Blackhawks outplayed again in late going, fall in SO to Blues - FOX 32 News Chicago

Hawks outplayed again in late going, fall in SO to Blues

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

There are 12 games to go in the regular season and the biggest obstacle the Chicago Blackhawks will face is themselves.

The St. Louis Blues came into Thursday night's contest as a playoff bubble team and skated away with two hard fought points. The Hawks are one of the best teams in hockey, but when facing a desperate club a full effort is often required.

More concerning than getting outplayed in the third period again and losing to a lesser team on home ice was the response from Joel Quenneville. In postgame comments, the head coach seemed to think a lot of his team's 4-3 shootout loss and that was surprising.

"I like the way we played tonight. I thought we played a good game," Quenneville said, according to "We couldn't get the extra goal there to get ahead by two. Third goal – I like the way we came back in the game as well. I thought we played well for the majority of the game."

I agree the Hawks played well for the majority of the first period and fully controlled the middle frame. With all due respect to the Blues they shouldn't be able to outplay the Blackhawks in a third period at the United Center. This is especially so after the Blues were completely dominated in the preceding period and were outshot 15-5.

St. Louis, who isn't exactly considered a four line team, yet was led by their fourth line, was able to capture momentum and steal a victory. Their goaltender Brain Elliott could be classified as having a bad shootout history but was still able to outplay Corey Crawford to get the win. It took six rounds in the shootout but the Blues found a way to win.

It's not a shock the Hawks lost to the Blues Thursday night. But anyone not a little troubled as to the way recent losses are happening is ignoring the obvious.

Since the consecutive point streak ended the Blackhawks are just a shade over .500. That isn't terrible considering the injuries to Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp. Although what should be a concern are some bad habits setting in that are costing points, especially on home ice.

The Blackhawks can be so good when they manage the puck well and keep the game simple. The best teams close games out and don't lose because they are not mentally engaged. The Blues showed what a determined effort is like, and deserved to win.

Thursday night, Patrick Kane was trying to do too much and was neutralized for the most part. Kane managed to make a great pass to trigger the first Chicago goal but sometimes he needs to simplify his game.

Duncan Keith looked a bit too casual. Keith wasn't skating hard enough to catch the play after a Michal Rozsival giveaway resulted in a goal.

Brent Seabrook made a mistake by making a half-hearted attempt to block a long shot which led to a deflection and a Blues goal.

There were unforced errors as turnovers are a great equalizer.

The power play was unsuccessful in three attempts and for the most part was overpassing and playing out on the perimeter.

There was more but you get the idea, although Quenneville was correct, for the majority of the game the Hawks outplayed the Blues. What he skipped over was his club has failed to seal the deal of late and hasn't been able to play an effective 60 minutes.

So maybe Coach Q. is being a little too delicate and his lack of criticism is curious. Possibly he is being too respectful of team that still has the best record in the NHL. Trends develop slowly and sometimes stick around for a long time. Currently the Blackhawks are being outworked in crunch time.

One thing that is for certain in the NHL, the better team doesn't always win playoffs rounds.

Al's Shots

I tried to warn anxious Hawk fans there probably wouldn't be any more acquisitions for the big club after the Michal Handzus trade. My thinking turned out to be correct as the trade deadline day went quietly in Chicago.

GM Stan Bowman was true to his word and didn't trade anyone off the NHL roster. Much of what was rumored didn't have a chance of happening, but that was then.

Often trades take place long after they were first discussed. Judging by whom I heard the rumor from, of a possible Islander-Blackhawk trade both here and in New York, there was probably something to it. So maybe those two get together this summer for a transaction.

The scuttlebutt coming out of New York about possibly being able to acquire rookie Brandon Saad was off base. It would take a far bigger return than the Islanders would be willing to put together for Bowman to trade Saad as he is almost untouchable.

As this season goes on, Saad is getting better and better, and now is scoring goals.

Usually a forward has to be in the top two in rookie scoring to have a chance to win the Calder Trophy. No disrespect meant to the sports writers who vote for the Calder winner, but it seems like this is largely a scoring stat reward.

So in my book for Saad to have a chance, no matter how well he plays in every facet of the game, he needs to put up goals and assists.

Florida's Jonathan Huberdeau and Ottawa's Cory Conacher have 25 and 24 points respectively. Montreal's Brendan Gallagher has three more goals than Saad but both are tied for third in rookie scoring with 21 points.

If Saad could finish at least second in rookie scoring, and he could be there soon, he should have a big shot to win the Calder. Saad. unlike the two leading rookie scorers. is a strong +13 which is better than other freshman.

Jonathan Toews had another fine game and looks to be quicker and faster than ever. Toews knows how to score dirty goals and did so Thursday night.

Hossa was in good form in his first game back from injury.

Newcomer Handzus played well. He was a +1, with three hits and was a strong 71% to the good in the faceoff circle to lead all Hawks.

Hard-working Viktor Stalberg was rewarded with a goal Thursday night.

I will have more to say next time about some rule changes that need to happen as soon as possible in the NHL.

Here's a story that should be appreciated by fans of any sport but especially those who once wanted to be an NHL player.

On April 2, 31-year-old center Greg Rallo, who is from the Chicago-area, scored his first NHL goal. Rallo is with the Florida Panthers and although I have never seen him play, his career is a journey of passion.

I can't imagine how proud his family and friends must be as Rallo endured a very long road to get to the NHL. From his days in youth hockey the car trips, early morning practices, bumps, bruises and ice bags have to be too numerous to count.

Rallo got a taste for success during his youth hockey career while playing for the Franklin Park Flames. He played junior hockey in the North American league for two seasons and then went on to play four years at Ferris State.

That was fun compared to the work Rallo put in over the next eight years.

Since 2005, Rallo spent parts of three seasons in the ECHL, and then played for six different AHL clubs. Rallo had a brief two game stint with Rockford during the 2007-2008 campaign.

Rallo's first chance in the NHL happened last season in a one game call-up with Florida. His power play goal the other night which helped the Panthers get a shootout win over Tampa Bay had to be an unbelievable thrill.

There is no substitute for hard work and determination, and no doubt Greg Rallo is the definition of both.

I will be back on Sunday to discuss the game in Nashville. You can follow me on Twitter @AlCimaglia.

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