Puck possession among problems Blackhawks have to iron out before playoffs

PHILADELPHIA — Winners of seven of their past 10 games with an overtime loss thrown in, the Chicago Blackhawks aren’t in crisis mode.

More likely, they’re in the mode of a perennial Stanley Cup contender grinding through the rest of the regular season before the playoffs like any worker wants to get to pay day. The Blackhawks picked up just two points on a three-game road trip against teams out of the playoff hunt, and it’s clear they’re not clicking like they’d want.

“The last few games, pucks aren’t going in, but we’re not in control of the game defensively or offensively,” captain Jonathan Toews said Wednesday night after a 4-1 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers. “As a group we’ll figure out what’s going on and what we have to do better and what we have to do to get everyone firing and get all four lines engaged and really get that energy and enthusiasm back like we did before this road trip.”

Since star right-winger Patrick Kane broke his clavicle in late February, the Blackhawks are 8-3-1, but two of those losses are recent ones to the Dallas Stars and Flyers. Chicago’s recent road trip revealed a rough trend of not holding onto the puck as much as this team was used to with Kane.

Defenceman Duncan Keith said it’s a matter of being smart with the puck, other players supporting and turning on the speed. Usually it’s a hallmark of Joel Quenneville hockey.

“You’ve got to move before you touch it in the offensive zone, you’ve got to protect it better,” the Blackhawks’ coach said. “I think owning the puck and protecting it and having some speed when you have it initially keeps it longer.”

With nine games left, including Friday’s game at home against the Columbus Blue Jackets, Chicago still has a chance to chase down the St. Louis Blues and Nashville Predators and finish first in the Central Division. Home ice is nice, but that would also come with the risk of facing the defending Cup-champion Los Angeles Kings in the first round.

More than likely, the Blackhawks will be second or third and face either the Blues or Predators to open the playoffs. But the opponent isn’t as big a deal as getting on beginning to shift to playoff intensity.

“I think we want to first and foremost be clicking on all cylinders where we’ve got everybody going and we’re playing a good team game,” Keith said. “We’ve done that for periods of time throughout the season, but we want to do that come playoff time.”

Quenneville downplayed concerns about the underwhelming road trip by saying that, “for the most part there’s some good things going on.”

Toews said he had some ideas of what’s ailing the Blackhawks but didn’t want to go down the laundry list. His goal is to get players together to talk things out and work on fixing the problems.

“You can go with whatever reasons you think it is,” Toews said. “You can make a whole list of them. At the end of the day, we don’t make excuses. We’re going to be better, and we’ll have to find a way to do that.”


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