Jonathan Toews takes accountability for Blackhawks’ double-pinching mistakes against Oilers

In the Blackhawks’ video review session Thursday, coach Luke Richardson originally didn’t plan to include clips of two costly errors by Jonathan Toews that led to Oilers goals Wednesday.

But Toews approached Richardson and asked him to include them after all.

“He [said he] knows, ‘I’ve got to be better than that,'” Richardson said. “‘[It] doesn’t matter if I’m tired, I have to make the right read there. [It] could’ve maybe been a different outcome.’ So he takes ownership of that and accountability, and that’s a good thing for the players to see it and know. It’s a good message to everybody.”

In addition to taking accountability, Toews’ decision could also help other Hawks avoid making similar mistakes in the future by learning from Thursday’s session.

The mistakes relate to what Richardson calls “double-pinching.” When a defenseman has pinched down into the offensive zone (deeper than the blue line), the Hawks need a forward (their “F3”) to linger up high around the blue line to cover for him. If the F3 pinches as well, the Hawks have just one man back to defend against counterattacks.

On the first play, Toews won an offensive-zone faceoff but Hawks defenseman Caleb Jones and Oilers forward Jesse Puljujarvi reached the puck at the same time and knocked each other down along the boards, with Patrick Kane next to them.

Toews should’ve covered for Jones but instead took a few strides toward the battle. Oilers defenseman Evan Bouchard pulled the puck out and sprung Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Mattias Janmark on a two-on-one, with only Seth Jones back (and neither Caleb Jones nor Toews present). Janmark scored.

On the second play, Hawks defenseman Jake McCabe skated all the way down to the attacking goal line to try to receive a pass from Toews but lost the puck to Oilers defenseman Cody Ceci.

Once Kane’s follow-up attempt to win the puck back failed, Toews should’ve retreated to cover for McCabe. But he instead also tried to hold the puck in, allowing Oilers forward Zach Hyman to chip the puck past him and give Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl a two-on-one with Seth Jones again the only Hawk back. Draisaitl scored.

“When we’re aggressive with our ‘D,’ McCabe is…not diving in, he’s just up on the rush,” Richardson said. “[If] we have a forward covering up, that’s a different situation. [But if] we’re not playing our positions, we have to play a little more cautiously. Not necessarily backing off, but just holding until we get back into our positions instead of diving in again.”

Added defenseman Connor Murphy: “It’s a hard play because guys want to stay aggressive. They don’t want to back off the blue line too much and the offensive zone too quickly. You can’t fault guys for wanting to be aggressive, but we have to be calculated sometimes.”

It was a poor game overall for Toews’ new first line with Kane and Andreas Athanasiou, even though they weren’t the only guys who struggled. The Oilers produced a 9-2 advantage in scoring chances and outscored the Hawks 3-0 during their five-on-five ice time.

After reviewing the ugly-at-times video clips, though, Richardson wanted the rest of the Hawks’ Thursday to be less miserable.

So he asked Toews (and Kane) for a favor in return: make practice fun and upbeat. And despite the eight-game losing streak and a daunting stretch of road games at the Rangers, Islanders and Devils coming up next, they succeeded in doing so.

“This is a great place to be, so why not enjoy it?” Richardson said. “We’re not happy in the position we’re in, but we have to work our way out of it, [and] there’s no way of doing that if we’re grumpy.”

Read More

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *