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The Hawks seem to find themselves out of position when an opposing player is behind the net. This is unfortunately extremely evident when the Hawks are trying to hold the opposition at the end of regulation or in overtime. The closing seconds have cost the Hawks on several occasions earlier this season against teams that are not nearly the quality of the Wings and Stars. This is as disturbing a trend as their pathetic power play. It even seems to affect the players psychologically. Can you give us the lowdown of what Brian Sutter has to say about this? It's so disappointing to see a team that gives great effort for most of the game, and play in a "panic" mode in the final seconds of a game. --Peter Mark, Dallas
How often this season have the Hawks been scored on in the last minute of the game or overtime? I personally can think of at least four or five occasions including the overtime loss in Dallas in which they were scored on with just 16 seconds remaining. Phoenix had two or three quality chances in the final minutes of both regulation and OT and they surely would have blown a game they should have won if not for the stellar play of our rookie netminder. What's with these final minute lapses? And how many points do we plan to give away before the coaching staff addresses the issue? --Chris Pastirik, Toronto
Peter, Chris, I'm not sure the Hawks coaching staff sees it as a specific trend, they view it more as isolated incidents. Certainly their play in the third period has not been good the whole season. Jon Klemm has said more than once that it seems as if they get tentative in the third period and just try to hold on instead of continuing to play like they did in the first two periods. Sutter disputes that and says it's more a case of bearing down and paying attention to details.
Having been raised near Chicago and now live near Washington, I am both a Blackhawks and Capitals fan. What is the general view of the Michael Nylander for Andrei Nikolishin/Chris Simon trade from Chicago's end? I know Washington is pleased with Michael Nylander's play. --Bill Tatter, Dale City, Va.
Bill, when the trade was made, the general feeling was that it was a good deal for the Hawks. Nylander wasn't doing anything offensively or defensively and the Hawks needed someone who can go up against the opposition's top center so Zhamnov wouldn't have to every time. As the season goes on, it's looking more and more like a better deal for the Caps, but it's hard to fault the Hawks -- Nylander wasn't playing as well in Chicago as he is in Washington. If he were, he wouldn't have been traded.
Bob, long-time Hawks fan relocated to Dallas-Fort Worth area. Was at the game against the Stars and was proud of the team's effort without Daze and Klemm after they fell behind 3-1. What can be done with this power play given the lack of punch from the d-line? Can Tyler Arnasson be placed on a line with a winger who could take faceoffs? He's getting killed in the circle but he's got to play more and be an offensive threat -- how can we keep him on the ice? -- Rodney Schmisseur, Lewisville, Texas
I think one thing that needs to be done on the power play is to get Zhamnov off the point. He won't shoot and other teams know it. His goal in Montreal was rare in that he even shot the puck. I would rotate Housley, Dempsey and McCarthy on the points and put Zhamnov either on the half boards or along the goal line and move Fleury into the slot, either in front of the crease or 10-15 feet above it. Rodney, as far as Arnason is concerned, until he gets to where he's at least 45 percent on faceoffs, he's not going to get the ice time he should. He also needs to get much, much stronger defensively and on the puck. He is getting bumped off the puck far too much lately. His turnover against Pittsburgh (where the Penguins scored an easy goal) just can't happen and Sutter will continue to limit his minutes as long as those kinds of mistakes happen.
Are the Hawks fast/tough enough on the blue line to contend with the upper tier of the Western Conference? If not, do you see them going after some help this year and who would they target? --Jim Johnson, Marysville, Mich.
Jim, the short answer is no and no and no. Other than Dempsey, McCarthy and Housley, they have zero speed on the blue line and those three -- especially Housley -- are starting to take a beating by teams that have figured out they are vulnerable back there. It's hard to say what kind of help they can get via trade. Those kind of defensemen usually aren't moved unless they have a weakness, plus everyone is at their salary budgets, so any move would likely require sending the same salary the other way. I'm not anticipating any major trade deadline moves by the Hawks.
Bob, has it always been coach Sutter's practice to put two defensemen on the ice during the 4-on-4 overtime? At the end of the Coyotes game, I would have liked to see a more offensive setup to try and get that important second point. Steve McCarthy had a whale of a game defensively. I especially liked how he held the point on the power play. -- Jason D'Asto, Kirkwood, Mo.
That seems to be his style. Even in overtime in Buffalo -- where it didn't matter if they lost in overtime to an Eastern Conference team -- he went with two defensemen. I can see the philosophy against teams you are battling for playoff position against -- the one point they give could end up being a big one. As far as McCarthy is concerned, Jason, I've felt that he should have been in the lineup from the start of the season. This kid is part of the future and one of the few defensemen they have that can skate and move the puck with speed. He's going to make some mistakes, but I'd rather have a 21-year-old making them than a 36-year-old.