Anton Forsberg is a very pleasant young man who has been warmly embraced by his new teammates in the Blackhawks’ dressing room.
You’d never know it by the way they play in front of him.
In his second start is as many nights with Corey Crawford injured, Forsberg was excellent Sunday night against the Los Angeles Kings, stopping 21 of 22 shots. But the Hawks again failed to give him anything to work with in a 3-1 loss. If not for an empty-netter in the waning moments, it would have been their fourth consecutive one-goal loss.
“He’s doing what he has to do to keep us in the game to get us two points,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “It’d be nice to get him some run support.”
Forsberg has four one-goal losses in seven starts (three in overtime or a shootout), with the Hawks scoring five total goals in his last three starts. He once again deserved better here, keeping the travel-weary Hawks in the game and preserving a 0-0 tie with a glove save on a breakaway by Marian Gaborik early in the third period.
But Forsberg lost Christian Folin’s rising wrist shot from the point midway through the third period thanks to a screen by Anze Kopitar. After Dustin Brown tallied an empty-netter to make it 2-0, Jonathan Toews scored with 1:46 to give the Hawks a chance, but Kopitar added another empty-netter for the final margin.
“Again, a great effort by Fors,” Toews said. “We just can’t quite seem to get some offense and give him a little padding, give him a little breathing room. He’s doing everything we need him to do in there. We just need to support him, create some offense and find some ways to get some wins for him.”
Playing their fifth game in seven days, and their second in 22 hours, the Hawks played a smart, if dull, game. The Kings — who won their fifth consecutive game, sweeping a four-game road trip — had precious few scoring chances. The Hawks, meanwhile, had just three shots in the first period, but came out strong in the second, firing 15 shots on Jonathan Quick and generating several good chances. Brent Seabrook was stopped on the doorstep off a nice feed from Nick Schmaltz. Schmaltz — who fired wide on a mostly open net in the first period — then was denied an easy tap-in goal by a well-timed Kopitar hook. And Cody Franson hit the post, with the puck ricocheting along the goal line and out late in the second period.
The Hawks’ abysmal power play was the main culprit in this one. They couldn’t even enter the offensive zone, let alone keep the puck in there. The Hawks are 1-of-17 on the power play in their last four games, erasing all the progress made during a recent resurgence in which they scored eight times in six games.
“We’re in each game, we’re giving ourselves a chance to win, so it comes down to [the power play],” Toews said. “Our penalty-kill is -doing the job we need it to do, and the power play needs to step up.”
Forsberg will get at least one more start, Wednesday at the high-powered Washington Capitals. With the Hawks just two games over .500, and a point out of the Western Conference playoff -picture, the pressure’s only going to increase.
It would certainly help if his teammates chipped in.
“Obviously it’s a little bit frustrating not getting the win,” Forsberg said. “But I can’t do anything else. Just keep playing the way I’ve been doing and focus on my game.”
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