Blackhawks give one away late but can learn from loss to Anaheim - MyFoxAustin.com | KTBC Fox 7 | News, Weather, Sports

Hawks give one away late but can learn from 4-2 loss to Ducks

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

The Chicago Blackhawks were less than six minutes away from declaring bragging rights on Wednesday night. In the NHL a lot can happen in six minutes as a 2-1 Chicago lead turned into a 4-2 victory for Anaheim. The Ducks were the better team when it counted the most and handed the Blackhawks their third regulation loss of the season.

Many around the NHL believe despite the Blackhawks record setting streak the Ducks are the best team in the Western Conference. They aren't doing it with mirrors as Anaheim is only three points behind Chicago in the standings and has a game in hand. It wouldn't be fair to jump to a conclusion as to the superiority of the Ducks after Wednesday night's victory but they are a loaded team.

Comparing the clubs, the advantage for the Blackhawks would be the depth of their defensemen but the Ducks have a strong group as well. Anaheim might not be quite as fast but they can play the game at a very quick pace, so not a big edge there. The offense for both clubs is solid and maybe the Hawks have a slight edge in team defense as goaltending has been about the same. Anaheim has more elder statesmen and added experience is usually an advantage.

Unfortunately the loss came about because the Chicago defense and goaltending wasn't better than the Ducks. Being not a very physical team doesn't matter as much when the Hawks can outskate and play at a faster pace than their opponents. That's not the case with the big and fast skating Ducks. Also, some inexperience shown by a young player who gets a lot of ice time was a factor Wednesday night as well.

Anaheim played without their best player as Corey Perry was still serving a four game suspension. The Blackhawks were without Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp, and were playing their final contest of a four game road trip. So advantage Ducks, but maybe the Hawks will learn something from the loss.

The Ducks trailed the Hawks in the first meeting in Chicago and came back to win in a shootout. Wednesday night, Anaheim was the better team early and late and snatched the two points before the Hawks could close out the game.

Corey Crawford was strong in the early going or otherwise the Ducks could have salted the game away in the first period. Unfortunately Crawford gave up a poor rebound which led to Bobby Ryan‘s game tying score and then the yarn ball quickly came apart.

Rookie Brandon Saad will better realize how important puck management is, especially so in the later stages of a close game. Saad had the puck along the boards near the Hawks blueline and he needed to get it out of the zone. Instead Anaheim gained control as Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews were headed the wrong way. The result was an easy counter attack which ended in a Teemu Selanne game winning goal. On the play almost every Hawk player was on the wrong side of the puck.

Maybe the biggest difference between the two teams is the Ducks have a bigger more physical squad. Normally the Hawks can play fast enough whereby they wear down an opponent although they get outhit. Anaheim can play the game at a fast pace too so the Hawks have to be razor sharp to come out on top.

If not for another unreal individual play by Toews in the opening period the Hawks would have been held scoreless. It almost seems like the Captain is faster than last year, one thing for sure he is stronger. Toews has the hands to score from in close and the strength to keep the puck. Opposing defensemen can't seem to stop him even when they hold on for dear life as Toews finds a way to get to the net.

Due to the injuries to Hossa and Sharp, Kane played a whopping 25:21 which was only 30 seconds less than the game leader Duncan Keith. To put Kane's double duty further into perspective his ice time was more than eight minutes longer than the Ducks best player Ryan Getzlaf. It was fun to watch Kane for the most part but his playing that much isn't the best recipe for success.

The third line for the Hawks keeps the game simple and dumps and chases the puck. Although they were unable to score Wednesday night they still wear the opposing defense out.

When Kane has the puck good things often happen but against better teams the Hawks can't create offense solely from individual efforts. Simply put the Anaheim defense didn't break and they did a better job of sustaining pressure in the later stages of the final frame.

Kane can't be faulted as he did what Joel Quenneville asked but it should be noted he was on the ice for every Anaheim goal.

It was as if the Hawks played with one less player as Dan Carcillo only skated three shifts for a total of 2:26 of ice time. The Anaheim player who played the least skated for 6:39. Although 4:13 doesn't seem like much of a difference, it is in hockey.

Carcillo could be still hurting because after returning from his last knee injury he hasn't skated as well. Or maybe Quenneville doesn't think as much of Carcillo as GM Stan Bowman did when he quickly signed him to a two year contract extension last spring.

Either way when facing the better teams down the stretch and in the playoffs all hands on deck are needed. Anyone believing great individual efforts by Kane and Toews will be enough to carry the Hawks to a Stanley Cup victory is sadly mistaken.

Speaking of top efforts there hasn't been many from Brent Seabrook this season. Normally Seabrook doesn't have many games where he seems off, but not so this year. Wednesday night was another outing when Seabrook appeared slow to react and a step behind.

Oddly, Seabrook left the bench for awhile again Wednesday night and there is no telling why that keeps happening. My guess would be Seabrook isn't 100 percent healthy, maybe it's a muscle strain or another issue but he isn't moving as crisply on the ice as he normally does. Also Seabrook may not have been in the same top shape as many Blackhawks were to start the season. Just trying to connect the dots, but Seabrook frequently leaving the bench during games and playing below his standards indicates something is going on.

There hasn't been much to criticize this season and for good reason.

In the big picture losing this game might not mean much except for finishing with the best record in the league. The importance of winning the President's Trophy falls far short of capturing the Stanley Cup. This loss did show what the Hawks will need to improve upon to beat a team like Anaheim.

Fortunately there aren't many teams with the size, strength, speed and experience of the Ducks.

Al's Shots

The Blackhawks don't play until Monday but I will be back Friday to tie up some loose ends.

We will discuss the coming realignment as well as look at trade deadline ramifications for the Hawks.

Until then you can follow me on Twitter @Al Cimaglia

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