Chicago's form a concern as Hawks falls 4-2 to Colorado - Dallas News |

Chicago's form a concern as Hawks falls 4-2 to Colorado

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

On Tuesday night the Chicago Blackhawks returned to the United Center for the first time in over a month. Unfortunately the result was the same as in their last match on home ice, a loss. Colorado stayed patient, made fewer mistakes and had the better goaltender as they skated away with a 4-2 victory.

The Avalanche are impressive as they have had the Blackhawks number in three of four meetings. A common theme is goalie Semyon Varlamov has been Colorado's best player plus his young teammates play a disciplined game and find a way to come away with two points.

This was a key game for Chicago who now has a slim one point lead over Colorado in the Western Conference. The Avalanche have a game in hand and the two clubs will conclude the season series in Colorado next week.

The Blackhawks have been anything but dominant over their last 10 games (4-4-2), Actually they haven't been setting the world on fire over the last 20 games. To take things a step further the Hawks have struggled against the Central Division all season, having posted an unimpressive 9-9-3 record.

Joel Quenneville keeps mentioning he never worries about his team scoring goals. The future Hall of Fame bench boss knows his stuff but it probably would be best to be concerned about a lack of offense. In general it might be wise for Quenneville and Blackhawk faithful to be a little worried.

The best of the Blackhawks would be difficult to beat in a playoff series, but there are 19 more games before post season play begins.

Unless the Hawks can stay dialed on high and bring a more complete game consistently they are going to slip in the standings. Especially without the injured Marian Hossa they aren't going to catch fire with part time efforts. A home ice advantage for the playoffs may be more important than in the past.

Other clubs in the Central Division like the Blues and Avalanche are much better than last year. Others in the Western Conference like Anaheim and San Jose have also improved. Considering how the Blackhawks have performed since January it would be difficult to say they are a better team than last season.

Corey Crawford's effort last night was like his teammates, spotty. Crawford was very good versus Pittsburgh in his previous outing but allowed at least one goal he should have stopped last night. Crawford has been great in some games and then there are times he isn't very sharp as was the case versus Colorado.

In general the team's performance was inconsistent also.

Having one of the best fourth lines in the NHL is a good thing, but on too many occasions that unit has outplayed the top two lines. Last night was one of those occasions.

The third line has been inconsistent almost all season and they were on the ice for the opening Avalanche goal. Quenneville took exception and when goals aren't flowing every miscue jumps off the page.

Peter Regin was centering the third line and they can use a lack of chemistry as an excuse. Quenneville leans on third line to be strong defensively and that has to be the case in tight matches. There were times Regin, Andrew Shaw and Bryan Bickell did look good.

If assigning blame is necessary Duncan Keith could take some as he over committed to break up a long pass and failed to do so. That mistake allowed Ryan O'Reilly to come in and shoot one through Crawford's legs. It was a shot that more times than not Crawford stops. So there are two players to point a finger at on that goal.

On the game winner Johnny Oduya can also share in some blame for getting whistled for an interference penalty. The Av's scored on the subsequent power play.

Oduya was guilty but it was a tough a break. He was battling for the puck and probably lost track it wasn't at his opponents skates and then impeded his progress. It was the proper call and Oduya was at fault.

While blame is being distributed the biggest issue could be the fact the Blackhawks couldn't stay determined for sixty minutes on home ice. They started well but then stopped playing a more simple game of going hard to the net. Varlamov was good but he didn't have to deal with much traffic.

Other clubs have been better this season than the Blackhawks. Maybe in the final 19 games of the season the Hawks will hit their best stride. If not they will likely have to play without a home ice advantage to start the postseason.

On Thursday night the Blue Jackets will pay a visit and they are one of many teams battling for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. This will be another test of focus as Quenneville will be looking for a more complete effort against a desperate foe.

After facing Columbus the Hawks will travel to Buffalo and then go to Colorado. Points need to be booked against lesser foes in the next two games and the Blackhawks can use all four points.

Al's Shots

On Tuesday afternoon GM Stan Bowman may have completed his trade deadline work by acquiring two defensemen. In exchange for a 2014 second round draft pick Chicago acquired David Rundblad and Mathieu Brisebois from Phoenix.

Rundblad is 23 years old, a former 2009 first round draft pick and will report to Chicago. The 21 year old Brisebois will be sent to Rockford.

The Hawks have had good luck with Swedish defensemen and will hope the same holds true with Rundblad. He will replace Michael Kostka on the roster and Brisebois will try to help the Icehogs make the playoffs.

Bowman must have seen something he likes in both as he parted with a second round draft pick.

The Blackhawks are basically out of cap space so Bowman is most likely done adding to the big club.

You can follow me on Twitter @AlCimaglia and I will be back on Friday morning.

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