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Blackhawks defensemen a net minus

Updated: June 29, 2014 6:37AM



In one 15-second span Monday in Game 4 against the Los Angeles Kings, Nick Leddy lost possession of the puck in his end, fell to the ice and drew an offside call on the Hawks with a mistimed entry into the offensive zone.

It was that kind of night for the Hawks’ defensemen. Leddy’s adventure was not costly. But it seemed like the Hawks paid a dear price for almost every other mistake in a 5-2 loss that gave the Kings a 3-1 series lead heading into Game 5 Wednesday at the United Center.

Duncan Keith, a Norris Trophy finalist, is not immune to losing the puck. It happens to the best of them. But when Anze Kopitar picked him clean in the first period, it led to a Kings goal. Kopitar fired the puck on net, and Marian Gaborik redirected it past Corey Crawford.

The Kings seemed to have somebody parked in front of Crawford all night. Jeff Carter screened Crawford on Jake Muzzin’s power-play goal that gave the Kings a 1-0 lead. Another Muzzin shot was rebounded by Justin Williams to Dustin Brown in front of the net for another power-play goal that made it 3-0.

The Hawks are making a lot of defensive mistakes in this series they don’t usually make. And they know it.

“Absolutely,” Brent Seabrook said. “I’ve got to be better — in every facet of the game. We’ve all got to be doing things that are going to make us win a game, and some things happened [in Game 4] that are uncharacteristic. But you’ve got to give L.A. credit. They’re forcing us into different situations. But we’ve got to be better, and we will be better.”

The Kings have scored 13 goals on Crawford in the last three games.

“We’ve given up way too many and rather easily,” coach Joel Quenneville said.

Preventing the Kings from establishing a presence in front of the net is a key point of emphasis.

“[It’s] recognizing the coverage that’s around the net,” Quenneville said. “Around the net, they’ve got quick sticks, and they’ve got some good shooters. We’ve got to make sure we’re defending around our net better than they are at their net. It could be the difference.”

Almost every player is slumping during the Hawks’ three-game losing streak, but the lack of production at both ends of the ice from the defensemen is particularly noticeable. Keith and Seabrook had combined for four goals and 19 points with a plus-10 rating in the postseason through Game 1 of the conference final. They have one point and are a minus-3 in the last three games.

Despite the downturn, it’s not like they forgot to play hockey. Though the Hawks are long shots statistically to win the series, they’re still the defending Cup champions, still confident they can turn it around.

“Guys are angry; guys are [ticked] off,” Seabrook said. “I thought we played well for a period and a half. But we had a tough start, and you’ve got to lay a full three periods in the playoffs to win, and we weren’t happy with our game [Monday] night. I’m sure guys had a tough time sleeping last night. But we’ve got to focus on [Game 5] and focus on whatever we can to win and be a desperate team out there to try to get the job done.”

Email: mpotash@suntimes.com

Twitter: @MarkPotash



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