<
>

Hawks' loss a 60-minute struggle

CHICAGO -- This is one of those glass half-full moments. Or is it half-empty?

After the Chicago Blackhawks got shutout 3-0 against the Carolina Hurricanes Friday, you have to decide if things are still looking up for the 5-2-2 Hawks.

The record speaks for itself. It’s a good start to the year, but the Hawks admit they’ve played well in about one game this season, maybe two. Their rematch against the Dallas Stars in their home opener was a good one and they played 60 minutes against the Phoenix Coyotes in another victory.

Friday night was anything but 60 solid minutes.

“We got dominated in all areas of the game,” coach Joel Quenneville said afterwards. “They were the more determined team and it was clear from the outset.”

At least Quenneville isn’t mincing words. The dagger to the heart Friday came early in the third period. Down 1-0, it was time for the Hawks’ revamped power player to do some damage. Brandon Sutter was in the penalty box for tripping, and the Hawks nearly had a clean sheet of ice to tie the game.

The result?

Plenty of time in the Hurricanes’ zone and plenty of perimeter passing, but not much else. The hockey gods spoke, when after two minutes of this, Sutter came out of the box and promptly scored the back-breaker.

“We have to work hard,” Jonathan Toews said of the power play. “We have to outwork the four guys trying to kill against you and do that on a consistent basis and the goals will come.”

The power play is a mess right now. It has steadily worsened, and now the mind games may have begun. The Hawks have heard the chatter: shoot the puck, but when Brent Seabrook tried to shoot during a second-period attempt the puck was blocked by Eric Staal and a breakaway ensued the other way. Seabrook was called for hooking and fortunately the penalty shot by Staal was saved by Corey Crawford.

So one power play ends with a goal going the other way and another produces a penalty shot.

Mess might be an understatement.

The Sutter goal came with Brent Seabrook closing in on the puck near the penalty box.

“I saw it coming,” Sutter said. “I don’t think the D-man was quite ready for it. Just managed to chip it over him and I knew I had a step on him. It’s nice when you get ones like that.”

Toews, like Quenneville, indicted the work ethic with his comments. If they were outworking penalty-killing units the Hawks would be better than 4 for 34 with the man advantage on the season. They were 0 for 4 on Friday.

“I’m not worried about it,” Quenneville said. “It can happen but it was across the board.”

For whatever reason, playing in Carolina and the RBC Center is the Hawks' kryptonite. They’ve won just once there since 1998 and never in that building. So maybe Friday was a one game mirage considering that history and the Hawks can at least be happy with a point in seven in a row until the Hurricanes shut them down.

“Hopefully we can get back to the way we were playing tomorrow [Saturday] night,” Toews said.

Slappers

• Toews won 76 percent of his face-offs but the rest of the Hawks had just 14 wins and 25 losses in the circle. Patrick Kane -- facing Eric Staal most of the night -- was just 1 of 8, Dave Bolland won 6 of 16.

• Thanks to Toews’ prowess in the face-off circle, his line had the best scoring chances and spent the most time in the offensive zone. Toews and Sharp combined for nine shots but Andrew Brunette had just one.

• Kane, Toews and Sharp were reunited in the third period as the Hawks looked for a spark but no damage was done.