Considering the way the last three games went it would be very easy to say the Blackhawks made major progress Tuesday night.
But despite an offensive explosionat least for themthe fact remains that after their 5-2 loss to the New York Islanders, the Hawks have dropped six games in a row.
With the Detroit Red Wings in town Thursday night, followed by a full week off before facing the New Jersey Devils, the Hawks either need a major jolt of some sort or their season, already teetering, will turn into another flat line.
"I'm going to coach and prepare the team the way I have all the time," Hawks coach Trent Yawney said.
"It's no different now than it was when we were 7-1 in the preseason and 4-2 in the regular season."
Judging from the results lately, that hasn't been good enough.
For a change Tuesday night, the Hawks started out strong yet still went into the locker room after the first period trailing.
Mike York's rebound goal on a power play gave the Islanders the lead despite being outshot 10-8, one of the few times in recent games when the Hawks actually pressed the issue in the opening period.
But if there has been a familiar failure it has been in not taking advantage of two-man power plays.
The Hawks had two instances early in the second period Tuesday in which they had a two-man advantagethe first for 19 seconds, the second immediately after for 48 seconds. They couldn't come through.
"We set up the player who should shoot, but we just don't get the shot through or we don't hit the net," said Radim Vrbata, who has one goal in his last seven games and had a glorious chance with an open side, but was a half-second late in pulling the trigger as Islanders goalie Rick DiPietro moved over.
"We move the puck around, but we don't finish. If you don't score on a 5-on-3, you lose the game. That should be an automatic goal and we're not getting that."
Yawney lamented defensive-zone turnovers as the main problem again. Brent Seabrook hesitated to shoot midway through the second period, lost the puck and Viktor Kozlov scored on a breakaway to make it 2-0.
"I let the guys down; I have to be better than that," Seabrook said.
Hockey is a game of turnovers and, at least according to the statistics, the Islanders had more turnovers in the game than the Hawks.
But although Kozlov ended up scoring on the breakaway, and Alexei Yashin on another turnover, the Hawks can't convert the turnovers they create.
"We had a chance to win today but we gave them too many chances," Yawney said. "A couple of goals they scored were off bad turnovers and we've been doing that for too long."
Jassen Cullimore ended the shutout streak at 240 minutes 56 seconds with a second-period goal and Denis Arkhipov scored 1:22 into the third period to pull the Hawks to within 3-2. Jeff Hamilton was back in the lineup and assisted on Arkhipov's goal. The Hawks allowed three power-play goals for the third time this season. The last time the Hawks were shut out in three straight games was in 1974-75 when they lost 2-0 to Atlanta, 1-0 to Vancouver and 2-0 to the California Golden Seals, all on the road. Even with the losing streak, the Hawks are still a game better than at the same point last season. Tony Salmelainen, Reed Low and Danny Richmond were out of the lineup Tuesday night. The power play is 1-for-20 in the five games without Martin Havlat.
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