly erased in their shootout defeat two nights later in Phoenix. The more defensive lapses, the more important their goaltending must be for post-season success. When those lapses are kept to a minimum, we saw the results earlier in the season. Thats the evidence, proof and belief Stan Bowman used at deadline time paired with a minimal number of willing trade partners and salary cap considerations. It wouldve been a great statement to make against the upstart Coyotes on their own ice, letting the Desert Dogs know who the Big Dogs were. But that team as the limbo over its ownership and where theyll call home drags on has certainly become reflective of the name of the city where it currently resides (Phoenix, that is, not Glendale).

While the Hawks plug away these final three weeks trying to regroup defensively, there may not more important games in their final eleven than Tuesdays rematch with the Coyotes, and the final regular season game, hosting Detroit. Thanks in part to the one that got away Saturday, Phoenix remains the only Western Conference team the Hawks have yet to beat. Should they meet again, it might do them good to know they can beat them, and have beaten them. Who knows what the value of that regular season finale will be to the Hawks and Red Wings for playoff positioning, but it also might do them good to know they can beat Detroit at full-strength, heading into the second season (provided neither team is resting up its top guns, as was the case last year). The Wings began the week showing what they can do when healthy, going 6-1-1 in their last 8, and the most favorable schedule of the contenders down the stretch has them poised to be movin on up (see below).

After Tuesday, seven of the Hawks eight games that follow are against teams on the outside of the playoff standings, looking in, with three weeks remaining. That either sets up nicely for them with teams they should beat, or can be a trap against opponents either in a state of desperation, or having nothing to lose in a spoiler role. Heres what the Wests eight playoff teams (as of March 22nd) face down the stretch in their respective schedules, along with the two teams within six points of 8th place, as well as the three teams all seven points back of the 8th spot. Since just about everyones NCAA brackets are blown up, maybe we can play the game based on their schedules of where each team will finish at the end of the regular season, and wholl be playing whom in round one.

1. Blackhawks (97 points)
11 games left Four vs. current playoff teams
Two games against teams in 9th & 10th (Calgary & St. Louis) Two games vs. three teams (Anaheim, Minnesota, Dallas) all seven points back2. Phoenix (97 points)
Nine games remaining Seven against current playoff teams One game vs. 9th-place Calgary Zero games vs. ANA, MIN, or DAL3. Vancouver (92 pts)
10 games left Five against current playoff teams One game vs. Calgary Three games against the three teams all seven points back (2 - ANA, 1 - MIN)4. San Jose (96 pts)
10 games remaining Five games vs. current playoff teams
One game against Calgary
Four games vs. the three within seven points of 8th place (2 - MIN, 2 - DAL)5. Nashville (89 pts)
Nine games left Five against current playoff teams Two games vs. St. Louis
One game vs. Dallas
6. Los Angeles (87 pts)
11 games remaining Five games vs. current post-season teams
One game against St. Louis
Four games vs. the trio seven back (1 - DAL, 1 - MIN, 2 - ANA)7. Colorado (86 pts)
10 games left Seven games vs. playoff teams One game against Calgary One vs. ANA8. Detroit (85 pts)
10 games left Four games against playoff teams Have a 7-1-1 record in last nine games
One game left vs. Minnesota and St. Louis
9. Calgary (81 pts)
10 games left Seven games against current playoff clubs Zero games vs. St. Louis
Two games against the three teams within seven points (ANA, MIN)10. St. Louis (77 pts)
10 games remaining Six opposite current playoff teams Zero games vs. Calgary Two games vs. teams 11-13 (DAL, ANA)11. Anaheim (76 pts)
10 games left Five games against current playoff clubs One game vs. St. Louis
Two games against Dallas12. Minnesota (76 pts)
10 games remaining Seven games vs. current playoff teams One game against Calgary One game vs. Dallas13. Dallas (76 pts)
10 games left Five games opposite playoff clubs One game against St. Louis
Three games vs. other teams with 76 points (2 - ANA, 1 - MIN)
Chris Boden is the host of Blackhawks Pregame and Postgame Live on ComcastSportsNet.

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Takeaways from first three days of Blackhawks training camp

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Chicago Blackhawks

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Takeaways from first three days of Blackhawks training camp

On the latest Blackhawks Talk Podcast, Pat Boyle and Charlie Roumeliotis break down the first three days of training camp.

Which players have stood out so far and how will the injuries to Kirby Dach and Calvin de Haan impact the final roster?

The guys also discuss Jonathan Toews being motivated by an NHL Network snub and their feelings about the relationship between Corey Crawford and Robin Lehner.

0:45 - Fan support at Training Camp Festival 

1:45 - Impressions of Wedin-Toews-Nylander line

2:35 - Olli Maatta getting offensive 

4:00 - Aleksi Saarela impact

5:00 - Andrew Shaw at center

6:00 - Will Kris Versteeg get another spin with Blackhawks?

7:45 - Optimism at camp

10:15 - Kirby Dach injury

12:00 - What are Dach’s chances of making the team?

14:00 - Will Calvin de Haan be ready for season opener?

17:15 - Jeremy Colliton teaching D-zone 

19:00 - Adam Boqvist chances of making the team? 

20:15 - Jonathan Toews motivated by snub

24:15 - Crawford-Lehner relationship 

28:45 - Importance of three preseason games in three days

Listen to the entire episode here or in the embedded player below.

Blackhawks Talk Podcast

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Blackhawks using first training camp under Jeremy Colliton to nail down defensive zone coverage

Blackhawks using first training camp under Jeremy Colliton to nail down defensive zone coverage

Jeremy Colliton has been the Blackhawks' head coach for more than 10 months now, but this is his first training camp with the team and he's able to instill some concepts that he wasn't able to do on the fly last season. The biggest thing, however, is that he was afforded a full summer to prep and can help get everyone on the same page during training camp and in the seven preseason games before the games actually matter.

"It's important," Duncan Keith said. "Systems nowadays, with the way teams are, it's important that everyone's on the same page. Having a training camp with the coaches and being able to implement the system and try to get on the same page early on, the quicker we can iron out everything the better off we're going to be."

The one area the Blackhawks have focused on heavily over the first two days is the defensive zone coverage. They gave up the most scoring chances and high-danger chances at 5-on-5 last season, and the team got better at it in the final month or so but it's still a work in progress.

"It's going to be huge," Patrick Kane said. "Even [Friday], first day we're running through some defensive coverage trying to get everything done tactically. I'm sure we'll do a little bit more of that each day and some different things as well. It'll be real beneficial for us just to all get on the same page, set the standard around here and feel confident about our team, the way we play going into the season."

The onus isn't just on the defensemen, either. It's a five-man unit and training camp is just as much about building trust with your teammates and being in the right spot as it is nailing down the scheme and letting it become muscle memory.

"We've all got to be on the same page," Brent Seabrook said. "If my D partner's doing it perfectly and I'm not, then we're not going to be any good at it. We've all got to be on the same page, we've all got to be doing our job and doing the right thing and the faster we get to that point, then I think it's just going to help us out in the long run. We're just going to keep getting better at it and we'll go from there."

The Blackhawks are going to continue working on their defensive zone coverage as camp goes along because that’s priority No. 1. Scoring goals won’t be an issue. And after Sunday’s training camp festival at the United Center, the Blackhawks have three consecutive preseason contests to apply what they've learned in a game-type setting.

"I just think getting guys on the same page as quickly as we can, that's really important,” Colliton said. “You saw there was a lot of D-zone work today [Friday]. That'll continue and we'll just sort of roll out how we're going to play day-by-day so that we're ready. We got that festival game, that will kind of be a dress rehearsal and then right into it."

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