Blackhawks looking for better starts, more excitement to break out of midseason doldrums

Written By Sun-Times Wire Posted: 01/09/2014, 04:09pm

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BY BRIAN SANDALOW
Twitter: @BrianSandalow

Joel Quenneville wants the sputtering Blackhawks to begin “recapturing some excitement.” A nice place to start would be the first period.

Over the past four games, the Blackhawks only have one win. One of the reasons is their slow starts. During that stretch, they’ve been outscored 4-0 in the first period, and have scored the first goal only once.

“It’s a little disappointing. Tough to put a finger on one specific thing. It seems like every other game it’s a different issue,” winger Patrick Sharp said. “One thing that we can focus on and control is our starts. I think our first period has been not what we’ve wanted — a little sluggish maybe, so we need to get ourselves ready and have a better first period.”

As good as they are, that’s got to change soon for the Blackhawks, and Quenneville knows that.

“That’s something we haven’t done much of the year, and I certainly think that gets your attention and I think that finding solutions when you’re in a stretch like this when we’ve been ordinary at best, that recapturing some excitement in our game is what we’re looking for,” he said. “I think it’s been real choppy over that last stretch of games and it’s up to us a team and staff to make sure we find ways where there’s excitement going into every game.”

Excitement is clearly something that was on Quenneville’s mind Thursday. He used the word twice when asked about his team’s recent woes, and even said goalie Antti Raanta has “some excitement to his game, and that’s what we’re looking for from our younger group.”

Of course, it’s not just a goalie’s job to bring excitement, either on the ice or in the dressing room. He’d like to see that from the entire roster, starting early.

“It’s a good group here we have here. It’s not an excuse, and we’ve got to find a way to recapture that quickly,” Quenneville said. “We’re having meetings today, and we’re getting on the ice with a quiet week this week.

“We want to make sure that we prioritize the importance of every game having meaning.”

For Hawks opponents, every game has extra meaning, as everyone wants to knock off the defending champions. The Hawks know they can help themselves deal with that by starting better.

Answering why they haven’t isn’t as easy.

“That’s just something we can control in here, is coming out and playing better,” Sharp said. “We know that every night we play we’re going to get our opposition’s best effort, especially in the United Center it seems like. It’s a fun place to play for teams to come in here and we need to get that energy behind us from the crowd and use the atmosphere to our advantage.”

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