Blackhawks failing to create ways to win

January, 24, 2012
1/24/12
11:20
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- Chicago Blackhawks elder statesman Sean O'Donnell said it best after his team’s 3-1 loss to the Nashville Predators on Tuesday night, which completed the Hawks’ pre-All-Star-break schedule.

But what he said, unfortunately, wasn’t about the Hawks.

“[The Predators] play really tight defensively and they’re comfortable in those low-scoring games,” O’Donnell said when asked about trailing early in the game. “We thought coming in it was going to be a grinding, low-scoring game.”

That’s a thought that has never been uttered about the Hawks this season. They aren’t “comfortable” in low scoring games and they don’t play “really tight defensively.” And it’s an issue moving forward. The Hawks need to find different ways to win.

[+] EnlargeBlackhawks
Bill Smith/Getty ImagesThe Predators' Ryan Ellis approaches the puck as the Blackhawks' Bryan Bickell reaches from behind.
When missing star players -- as they were on Tuesday -- or facing fatigue, grinding out a victory doesn’t seem like their style. Patrick Kane unknowingly indicted his team’s play in this regard.

“It’s a tough team to create chances against,” he said. “It didn’t really come easy tonight.”

It’s not supposed to come easy. And when it does, it’s a testament to the Hawks’ talent. But what does it say about a team ranked fourth in the league on offense to be half a period away from getting shut out for a sixth time this season?

It says hockey is a humbling game, and gutting out goals and wins is as important as a high-flying attack.
“With teams like [Nashville] there’s not a lot of plays through the neutral zone,” O’Donnell said. “There’s not a lot of pretty offense. I think you have to sacrifice that.”

How often have the Hawks sacrificed their offense to play better defense or grind out a win? Two games come to mind, a 1-0 loss to San Jose and a 2-1 win in Los Angeles, both coming back in November.

“They’re important games, especially these last two,” Kane said. “Pretty much four-point games and we lost both of them.”

The two losses dropped the Hawks to fourth in an ultra-competitive Central Division. Though the race is tight, looking up at Nashville, St. Louis and Detroit at the All-Star break can’t sit well for Chicago.

“Our division is probably the hardest one,” Duncan Keith said. “They all play tough games and play a good, team game.”

And some play different styles to win. The Hawks have yet to exhibit that ability, but then again, Nashville can’t open it up and win 6-5 games very often. That might come back to haunt them when the Hawks are at full strength, but its little consolation for the Hawks after a home loss to a team that played the night before. Their second consecutive loss to the same team, in fact.

“They have a ton of confidence and a ton of momentum right now,” Corey Crawford said. “Something maybe we could have broke if we had tied it up there at the end. I don’t know. Tough loss.”

Make that two tough losses.

Jesse Rogers | email

Chicago Cubs beat reporter
Jesse joined ESPN Chicago in September 2009 and covers the Chicago Cubs for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN Radio 1000.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Patrick Sharp
PTS GOALS AST +/-
78 34 44 13
OTHER LEADERS
GoalsP. Sharp 34
AssistsD. Keith 55
+/-M. Hossa 28
GAAC. Crawford 2.26