Toews didn’t think he and his teammates were satisfied with how they had performed so far, but they were finding ways to get points nearly every game and had built a 6-1-3 record. He really didn’t have a whole lot to complain about.
Less than 12 hours later, Toews met the media again at his dressing-room stall; this time his message was decidedly different. The Blackhawks had just played their worst game of the season, a 5-3 loss to the Minnesota Wild at the United Center, and he wasn’t pleased.
“We know we want to be better than that,” Toews said. “That’s two games in a row that we gave up five goals or more. It’s one thing that people are talking about us not scoring, but sometimes you don’t need to score that many to win if you’re playing good defensively.
“We had breakdowns; we had turnovers inside our zone; we had miscommunications; some penalties that we shouldn’t have taken. I think one thing relates to the other, and it’s just a little bit sloppy sometimes, so we have to tighten that up and get back to playing that solid checking game that we know how to play.
“Our talent and our ability is going to take over when the work ethic is there, and we’ll go from there.”
The Blackhawks’ lack of focus Saturday was especially apparent in the five penalties they took against the Wild. Marian Hossa went to the box twice, and Andrew Shaw, Marcus Kruger and Patrick Sharp each made the trip once.
The Blackhawks’ penalty kill held its own despite being on the ice for 5 minutes and 28 seconds. The Blackhawks allowed one goal on four 5-on-4 power plays and shut out the Wild on their 5-on-3 chance that lasted 1:53.
The Wild’s lone power-play goal in the first period did irritate Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville. Minnesota won a faceoff to begin the power play and the puck was in the net within five seconds.
“It seems like I don’t know how many goals [opponents have] scored right off the faceoff,” Quenneville said. “Bingo, bango, in your net right off the bat. They get the lead and a decent start.”
But for all the Blackhawks’ efforts on penalty kills, that was still five-plus minutes of ice time they had to spend defending their own net. And they were unable to get anything going the other way.
When the teams were at even strength, the Blackhawks outshot the Wild 29-18.
“They called a lot of penalties,” Quenneville said. “I think some of them were lack of discipline. I thought we took some careless ones tonight that led to them being on the power play and getting some momentum in the game. The 5-on-5 play, territorially, we had a good edge. There was a lot of power plays and special teams tonight.”
The Wild provided the Blackhawks with their own power plays, but the Blackhawks couldn’t cash in, either. They scored once on six 5-on-4 chances and couldn’t convert on a 20-second 5-on-3 chance.
Quenneville didn’t hold back his frustration with Saturday’s defeat, especially coming off a 6-5 overtime loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning. But he also thought the Blackhawks had to move on quickly from the result. Their schedule is just beginning to pick up, and they have two sets of back-to-back games ahead of them.
The Blackhawks get a chance to redeem themselves right away against the Wild. The two teams face each other in Minnesota on Monday.
“I think we had a very slow start to our season; now we’re going to be playing some hockey,” Quenneville said. “We want to make sure we’re fresh. We want to make we’re using everybody. Games like tonight, we’re not happy with the result or the way things went tonight. I think we should all be disappointed with the way things evolved tonight and be excited that we get them on Monday.”