Chicago Blackhawks: New Jersey Devils
Parise said Tuesday that he hadn't made a decision and doesn't have a timetable for one soon after landing in his home state at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.
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"I'm getting closer but haven't made a decision. I haven't set any deadlines," the former New Jersey Devil told reporters during an impromptu news conference outside of his agent's Toronto offices Monday night.
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The NHL's all-time winningest goalie agreed to a two-year, $9 million deal with the only team he's ever played for, the New Jersey Devils.
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Some postgame stories write themselves and when a team goes eight consecutive power plays without a shot on net -- and lose a game by a goal -- that’s going to be the storyline no matter what else happens.
That’s the scenario facing the Chicago Blackhawks as they dropped their second consecutive game, 2-1 in a shootout, to the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday. Yes, they earned a point with a third period game tying goal by Brent Seabrook but they could have had much more.
“Something we’ll keep working on,” coach Joel Quenneville said of the power play after the game. “We’re not happy about it. We’ll keep pulling forward and being positive.”
Maybe going negative would work. The Hawks have tried just about everything else, including bringing in their director of player development to work on it. It’s had minimal impact. The hockey gods even gave the Hawks a minute-plus of 5-on-3 time in the second period. By now you know the result: no shots on net which means no goals.
“It seems like we lose the face-off right off the bat, 5-on-3, and its out in the neutral zone,” Quenneville said. “It doesn’t start out on the right foot but still had plenty of opportunities to score after that.”
That’s another issue, the Hawks have been getting killed in the face-off circle, specifically on the power play, over the last two games. It’s contributed to their woes. But the bottom line is, it’s embarrassing to go eight attempts without a shot. No rebounds, no havoc, no goals.
“That’s one of the things we’re trying to focus on,” Patrick Kane said. “I think we’re trying, we’re getting pucks through, sometimes they’re getting blocked, sometimes they’re getting deflected. Five-on-three we could have had more movement.”
Ranked 24th in the league and converting just 15 percent of the time, the Hawks' power play had a tough enough task coming into the game. New Jersey is tops in the league killing penalties at a 90 percent clip -- a very rare rate of success. A team unable to produce even a shot on goal on the power play in consecutive games is also rare. Starting over on special teams this late in the year won’t be easy -- but it’s necessary.
“When you get a 5-on-3 you want to score no matter what,” Kane said. “Tough part of the game.”
He could have just as easily said “tough part of our game” because it has been since almost Day 1.
• Viktor Stalberg had seven of the Hawks 38 shots on net.
• Brent Seabrook scored his eighth goal of the season, one off his career high achieved twice.
• Andrew Shaw’s career high five game point streak came to an end.
• New Jersey improved to 16-6 in overtime this year including 12-4 in shootouts.
• Steve Montador didn’t take another shift after his head collided with Mark Fayne early in the third period. Montador missed the last 22 games before Tuesday with a reported concussion. He played wing against New Jersey, totaling 4:20 of ice time.
Here's a quick look at the Blackhawks' loss to the Devils on Tuesday night.
How it happened: New Jersey won it after five rounds in a shootout with Travis Zajac getting the winner. Andrew Shaw couldn’t match him as the Hawks' last hope. The visitors went 1-for-5 with Patrick Sharp the lone scorer in the shootout. A first period power-play goal by Peter Sykora nearly held up as the Hawks struggled once again with their own man advantages. But Brent Seabrook tied it in the third period after a nice play by Niklas Hjalmarsson and then Dave Bolland. But it would be all the scoring the Hawks would get despite outshooting New Jersey 38 to 22. Even more amazing is that none of those 38 shots on net came on the power play, including 1:08 of 5-on-3 time. The Hawks went 0-4 on the power play, including one at the end of regulation which was negated when Marian Hossa was called for tripping.
What it means: Much will -- and should be -- be made of the Hawks power play struggles as they incredibly failed to get a shot on goal in four attempts. That’s eight consecutive tries over two games without a shot on net, let alone a goal. It’s inexcusable the Hawks would get over a minute of 5-on-3 time and still not earn a shot. It simply lets the opposing goaltender off the hook. In this case, it was Martin Brodeur, who was very good 5-on-5 but was never challenged when the Devils were down a man and it may have cost the Hawks a point. Still, it was a gutsy road effort after getting down a goal. The Hawks nearly pulled off the win but do get a point despite the continued power play struggles.
Montador leaves: Playing in his first game in 23 due to a concussion, Montador had to leave after colliding with Mark Fayne early in the third period.
What’s next: The Hawks return home for Game No. 40 at the United Center on Thursday against the St. Louis Blues.
CHICAGO -- It’s something no one is used to: The Hawks losing at home.
After suffering only eight regular-season losses at the United Center a year ago, the Hawks dropped their fifth already this season, to the lowly New Jersey Devils, 5-3.
“There really is no excuse for that,” Fernando Pisani said after the game. “We need to pride ourselves on being a high energy team that gets four lines going.”
Pisani scored his first goal as a Hawk, but that was after plenty of energy was expended on the comeback. The Hawks only had five shots and no power-play attempts in the first period. That picked up, but it was too little too late.
“We have to take pride in getting better starts,” Viktor Stalberg said. “It doesn’t matter who is out there, especially on home ice.”
Stalberg had a goal and two assists, but it wasn’t enough. Joel Quenneville offered his explanation for his team’s home woes.
“Last year one of our strengths was the pace in our game,” he said. “We want to make sure we sustain it and make the other team try to catch our pace. But at home this year whether it’s been our start or the game, we want to be better.”
Translation: Thirty-or 40-minute efforts aren’t good enough. The Hawks have to get back to skating for a full 60 minutes.
“Definitely tough,” Quenneville said. “Very comparable how we’ve lost here at home. Five games 2-2 in the third and we don’t get a point.”
Lost opportunities that Quenneville warned “you don’t get another chance at.” Those points are lost and the Hawks need to clamp down before they lose any more.
CHICAGO -- Here's a quick look at the Blackhawks' 3-2 loss to the Devils.
How it Happened: The Hawks fought back from a 2-0 deficit but the Devils took the lead for good at 3-2 with just 3:51 remaining in the game. The Blackhawks continued a trend of giving up scores around their net -- Bradley Mills was able to tap one in to give New Jersey the lead in the third period. An otherwise sleepy affair by the Blackhawks found some life when the power-plays started to pile up for the home team. Down 2-0 in the second, Brian Campbell scored just after a New Jersey penalty expired then early in the third Fernando Pisani put in a rebound of a Viktor Stalberg shot to tie the game. Both those tallies had the less star-laden, second power play unit on the ice. Three goals were scored in the game's final minute. New Jersey tallied a pair of empty-net goals. In between those two scores, Viktor Stalberg notched his fourth goal of the year and brought the Hawks back within one.
What it Means: The Hawks lose despite getting a break when all-world goaltender Martin Brodeur left the game in the second period with a hand injury. Its also another home loss to a team that was 3-9-1 coming into the contest having lost one of their top players -- Zach Parise -- just days before the game. The Hawks home record is 4-5 and their overall mark drops to 7-7-1.
What’s next: The Hawks finally get a breather with a couple days between games to prepare for the long awaited match-up with the Atlanta Thrashers. Four former Hawks, all who helped Chicago win the Stanley Cup, will face their former team for the only time this season.
New Jersey increased its 1-0 lead early in the period with a Travis Zajac goal after the Hawks could not corral the puck near their crease. Duncan Keith had it knocked away by Ilya Kovalchuk and Zajac pounced.
Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur had to leave the game midway through the period after apparently suffering a right-hand injury. Johan Hedberg relieved Brodeur and made a diving stop on a Jack Skille breakaway.
The Hawks will have 0:43 of power play time to open the third period.
With their dramatic 2-1 shootout victory over the New Jersey Devils on Friday, the Hawks have their first division title in 17 years in their sights.
A Detroit Red Wings' loss in regulation to the Nashville Predators on Saturday will clinch the title and mark the first major achievement of the season. In training camp, the Hawks spoke openly of wrestling away the division from the Red Wings who have had a stranglehold on it for nearly a decade.
The Hawks' win on Friday eliminated the Predators from contention for the division but both the San Jose Sharks and Vancouver Canucks kept pace as the No. 1 and No. 3 seeds, respectively. The Hawks remain three points behind the Sharks and five ahead of the Canucks.
The Calgary Flames have caught the Colorado Avalanche for the No. 8 seed but they have played one more game than the Avalanche. The Flames visit the United Center on Sunday.
Detroit hosts Nashville on Saturday, and if the Predators have any hope of holding on to the No. 5 seed, they need to win. The Wings are one point behind Nashville but will have four games remaining after their game while the Predators will have just two. Detroit is the hottest team in the NHL, having won seven in a row.
If the playoffs began today, the Hawks would take on the Los Angeles Kings, but with the way the schedule is taking hold, Chicago and Nashville might be on a collision course. The Hawks seem entrenched as the No. 2 seed while Nashville, with only those two games remaining, could easily drop to No. 7 before the regular season concludes a week from Sunday.
The schedule is not doing any favors for the Blackhawks, in the final week. Between Sunday at 2 p.m. CT and a week from Sunday at 2 p.m. CT, the puck will drop five times for Chicago in as busy a finish as you’ll find. Included in that week are single game trips to Dallas and Colorado, plus a back to back set. Oh, and there’s that season finale against the previously stated hottest team in the league, the Red Wings.
Considering the way the Hawks were playing going into it, the just concluded three-game road trip was nothing short of great. They played even games at the St. Louis Blues and New Jersey, coming away with a win and a loss. Sandwiched between was a solid, shutout effort against the Minnesota Wild. It’s looking more and more like the problems the Hawks were having in March were due to the time of the season more than anything systematic.
The trip proved a couple things. Antti Niemi might just be ready for the postseason, and Dustin Byfuglien does indeed belong on defense. There are still some offensive issues to be addressed, starting with the power play, but at least defensively, the Hawks are coming around.
Speaking of the power play, there were no opportunities on Friday for either team. No penalties called at all. That's the first time since 2001 an NHL game went infraction-less.
If you believe in coincidences, then there is a heck of a one going on involving the Hawks and referee Paul Devorski. He was one of the refs for that infamously poorly officiated game in Anaheim on March 17. That was the game where James Wisniewski ran Brent Seabrook but only received a two-minute minor, before subsequently being suspended for eight games because of the brutality of the hit. It also was the game that Brent Sopel was clearly crosschecked in the back near the slot without the whistle being blown. That led directly to the winning goal.
It’s assumed Devorski and the other officials in the game had a nice talking to with the NHL after the game. The next night, against Los Angeles, with the same referee crew, the Hawks were not given a minor penalty in the game. The next time Devorski worked a Hawks game? Friday night in New Jersey. Again, no penalties called.
That’s no coincidence.
“It did,” Kris Versteeg said after the Chicago Blackhawks' 2-1 shootout win over the New Jersey Devils on Friday. “Yeah, there were no penalties and there was battling all over the ice. You had to battle for every inch. You weren’t going anywhere without getting an extra shot in the face, or a good punch here and there, or a good hit. It was a well-fought game and fair on both sides.”
Versteeg scored the Hawks' only goal with 26 seconds remaining to tie the game before the Hawks won it in the shootout.
“You just turn around and shoot it and hope it goes in,” Versteeg said. “[We got] a fortunate bounce there.”
Jonathan Toews didn’t want to jump on the playoff analogy but agreed the symptoms sure felt like it.
“These games are getting tighter and tighter,” Toews said. “There’s less room to make the pretty plays. Like you saw, we had to find a way to score an ugly one at the end there.”
None of it matters if Antti Niemi doesn’t come up big once again. A rare early barrage against the Hawks had Niemi facing 10 shots in the first six minutes which resulted in the Devils' only goal. He was solid the rest of the way, including in his specialty, the shootout.
“He was great,” Toews said. “Three great shooters come down and get nothing. He’s been clutch for us. Obviously, we have to play better and better in front of him.”
Niemi, some players have said, works on stopping shootout attempts for up to 45 minutes on a given day.
“Having fun after practice, that’s all,” Niemi said. “It’s like a little competition. It pays off.”
“I like the response we’re getting from him,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “He played three games in four nights and it looked like he handled it very well.”
The Hawks' funk seems to be ending, just in time.
“It started in St. Louis,” Versteeg said. “We definitely played better than they did in St. Louis, and I don’t think we really deserved that loss. We took it into the 4-0 win [in Minnesota] and we took it in again tonight. We were down all night, but I thought we played well. Both teams played well. It was really a playoff like game.”
- The last time an NHL game was played without a penalty being called was March 2001.
- By the time the first TV timeout came around, the Hawks had give up 10 shots. “Too much standing around,” Quenneville said.
- The Hawks won the shootout needing only two shooters. If you're wondering, Marian Hossa would have been next.
- Niemi got a thrill out of beating Hall of Famer to be, Marty Brodeur. “I didn’t want to think about it too much, but it’s a pretty great thing,” Niemi said.
- Niemi is 6-2 in shootouts this season. He has stopped 26 of 32 shooters he’s faced.
- The win assured the Hawks no worse than second place in the division. Nashville, with only three games remaining, cannot win the division.
It’s not a surprise that the Washington Capitals, with a recent 14-game winning streak under their belt, sit atop the rankings. Nor could anyone argue too much that the San Jose Sharks are ranked ahead of the Blackhawks at No. 2.
The Hawks’ 5-4 loss on Sunday at home to the Detroit Red Wings kept them from being higher than No. 3. Despite some spotty play both before and after the Olympic break, the Hawks are just one win behind Washington for the NHL lead.
The defending champion Penguins lurk just behind the Hawks at No. 4 and the surprising Phoenix Coyotes round out the top five.
The Hawks began the week with a bad loss to the lowly New York Islanders. Despite leading after the first period again and outshooting their opponent in lopsided fashion, they gave up four goals in the second period en route to the 5-3 loss. Bounce-back wins against the Edmonton Oilers and Vancouver Canucks guaranteed a .500 week and a top-five position in the rankings.
The Hawks held the top spot for weeks until Washington went on its run and the Sharks began the post-Olympic schedule by going 2-1, losing only to the New Jersey Devils. Unless both teams collapse, San Jose or Chicago should finish the season with the No. 1 seed and home-ice advantage throughout the conference playoffs.
Kovalchuck was traded to the New Jersey Devils on Thursday for defenseman Johnny Oduya, rookie forward Niclas Bergfors, junior prospect Patrice Cormier and a first-round draft pick. Other than a cursory conversation or two, the Hawks and Thrashers never got serious about the impending free-agent.
The implication of such information is that the Hawks are not bent on dumping salary before this year’s trade deadline. Both general manager Stan Bowman and Hawks owner Rocky Wirtz have said as much in recent interviews. Winning now and worrying about the cap later has been intimated -- if not outright declared -- in those interviews. This non-interest in Kovalchuk backs that up and also implies the Hawks are satisfied with their offense.
On paper, there seemed to be a fit between the teams if the Hawks had wanted to pursue Kovaluchuk. In fact, the players the Devils sent back were exactly the type that conceivably were expendable for the Hawks. The only difference is in the money that they make. Atlanta would have had to take on more if a trade with the Hawks had been consummated. And its unknown if the Hawks would have had a prospect to the Thrashers liking.
It’s a moot point now. With the biggest name off the market, the Hawks will more than likely look to add a defenseman or do nothing. Then there’s that goaltending situation, but any move in that department would be a long shot.
It helped that the other contenders for the No. 1 spot all lost this past weekend as well. The Hawks also remain 2 and 1, respectively, on offense and defense in the NHL.
The New Jersey Devils are closing the gap in team goals-against average, but the Hawks remain No. 1 in that category, giving up just 2.13 per game to New Jersey’s 2.16. No team since the 1977-’78 Montreal Canadiens has led the league in offense and defense.
The Devils and San Jose Sharks traded spots in the rankings with New Jersey moving up to No. 2. The Devils have the same number of wins as the Hawks but have played three fewer games.
The biggest surprise is where last year’s finals participants are in the standings. The Detroit Red Wings are 13th, but they’ve been hovering around that mark for a while because of the number of injuries they have endured.
The Pittsburgh Penguins, however, have no such excuse in dropping to ninth. One problem is goaltending. Marc-Andre Fleury has struggled since helping Pittsburgh to a Cup win last spring.
Still, you would be hard pressed to find someone that believes the Phoenix Coyotes, who rank one higher than Pittsburgh, would beat them in a playoff series.
The other team climbing the ranks is the Vancouver Canucks. They are 7-0-2 in their past nine and up to seventh in the rankings. The Hawks will play them on the road later this month. Another hot team, despite being ranked 25th, is Columbus. They have won three in a row and visit the United Center on Thursday.