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Blackhawks see need for more heart and smarts

by Brian Hedger /
CHICAGO -- They had a night to think about it, and then the Chicago Blackhawks showed up to the United Center on Sunday morning still feeling pretty lousy.
Rather than matching Vancouver in emotion and talent, the Hawks laid an egg in dropping the opener of this Western Conference Semifinal series 5-1 to the rival Canucks. Opting not to skate on Sunday morning, they instead took a closer look at the carnage on video to see what areas can be improved upon before Monday night's Game 2 (9 p.m. EST, Versus, CBC).
The general consensus? Heart and smarts.
"The biggest thing was just our energy," Chicago captain Jonathan Toews said. "We didn't play with a lot of energy. You could see it. We watched video this morning and it was obvious that our work ethic wasn't there. I thought for the most part we weren't willing to work extra hard to get into the right positions and to support each other."

That might have been the case, but the Canucks looked considerably better for most of the game in building a 5-0 lead before Patrick Kane finally got one past Roberto Luongo during a 5-on-3 power play early in the third period. It begs the question -- what happened to Chicago's defense?
Chicago's six defensemen combined for a minus-8 in plus/minus and coughed up the puck eight times between them. Vancouver only gave it away four times as a team. Do the Hawks now need to take a page from the Nashville Predators, who tried to slow them down by clogging up the ice in the quarterfinal round?
Maybe not to that extreme, but it sure sounded like some sort of defensive changes are on the way.
"We got a totally different team than what we got against Nashville," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said Saturday. "This team has got a lot of speed, a lot of skill, a lot of attack -- and defending is the area that we have to make sure that we can't give them anything."
At the very least they need to act faster. Playing Nashville took patience while playing Vancouver demands mental sharpness and speed.
"You have to react a lot quicker," said Hawks defenseman Brent Sopel, who had his worst game of the playoffs by turning the puck over three times and recording a minus-2 in 15:41 of ice time. "They move the puck, skate a little faster than what we dealt with last series, so we have to do the same thing."
The Canucks speed was most evident on the forecheck, which frustrated Hawks defensemen all game.
"They chip pucks in and they've got that speed to get on top of defensemen," Sopel said. "We as a defense need to get back a lot quicker and we need our forwards to come back and talk it out, make simple plays. Tape-to-tape passing. Keep it on the boards."
Going against the grain, Sopel actually thinks the Hawks' defensive problems stemmed from pressing too much at times.

"Defensively, I think we just weren't in the right positions," he said. "A few times we were over back-checking and working too hard. You've got to work hard and smart. Less is more sometimes, and there were a few times where I think we were just trying to do too much."

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