This one stings as the Blackhawks fall in a SO to the Blues 6-5 - Los Angeles News | FOX 11 LA KTTV

This one stings as the Blackhawks fall in a SO to the Blues 6-5

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On Saturday night, St. Louis battled through some key injuries, overcame two-two goal deficits and won in a shootout 6-5. When the Blues beat the Blackhawks it means a great deal to them. If Chicago captures two points they would celebrate, but it would be different.

The Hawks were an overwhelming favorite to win the Central division and St. Louis aspires to be like them. Needless to say the Blues have proven they aren't a huge underdog any longer but it is too early to say they are equal or better than the Blackhawks.

It is also probably best to not make much of the fact the Blues have beaten the Hawks in all three meetings this season. The Blackhawks aren't at a psychological disadvantage after suffering another loss to St. Louis as all the games have been very close. Only one contest was decided in regulation and that was on a late goal. The other two, including last night were decided in the shootout.

There are some things to be concerned with and they are more about issues with the Blackhawks than losing again to the Blues.

Against the better teams Michal Handzus as a second line center leaves the Hawks at a disadvantage. Handzus is good sometimes at winning faceoffs. Last night he won 70% of draws, but on Friday was only 27%. Faceoff prowess is not enough to keep Handzus in the lineup, let alone as a second line center. Handzus also hasn't been able to become a backbone for the penalty killing unit.

Patrick Kane keeps rolling regardless of having to play with a slow moving player like Handzus. Hockey logic would indicate Kane would be better off playing alongside a quicker center who could create more scoring chances. Maybe Kane slows down or as the season wears on goals become more difficult to come by for Chicago.

Scoring goals is not an issue for now but Handzus hasn't been a successful penalty killer. He has been partnered with Marcus Kruger and those two can't seem to string together enough solid performances to transform the penalty killing unit into being consistently effective.

Without better play from that duo Joel Quenneville will be forced to use players like Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa more so, and they already play big minutes. Over the long haul that would not be the best plan for success.

Although Kruger has to be given full credit for improving significantly in the faceoff circle, he now ranks seventh in the NHL, his penalty killing duties have been suspect all season. He can't seem to find the right blend of aggressiveness and being cautious as both attributes are needed to kill off penalties.

On occasion the Hawks PK unit does show improvement but it has been short lived. Last night they killed off three St. Louis power plays but at the most important time, late in the third period the Blues tied the game.

It should be noted the Hawks were whistled for four penalties to the Blues one. It was another game of inconsistent officiating as St. Louis could have been called for a few interference penalties. There was also an obvious slashing penalty in overtime that was overlooked. That said the Hawks were careless with their sticks and they can't afford to be in the box against top teams.

The officiating isn't a quick fix but Hawk fans should hope the penalty killing issues can be solved.

On the tying goal Kruger was caught on the wrong side of the puck. That would be unacceptable in the opening period but to get a brain cramp on a tying goal late in the third period is unacceptable.

Kruger wasn't the only culprit, Handzus lost a puck battle and so did an aggressive Brent Seabrook along the boards near the Hawks blue line. Kruger should have been positioned goal side, but he was off of the pile closer to the blue line and was in no man's land.

Kruger needed to be aware that Handzus and Seabrook were not in good defending positions, and should have been more cautious. Having three of four players out so high in the zone is asking for trouble.

The Blues won the board battle, came away with the puck and Patrik Berglund made Antti Raanta look like a rookie as he was stuck deep in his net. Berglund's backhand shot tied the score and then Raanta wasn't his sharpest during the shootout.

This was a game St. Louis was lucky to get to overtime as they trailed by a two goal margin, two times. They were also without their best player Alexander Steen who was out injured as were three other Blues.

There is no reason for Hawk fans to panic, the Blues could be a worthy playoff opponent and maybe not. A big part of the playoffs will be about matchups and which team is the healthiest. It's too early to worry about the road to the Stanley Cup but the Hawks have thing to improve upon now.

Johnny Oduya seems to have hit a rough patch. He hasn't been as reliable and that doesn't help the PK unit either.

The Hawks were once a very good team playing four on four hockey in overtime. That's not so this season as they have been in 11 overtimes and have only won four times all in a shootout.

One has to wonder if fatigue is a factor for the big names who play heavy minutes. That is something to be concerned about as the season is only half over. Finding a good mix of third and fourth line players that will be effective penalty kill players could lessen the load on others and help win games.

Kane has had nine shootout attempts and has yet to score a goal. The Hawks have lost two recent shootout and will continue to struggle without help from Kane. The good news is it is unlikely Kane can will stay this cold, but there is no guarantee.

The best part of Saturday's game is the Blackhawks got goals from their hottest players in Kane and Patrick Sharp and also two bottom six forwards. Andrew Shaw and Brandon Saad usually work hard and last night they were rewarded with goals. The other Chicago score came off a Seabrook shot that appeared to get deflected into the net.

The Blackhawks will be off on Sunday and will face the KIngs on Monday night at the United Center. That contest will conclude a three game in four day stretch and so far the Hawks have captured three of four possible points.

The Blues hadn't played a game since Monday night and the Hawks did their job to start. They had a two goal lead after the opening twenty minutes and all looked good. Give St. Louis credit as they were able to seize the momentum and battle back in the middle frame as well as in the closing minutes of the third period.

The Blackhawks shouldn't have a problem focusing on Monday's game as the loss in St. Louis had to sting.

I will be back on Tuesday morning and you can follow me on Twitter @AlCimaglia

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