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Blackhawks' slump continues with shutout

ST.LOUIS -- It might be too early in a poor stretch of play to panic, but the Chicago Blackhawks are slumping badly right now -- and they have no apparent answers to stop it.

After their latest loss, 3-0 to the St. Louis Blues on tuesday night, phrases like “compete level” and “confidence issues” were thrown around the locker room. It’s not something you hear often with the Hawks under coach Joel Quenneville and captain Jonathan Toews.

“It wasn’t much different than the last one,” a frustrated Toews said afterwards. “We were sloppy, didn’t move our feet and when you don’t get open or support your teammates with the puck, you’re going to make mistakes.”

In Sunday’s 6-2 drubbing by the Vancouver Canucks, the issue was defense. In this one, it was offense. The Hawks were anemic in the offensive end.

“All around, it was an uncharacteristic effort by our team,” Jamal Mayers said. “We left people on an island and didn’t support the puck well enough. We didn’t compete on the puck. When you do all those things, in combination, you’re not going to have a good result.”

New lines didn’t do the trick, nor did new groupings on the power play. Yes, once again, the power play stunk. After another scoreless night (0-for-4) it’s now last in the league and causing even bigger issues.

“Some of the power plays, especially the first one, you lose the momentum of the game,” Quenneville said. “Right now, the confidence is a little down. That’s the aspect of our game we have to make sure is going to be predictable. We need more from it.”

And that lack of confidence with the man advantage is carrying over to 5-on-5 play, hence losing that momentum. The Hawks are tired of hearing about their now 30th-ranked power play but they seem powerless to do anything about it.

“Who cares about the stat?” Toews said. “We know we need to be better. We have to keep working on it. I think we’re making the number out to be a big deal. We want to be good on power play, we want to be good 5-on-5, we want to be good on the penalty kill. So you work on all those things and it all adds up to you having a good team game.”

Yet the Hawks aren’t good at any of those things right now. It wasn’t that long ago their penalty killing was at least offsetting their power-play woes. But after the Blues scored a big goal with the man advantage, even that part of the Hawks’ game isn’t reliable. At least when they gave up five power-play goals to Vancouver it was to one of the best units in the league. The Blues were ranked last coming into the game -- now it’s the Hawks.

“We can’t blame it on our specialty teams every game,” Duncan Keith said. “We need to get some 5-on-5 goals. We need to get some ugly goals 5-on-5.”

Those aren’t coming either. Jaroslav Halak had an easy night for a netminder, facing 29 shots. He made one big stop in the second period on Patrick Kane and a few more close-in ones in the third, but the outcome of this game was determined early.

“First period, not a lot happened there,” Quenneville said. “No pace to our game. We couldn’t make a pass. Our puck movement was terrible.”

But of course the question is, why? Why so bad after a bad outing on Sunday against the Canucks? No one knows, but the answer has to come soon.

“When you come out with an effort like that, it’s unacceptable,” Mayers said. “We’re the only ones accountable and we have to right the ship before this gets out of hand.”