Hawks' defense part of reason for deficit

May, 27, 2014
May 27
7:18
PM CT
Powers By Scott Powers
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- Blackhawks defensemen Michal Rozsival and Nick Leddy were caught watching as the Los Angeles KingsTanner Pearson jumped on a loose puck and fed Tyler Toffoli in the slot for a crucial goal in Game 2 of the Western Conference finals.

Toffoli skated past Blackhawks defensemen Johnny Oduya and Niklas Hjalmarsson for a loose puck in Chicago's zone and scored to break a 2-2 tie in Game 3.

Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith had the puck taken away from him by Kings forward Anze Kopitar, and defenseman Brent Seabrook was slow to get to the net to stop Marian Gaborik from scoring the second goal in Game 4.

While Chicago's penalty kill has been accountable for five goals in the past three games, that hasn’t been the Blackhawks’ only issue in their three consecutive losses, which have put them behind 3-1 in series. They also have had a few breakdowns they’re not accustomed to seeing from their defensemen.

“We’ve let in some uncharacteristic type of goals in this series that we probably haven’t seen all year or in the playoffs, for sure, that we think are preventable,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said on Tuesday. “We shore that up, and we’ll keep ourselves in the game and find a way.”

The Blackhawks allowed eight even-strength goals over the past three games. They had given up 21 even-strength goals over the first 13 playoff games. In the series, Oduya has been on the ice for six even-strength goals, Seabrook for four, Hjalmarsson for three, Rozsival for three, Leddy for two and Keith for one.

Not all of those goals were the defensemen's fault, but Seabrook said there’s definitely room for improvement on the back end.

“Absolutely, I think, like I said, I’ve got to be better,” Seabrook said Tuesday. “It doesn’t just start with the penalty kill. It’s in every facet of the game. I think we’ve all got to be out there doing things that are going to make us win a game, and I think some things happened last game that are uncharacteristic, but I’d say you’ve got to give L.A. credit. They’re forcing us into different situations, but we’ve got to be better and we will be better.”

Oduya and Hjalmarsson have had the best Corsi numbers (shot differential) among the defensemen despite starting in the defensive zone more than the others, according to extraskater.com. Oduya has a 57.0 Corsi percentage (the Blackhawks have 61 shots for and 46 against with him on the ice in 5-on-5 situations in the series). He’s followed by Hjalmarsson (55.3 percent), Rozsival (50.5), Seabrook (50.0), Leddy (48.5) and Keith (47.8). Leddy and Rozsival start the most in the offensive zone.

Quenneville thought what it came down to was his defensemen needing to play better around their own net.

“I think where pucks going through us or not recognizing the coverage that’s around the net,” Quenneville said. “They got some guys that they make some blind plays. Around the net, they got quick sticks, and they got some good shooters as well. I think we got to make sure we’re going to be defending around our net better than they are at their net. It could be the difference.”
Scott Powers is a general reporter for ESPNChicago.com. He is an award-winning journalist and has been reporting on preps, colleges and pros for publications throughout the Midwest since 1997.

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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