In following two of their better wins of the season with a clunker against the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday, the Chicago Blackhawks were reminded they need to play near-perfect hockey without Jonathan Toews to win on the road. They did it in Ottawa and Detroit in the first two games of the road trip, but that’s where the hard work ended.
In falling 5-1 to the Blues, they Blackhawks played anything but perfect, and the biggest issue was their compete level -- which wasn’t there.
“I thought we did some good things the last couple of games,” coach Joel Quenneville said afterwards. “That’s the way we have to play to have success. Today we didn’t have the same.”
It wasn’t even close.
Usually an even fight should energize both teams, but after Brandon Bollig and Ryan Reaves dropped the gloves early on, that seemed to be all that St. Louis needed. In fact, Reaves probably lost the bout but the Blues still gained energy.
“Bollig did a good job answering the call from Reaves,” Viktor Stalberg said. “Great fight on his part. It got the guys fired up to start the game.”
If that’s fired up, then seeing the Haws relaxed would be quite the sight. The visitors had three shots on goal the rest of the first period and were outscored 2-0.
Even so, if the Hawks’ special teams had played better, then maybe they would have had a chance. The power play went 0-for-5 while giving up a shorthanded goal. The failures with the man-advantage only highlighted the lack of work ethic on Tuesday. This wasn’t about execution, this was about putting on the hard hats and winning some battles. It didn’t happen.
“Certain guys didn’t have that pace on the power play, or that intensity, that you need,” Quenneville said. “You have to work harder when you’re on the power play. It’s not a given. They were competitive tonight and we weren’t.”
That summed up the game right there. Why Marian Hossa, for example, decided to take the night off is anyone’s guess. He lost more than one board battle, including one to Scott Nichol which led to the shorthanded goal by Vladimir Sobotka. He fumbled pucks and generally looked lost, but he wasn’t the only one. Patrick Kane came back to Earth after two stellar road contests, but at least he had a few shots on net. Hossa had none.
“From the first shift they took over and played really well,” Hossa said. “We didn’t deserve it tonight… It just wasn’t good enough tonight.”
But there was no explanation as to why. Why, against one of the top teams in the league did the Hawks forget to compete? It’s a question they should be pondering on the short flight home.
The Hawks had just 20 shots on net. Bryan Bickell led with four. After totaling 13 in the two previous games, Patrick Sharp had just one. He also hit the post in the first period, just missing a goal.
The Hawks were outhit 27-11.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Hawks have never beaten Detroit and St. Louis during the same road trip.
After the game, Quenneville said he didn’t think Sami Lepisto's leg injury was serious. Lepisto left the game in the second period after falling awkwardly and favoring his left side.
Quenneville said Toews was still “progressing, doing his thing” back in Chicago. Toews has not skated since playing in his last game on Feb. 19.