For Blackhawks, bad habits equalling bad results

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Blackhawks Erik Gustafsson, left, and Philadelphia Flyers' James van Riemsdyk, right, battle for the puck during the season opener on Friday in Prague. The Blackhawks have been displaying some bad habits early this season. So what can they do to correct them? Well, Patrick Kane has one idea.

    Blackhawks Erik Gustafsson, left, and Philadelphia Flyers' James van Riemsdyk, right, battle for the puck during the season opener on Friday in Prague. The Blackhawks have been displaying some bad habits early this season. So what can they do to correct them? Well, Patrick Kane has one idea. Associated press

 
 
Updated 10/8/2019 7:18 PM

Your habits will protect you.

It's so simple, but so true.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Form good ones and they will lead to clean plays, fewer turnovers and more scoring opportunities.

Develop poor ones and you're chasing all night, all week, all month and all season long.

Jeremy Colliton pounded this philosophy into his players in Sweden. He did the same in Rockford. And he continues to do so as head coach of the Chicago Blackhawks.

Well, so far -- and let's remember just one regular-season game is in the books -- the Hawks have been displaying some ghastly habits.

They were on full display in a preseason game Sept. 21 when Boston's B team racked up a whopping 41 shots on goal. They continued four nights later when a loaded Washington squad overwhelmed the Hawks 6-0.

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And they didn't stop during the season opener Friday when a Flyers team that isn't predicted to do much this season handed the Hawks a 4-3 loss in Prague.

"Put ourselves in difficult situations," Colliton said of the setback to Philly. "It's difficult to defend in those moments right after you turn the puck over and we did it a lot."

At this point, everyone should be on the same page with how Colliton wants to play. So why haven't the Hawks formed better habits?

There are no easy answers, but perhaps it boils down to two things:

• Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook had played in more than 3,600 games when Joel Quenneville was fired last November. It's been nearly a year, but they may still be adjusting to the subtle -- and not so subtle -- differences in Colliton's system.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

• Roster turnover. The additions of forwards Ryan Carpenter, Zack Smith, Andrew Shaw, Alex Nylander, Dominik Kubalik and defensemen Olli Maatta and Calvin de Haan bolstered the Hawks' depth, but it also meant new faces getting used to new teammates, a new city and, yes, a new system.

"It is definitely a challenge," said defenseman Connor Murphy, who came to the Hawks from Arizona in 2017. "I mean I can say when I got traded here that it was hard right off the bat. It just felt like everything was new again.

"You have to adjust, get comfortable and stop thinking."

So what's the remedy?

Patrick Kane suggested holding onto the puck a bit longer.

Trust yourself to advance out of the defensive zone or through the neutral zone. Instead of forcing a play or making a weak, risky pass, wait until something develops. Then dish it off and stay on the attack.

Colliton wholeheartedly agreed with his superstar.

"Definitely out of D-zone I think we threw the pucks away at times," he said. "If you're going to put it somewhere, you should put it where you think you have help. And a lot of times we threw it away to where we had no help and then you got to start over.

"Certainly we'll spend some time on that."

Then over time, the Hawks should get into the habit of winning plenty of hockey games.

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