Sunday, March 10, 2013
Tired Hawks lose second game in a row
By Scott Powers
CHICAGO -- Every NHL team will get to the point that it feels physically and mentally exhausted this season.
It's only natural. This season's schedule was designed to put a lot of hockey in not a lot of time, and it eventually catches up with everyone.
The Chicago Blackhawks avoided that wall of fatigue for 24 games, and they did so partly because the adrenaline of their points streak pushed them through it. But come Friday, a 6-2 loss to the Colorado Avalanche, and again on Sunday, a 6-5 loss to the Edmonton Oilers, the Blackhawks proved they weren't invincible as they dropped their first two games in regulation this season.
The Oilers delivered a 6-5 win on Sunday over the Blackhawks, who seem to finally be feeling the effects of a busy schedule.
The Blackhawks were playing their seventh game in 11 days, their longest stretch of the season, on Sunday, and it showed. The Blackhawks' tired minds and bodies were on full display in the opening period as the Oilers jumped on them for a 4-0 lead.
The Oilers beat them physically in the first period, but the Blackhawks also made careless errors. They had five giveaways in the first period and 19 for the game. They came into the game averaging 7.2 giveaways.
"We were on the receiving end," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "They're a dangerous team. I think some mistakes mentally. We weren't sharp. Just kind of coverage and awareness things that normally [we're fine with.]"
Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane admitted the stretch had likely worn him and his teammates down.
"We've had a lot of games in the past 11 days," Kane said. "I think it's seven games. So maybe there's a little excuse there."
The Blackhawks weren't happy to have lost Sunday, but they also weren't in terrible moods. For one, they were proud of the way they responded with four second-period goals and another in the third period to cut the Oilers' lead to one.
"If you look at the first 20 minutes, we were just so flat and didn't have any jump," Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said. "We made every mistake possible -- giving them penalties, giving them chances in our zone.
"When you give up a 4-0 lead, it's pretty tough to come back. We didn't get a point and we didn't get two points today, but considering where we put ourselves we didn't give up and we were trying to come back."
The Blackhawks also were thoroughly looking forward to their first three-day stretch of the season without a game. They won't practice Monday or Tuesday and will return to practice Wednesday before heading off to play the Columbus Blue Jackets on the road on Thursday.
Quenneville and his players thought rest was exactly what the team required right now.
"We just got to take a couple days off, get away, gather some energy," Quenneville said. "I think when you're able to play the game when you feel good I think your thought process is that much more effective.
"I think that's something sometimes whether it goes directly to your hands or your feet or your legs, when you're not thinking good, it slows down your team game. But I think everybody should get some energy and get back."
"We have to recuperate the mind and the body," Shaw said. "Go home, get some sleep, get some good food into us, get some water. I think we'll be fine. We'll take this half comeback momentum into next game."