Friday, January 17, 2014
Blackhawks focused on better starts
By Scott Powers
CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks' trend for much of the first half of the season was jumping on opponents by scoring first and ultimately sealing the victory.
The Blackhawks scored first in 27 of their first 42 games this season and went 22-0-5 in those games. They were 6-5-4 when they trailed first during that span.
The Blackhawks hope to get back to their winning formula -- jumping out to an early lead.
Since the beginning of 2014, the Blackhawks have been on a different roll. They have all of a sudden become slow starters. Their opponent has scored the first goal in six of the past seven games, and the Blackhawks have two first-period goals during that period. They are 0-1-4 when they have trailed first since Jan. 1.
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville is concerned.
"For the most part of the first part of the year, it seemed like we had good starts, we had the lead and we were in the area we wanted to be in for most of the game," Quenneville said after the Friday morning skate. "I don't recall being up the first half of any game over the last 6-7 games. It's been trying to work ourselves back in the game. That seems that's where we're at.
"You're going to have stretches like that, but I think it's been a real long stretch where we're not familiar with scoring early or getting the first goal of the game and playing from behind. Hopefully we can get that going the other way soon. If it doesn't happen [Friday night], hopefully get ourselves back into it quickly."
The Blackhawks would especially like to buck that trend against the Anaheim Ducks on Friday night. The Ducks are the NHL's hottest team, winning 18 of their past 19 games.
"I think fast starts are important no matter who you're playing, but they do a good job of making it tough to score goals and get to that net," Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp said. "They like to handle that puck as well. The first goal tonight will be huge, but if we don't score it -- we haven't in the past -- it's not the end of the world. We've got to continue to press on."
Blackhawks defenseman Johnny Oduya also emphasized a stronger start.
"I know we have a better record when we score first," Oduya said. "I think either way we've battled back in almost every game we've played. That shows some character.
"We haven't been doing that all the way up. That's something we obviously have to work on and get better at. It's something that needs to be better if you want to win games consistently. I think either way obviously you don't want to be down by goals. The effort of coming back is needed too. If you can get up a goal or two, that's a position you want to be in on a better start. Tonight would be a good time to start a little better than before."