Friday was more of the recent same for the Blackhawks, as they allowed the Nashville Predators to come into Chicago and steal away two vital points with a 3-2 victory at the United Center.
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville was in disbelief as he watched his team constantly having to chase the puck, and the Predators, throughout the final 10 minutes of the opening period. The Predators capitalized twice during that span, building a 2-0 lead. The Blackhawks wouldn’t get any closer than a goal the rest of the way.
Captain Jonathan Toews said the Hawks haven't been working hard enough to get the lucky bounces.
“Tough to watch the last part of the first period,” Quenneville said. “That was as bad as we’ve probably played for a stretch all year. ... I’m not happy with our game at all.”
Quenneville hasn’t been extremely pleased with the Blackhawks in recent weeks. They’ve gone 3-4 since returning from the Olympic break, watched the St. Louis Blues take a comfortable lead in the Central and fallen behind the Colorado Avalanche for second place in the division.
“I thought the pace to our game, the intelligence to our game were non-existent the last couple of games,” Quenneville said.
Scoring has become issue for the Blackhawks. While they’re still leading the league with a 3.31 goals-per-game average, they’ve rarely touched that figure as of late. They have scored two goals of fewer in seven of their past nine games.
Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews put the blame for the lack of offense on the team’s work ethic.
“We’ll get bounces like I said when we work harder,” Toews said. “The harder you work, you’re going to get bounces eventually. Pucks will land on your stick. We’ll get some ugly goals around the net. We’re just not finding those pucks right now because we’re not working for them. It’ll come when we pay the price.”
The Blackhawks started paying some of that price as Friday’s game unfolded. Their offensive chances picked up in the final two periods, when they landed 25 shots on goal. Peter Regin was the only one able to cash in, though, and the Blackhawks lost by a 3-2 score for a second consecutive game.
“It was another case of us finally playing the way we can, the way we’re supposed to, but it’s too late again,” Toews said. “To get down two goals to that team late in the game, it’s not going to be easy to come back. We’re putting ourselves in tough situations by not starting well and just getting away from our team.
“Not much of an explanation, but we know we need better right now. We need to get out of this trend we’re in right now.”
Time is running out for the Blackhawks to reverse that. They’re down to 15 games, and the next four weeks are going to fly by. The Blackhawks have three four-game weeks in that period.
“We got to find ways to get the puck in the net and find ways to get two points now because this last 15 are really coming down to crunch time,” Blackhawks forward Kris Versteeg said.
Again, urgency was present in the Blackhawks’ words. Whether it’ll be in their play is yet to be seen.