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Thursday, September 22, 2011
Hawks' loss to Pens of little concern

By Jesse Rogers

The Chicago Blackhawks' 4-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins Thursday night looked ugly -- and it was. But it should be of little concern the Hawks are 0-2 in the preseason so far.

Ray Emery’s numbers will also look ugly compared to Alexander Salak's. He gave up all four goals, facing 19 of the Pens' 27 shots. It left Salak with just eight to stop in the same amount of playing time. The Hawks' defense got steadily worse with Sami Lepisto, John Scott, Brian Connelly and Shawn Lalonde among those that had issues.

"We had two empty side goals that defensively we say those are cardinal sins that we dont give up those tap ins on the open side,” Joel Quenneville told reporters after the game. “That has to be the defense or forward in that area. That has to be cleared…I wasn’t blaming the goalie."

Even so, Salak comes out the winner in Round 2 of their battle for the backup goalie job. Tuesday night’s Round 1 against Edmonton was a split decision, so Salak might have a slight lead. Having said that, Salak has barely broken a sweat in two games, though the team has clearly played better in front of him. It remains to be seen if that’s a coincidence or not.

The prospect lineup the Hawks sent to Pennsylvania wasn’t even as good as the one they sent to Saskatoon two nights earlier. Other than draft pick Brandon Saad and Michael Frolik -- who scored the Hawks lone goal on a beauty move to the middle of the ice in the second period -- there was little in the way of forward chemistry or skill on display. Hence a 16 shot total on the night. For whatever it’s worth, Brett McLean and Bryan Bickell were both minus-3 on the evening. Bickell had a couple shots on net but as was said about him often last year, he needs to be more noticeable as a big body.

Of course, the Penguins weren’t exactly throwing Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby out there but Jordan Staal was enough as he scored twice. Other than the goalie results the main question to take from this game, as well as the one against Edmonton on Tuesday, is do the Hawks have enough talent at the back end of their blue line? Nick Leddy was better Thursday but Scott, Lepisto, et. al are players to keep an eye on as camp moves into week 2.
Expect a much better showing on Friday against the Washington Capitals because there will be a much better lineup on the ice. Plenty of regulars including Brent Seabrook, Duncan Keith, Dave Bolland and Corey Crawford are scheduled to make their exhibition debuts. Then we can start to evaluate the 2011-2012 Blackhawks. For now, it’s all about the back-up goalie. Not exactly the most exciting aspect to watch but important nonetheless.