With my eyes shut I listened intently but couldn’t hear the air coming out of the Blackhawks season. But last night it sure felt like things were slipping away.
Most of the 22,043 in attendance were just happy to be there but some did show displeasure with a few boos.
The Hawks hit an exacta against the Columbus Blue Jackets losing for the second consecutive game. Besides enduring another loss Blackhawk faithful had to sit through one of the most boring games of the season.
The Hawks lost 4-2 on home ice to a team which is playing basically for pride only.
I’m not sure what was hashed out in the secret meeting held on Friday. One thing is certain this team is not playing with passion and determination for a full 60 minutes.
It’s one thing to lose but looking like a frustrated group of whiners does not instill fear in the hearts of opponents.
Unpredictable officiating shouldn’t appear as anything new.
Yapping and glaring at officials isn’t going to help you get the next call. Maybe that was addressed in Friday’s gathering although Kris Versteeg was still turning and gabbing at officials on Sunday night.
Patrick Kane received an unsportsmanlike penalty because he was catching a beating all night long from the Jackets. Kane was frustrated and looked for some help from the officials, but he should know better than to outwardly complain. There is no excuse for receiving such a penalty late in the final period while losing.
Jonathan Toews was also voicing some displeasure with the officiating. He has been silent of late otherwise. Can’t recall hearing many we will work our way out of it… quotes from the young captain.
Toews is still learning how to be a NHL leader. His will can’t be questioned but he and others appear to be in a funk. The frustration of inconsistent play is bubbling over.
Actually the guy doing the most talking to the media is the player who has played the least this season, Adam Burish. Somehow that doesn’t seem right.
Toews and his teammates who were at the Olympics appear tired.
Marian Hossa is trying to do too much on his own.
Toews, Hossa and others can’t sustain a top effort.
The malaise can be stopped with two victories against the Blues and Wild. Right now that appears unlikely but things can change quickly. The Hawks have a big three game road trip this week.
All we see if this team has the fight to battle through bad times.
When a head coach juggles lines and it works he is a creative genius. When Joel Quenneville keeps changing combinations and it doesn’t work, as was the case for the most part last night, it appears desperate and scattered.
I’m sure there is a stat which can support pairing Brent Sopel with Duncan Keith.
Maybe defensively they wouldn’t be too much worse than a Keith and Brent Seabrook pairing, although that seems hard to believe. Certainly the ‘D’ to ‘D’and breakout passes weren’t the same last night with new partners. This does translate into generating fewer scoring opportunities.
Pairing Sopel with Keith, in attempt to balance things out is not the correct answer.
If you woke up one morning and discovered your left front tire was going flat….
What would you do?
Go and get a nail gun and puncture the right tire so the ride would feel the same?
The Blackhawk defense can’t be balanced with two of the top five defenders out.
It would make more sense to play Keith with Seabrook for about 25 minutes a game and then look for a strong showing from the second pairing. By splitting the top two, Keith is still playing more than he probably should. It’s not like he is then being shielded from over use.
In recent games Niklas Hjalmarsson and Dustin Byfuglien were doing fine defensively as was Jordan Hendry and Nick Boynton. When Sopel has to be played his ice time should come mostly on the penalty kill.
No matter how the combinations are juggled the Hawks are not going to be able to score as easily as when Brian Campbell was healthy.
The same misguided Blackhawk fans which wanted to trade Kane because he was soft wished Stan Bowman would deal Campbell. They were wrong both times.
Make no mistake #51 is overpaid but don’t confuse his performances with a Wade Redden.
At this time Campbell is not replaceable, the Hawks are lucky Byfuglien has performed so well while moving back to defense. But big Buff can’t start the offense in the same fashion as Campbell.
The Hawks have to adapt. Maybe that was brought up in last Friday’s pow-wow.
Quenneville wants his team to play at a faster pace but down deep he knows the Hawk offense starts with the defense.
If Kim Johnsson didn’t have a mystery injury maybe he could help provide a faster pace. Byfuglien has made the most of his new/old position but now it should be apparent the Hawks will have to claw for every goal.
The most misleading stat in the NHL is shots on goal.
There was a time when it wasn’t so, but those days have passed. No longer does taking a great amount of shots mean a sure victory. Often the losing team outshoots their opponent.
Goals are still scored the same way though, normally from in close or because of screens and deflections.
When was the last time any Blackhawk set a good screen?
Deflections have become a lost art with this group as well.
Perimeter shots without traffic can be sucked up by almost any NHL goalie.
Steve Mason demonstrated how to diffuse a 35 shot attack by allowing very few rebounds. His teammates outworked the Hawks along the boards and waited for odd man breaks and scored.
Antti Niemi wasn’t to blame but the young guy best stay off his rear end and keep control of his crease.
When things were going good a weaker goal against wouldn’t matter, but when a club doesn’t score everything matters.
That point was probably rehashed in the closed door meeting but it sure didn’t appear to hit home.
For Hawk fans sake, hopefully the shopping center cooking shows and the taping of various TV commercials has ended. That probably should have happened right after Christmas. But excuses and reasons for being tired are a plenty.
Whether it is because of over marketing players, the Olympics, injuries or because of the pressure from heightened expectations, the Hawks can’t muster the effort to play a complete game.
Every team is feeling fatigued.
Those with the most desire and determination survive.
Playing Versteeg on a line with Kane is like betting double zero on a roulette wheel. It can pay big but over time it isn’t an effective way to gamble.
The Hawks power play at home has been poor all season.
Now it is scary bad.
Against the Blue Jackets the Hawks were lucky they weren’t losing after the opening period. But they didn’t have the necessary response until the middle of the last frame.
No one has answers. Not the head coach or players.
A simple game plan would be best these days.
The players still talk about being a confident bunch…sooner or later losing will dampen their spirit.
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