Blackhawks “angry” after Game 2 loss, but eager to redeem themselves in Los AngelesContinue reading.
Improving leaky defense a priority for Blackhawks after 2014 playoff demise
The Blackhawks were obviously still disappointed but had no regrets two days after losing Game 7 of the Western Conference final, 5-4 in overtime to the Los Angeles Kings on a fluky goal that bounced off Nick Leddy into the Hawks net.
“There’s a hollow feeling — what could have been; what might have been; what we could’ve been doing [Tuesday]. It’s certainly fresh,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “It was that close and that tough of an ending — an abrupt ending and left you wondering what this or that and what could’ve and would’ve. But at the end of the day we lost to an excellent hockey team and it came down to one bounce.”
There were few specific regrets, if any, when general manager Stan Bowman, Quenneville and most of the Hawks’ regulars met the media for the final time this season Tuesday at the United Center. Nor should there be when a defending Stanley Cup championship team comes a blink away from reaching the Stanley Cup Final, where it would have been favored to win if five or six games according to most experts.
But one lament with merit in the wake of the series loss to the Kings was the Hawks’ inability to hold a lead. They lost three leads in Game 7, nine leads in all against the Kings and 18 leads in 19 postseason games. The Hawks took 2-0 leads six times in the postseason and lost the lead five times. Not once were they able to extend the lead to 3-0.
If you’re looking for a difference between this year’s Hawks and their championship teams, this is near the top of the list. In turning a 2-0 lead to 3-0 in the playoffs, the Hawks were 3-for-5 in 2010 and 3-for-6 in 2013, but 0-for-6 this year.
Though there were missed opportunities to take a commanding lead (teams with a three-goal lead are 33-1 in this year’s postseason), the culprit was the Hawks’ defense, which allowed 27 goals in the final six games of the Western Conference final. Quenneville knows the Hawks need to be better next season.
“That’s always a priority with us,” he said. “A year ago we were the No. 1 team in the league in defense and had the lowest goals-against average and won a Cup. And this year we had a tough start to keeping the puck out of our net and our penalty-killing got stabilized and all of a sudden those numbers were better.
“I always feel in this league you win by how well you check and how well you play defensively, and I always feel our team can score enough goals to win hockey games. And [against the Kings] we did score enough goals to win and we didn’t win. So that’s an area that we’ve got to make sure that we have awareness around our net and the willingness to get there, make it hard and whether it’s the bounces or clearing loose pucks — maybe a little tighter in the detail department in that area could’ve been the difference.”
It sounded like Quenneville felt it was more of a coaching issue than a personnel issue.
“I’m always comfortable with what we have,” Quenneville said. “Making an awareness to what can be preventable and what are the type of goals we’re giving up. But those weren’t the type of goals we’ve given up all year and that was something that, to me was preventable.”