The Blackhawks picked up only one point in the standings in New Jersey but the importance of fighting back after a sluggish start can't be discounted. The Devils came out flying and after their initial opening period surge, which Corey Crawford stifled, the Hawks were the better club. In the end, the 2-1 shootout loss to New Jersey wasn't as bad as it might sound.
With Ray Emery out with an undisclosed upper body injury it was important for a confident, in control Crawford to make an appearance on Tuesday evening. Another subpar effort would not have bolstered Crawford's confidence, but he was solid while facing boyhood idol Martin Brodeur.
If not for their future first ballot Hall of Fame goaltender, the Devils would have been beaten on home ice. Brodeur was the difference as the Hawks had many good scoring chances. The Blackhawks deserved a better fate but for the most part, the correct effort was in place.
The Chicago defensive zone coverage was shaky at times and Marian Hossa had a below average performance but the Hawks persevered. The checking line of Andrew Shaw, Dave Bolland and Bryan Bickell played well. Viktor Stalberg had a strong outing and recorded a game high seven shots on goal.
Brent Seabrook was in good form and Nick Leddy came through with a better effort. Former Devil Johnny Oduya started out a bit jittery but got better as the game went on. Oduya led all players with 29:56 of ice time and was credited with three blocked shots.
Seabrook connected for the Hawks lone goal but it was hard work by Shaw and Bickell plus a nice pinch-in by Niklas Hjalmarsson that led to the tally. Bolland sent a nice pass to Seabrook who beat Brodeur with a slap shot.
Defenseman Steve Montador was back in action after a 22 game absence due to a concussion. Montador skated at wing on the fourth line and only played seven shifts accounting for 4:20 of ice time. Maybe Montador would have played more but he got roughed up near the Devils net and only skated one shift in the final frame.
It is safe to say Joel Quenneville isn't thrilled with the performances of forwards Michal Frolik and Brendan Morrison. Quenneville could have played Montador on defense and used either Frolik or Morrison on the fourth line. It's not like Dylan Olsen or Sean O'Donnell is playing so well they can't be taken out of the lineup but Coach Q. thought differently.
It looks like Chicago could be the last stop in Morrison's NHL career. This is the time of year when a player with his experience should shine but that's hardly the case. Frolik is snake bitten around the net. Although Frolik gives a decent effort on most occasions it appears he has fallen out of favor with Quenneville. Neither player has contributed much and with the recent injuries, they had an opportunity to prove themselves.
The Hawks could have used more depth but at least now the injured are returning. Marcus Kruger was back in action and didn't appear rusty while playing close to 20 minutes. With a little luck Jonathan Toews could return on Sunday or at least for the final two games.
Until the Blackhawks get completely healthy, the minutes will continue to be piled on the better players. Patrick Sharp was on the ice for over 22 minutes and Hossa played slightly over 23 minutes. Patrick Kane led all Hawk forwards with 23:54 in ice time. Tuesday night, the Hawks big three didn't stain the scoresheet.
The Blackhawks can take away the positives from their effort in New Jersey and prepare for another tough test on Thursday at the United Center. The St. Louis Blues will be in town and they are coming off a 3-0 whitewash of Nashville.
The Blues 1-A goaltender Brian Elliott recorded his third straight shutout on Tuesday evening. Normally, most clubs would ride the hot goalie but the Blues have the luxury of two top tenders. So it has been reported Jaroslav Halak will take his turn between the pipes to face Crawford as the Hawks will look to claw for more points.
St. Louis has the best record in hockey and is fresh off two shutout victories. The Blackhawks will be looking for a similar effort that led to a 4-3 shootout win versus the Blues on March 13. The Hawks still sit in sixth place in the Western Conference and are six points ahead of seventh place Dallas.
The Blackhawks power play is so ineffective it is almost comical.
The Hawks failed to score during four power play attempts, and there was a five on three advantage mixed in as well. It isn't as if the Hawks are unlucky and opposing goal keepers are called on to make great saves. That's hardly the case as the Blackhawks have not recorded a single shot on goal in their last eight power play attempts.
Obviously, having such a poor play puts a lot more pressure on every other aspect of the Hawks game. The lone goal New Jersey scored was due to a poor line change during a penalty kill, which should be embarrassing.
Down the stretch, the Blackhawks need to be dialed in on every shift. A momentary lapse in concentration can result in a goal against, as was the case Tuesday night.
The power play should improve somewhat with the return of Toews and Duncan Keith but even when they were playing it wasn't great. Some years are just like that.
Shaw continues to be a pleasant surprise. Versus the Devils he had four shots on goal, three hits and was a plus one. Shaw keeps proving simple is often best. The rookie forward is always around the opponent's net, in position to score or to cause chaos.
Follow me on Twitter @AlCimaglia
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