Make no mistake about it, the Hawks are not upset with the way they're playing, just the results.
Since scoring seven in San Jose on Nov. 25, they’re averaging less than two goals per game, but their record in seven games since is 3-3-1. Not bad, considering that offense -- but not great either.
“We don’t mind the way we’re playing but we do mind the way we’re not scoring,” Joel Quenneville said Saturday afternoon. “We have to find that tenacity around the net.”
And that was the theme after Saturday’s practice. The shots are great, but the second chances aren’t there and there isn’t enough driving to the net, with or without the puck. The past two games are a great example. Eighty-one shots for, but just three -- two in regulation -- have gone in.
“I like to call them ‘one-and-dones,’” Patrick Sharp said. “A lot of shots from the outside and the play is done…We need to go to the net more.”
“We’ve had 40 shots the last couple games, but I think the quality of the chances isn’t that great,” Patrick Kane added. “I think we’re getting more outside shots, which is fine if you’re getting people in front of the net and people crashing the net. I think that’s what we need to start doing a little bit more.”
All of this has led to Quenneville changing around the lines once again. He hinted as much after Friday’s 2-1 loss to Buffalo and then in practice on Saturday, he followed through. Jonathan Toews will now center Kane and Troy Brouwer, while Sharp will be between Marian Hossa and Andrew Ladd. That leaves John Madden to center Kris Versteeg and Dustin Byfuglien. The fourth line remained intact.
“It looks like we have balance on all the lines. We should get some scoring from all the lines,” Quenneville said. “We’re getting zone time, we’re getting possession time and now we have to simplify it. It doesn’t matter who is out there, we need to take the puck to the net and we need to get to the net more.”
Quenneville explained the need for more dirty goals. That could be a reason he’s put at least one bigger body on each of those first three lines. Kane, for one, is excited by his new combination of linemates, which isn’t all that new.
“We played last year together,” Kane recalled. “We played pretty well. I think we have a lot of chemistry out there. I think we get excited when we play with each other.”
“You really don’t change much, no matter who you’re playing with,” Sharp said. “You should be excited to play with anyone on this team.”
One other aspect of the Hawks’ drought might have to do with the opponent. Since the offensive explosion against the Sharks, the Hawks are seeing a little different strategy from the other side, who probably realize they can’t win a wide-open affair.
“Teams might be looking to be a little more patient,” Quenneville explained. “I think they’re looking for that tight checking, low scoring game. But you look around the league, it seems like the scoring has gone down.”
The good news is the Hawks have held their own in some of these tight affairs, but only with a .500 record. To go back on a streak, those dirty goals have to start coming. Sunday against Tampa Bay would be a good place to start.
Antti Niemi will start Sunday against the Lightning
Quenneville also changed up the power play units. He has them split into one “quicker” and one “bigger” group. Kane, Versteeg, Sharp, Campbell, and Keith skated together while Toews, Hossa, Brouwer, Cam Barker, and Byfuglien were the other unit.
Kane said he enjoyed his time back in Buffalo despite the loss and some boos. He did hear it some when he had the puck.“It’s almost fun to have the puck even more because you want to keep hearing the boos. It’s funny, [Brian] Campbell and I were talking about it. If I pass it to him and he passes it back, it’s like one long boo,” Kane said.
Kane said he had about 100 people in the stands that he knew but “didn’t have to buy all those tickets.” He said two of his friends got kicked out.
“I don’t know what they did. I‘ll have to talk to them. I guess they got let back in so who knows what happened,” Kane said.
No, one was not his cousin.