SUNRISE, Fla. -- School was in session in South Florida on Tuesday night and learning was at a maximum.
“I’ve been around a while and I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a bigger lesson to be learned than I did tonight,” goalie Marty Turco said after the Chicago Blackhawks 3-2 defeat to the Florida Panthers. “Whatever we thought to ourselves or did, changed after one period. It was one heck of a wake-up call.”
The Hawks came out flat, and disinterested, and it showed on the scoreboard. Three goals on eight shots in the opening 20 minutes was all Florida needed to win this game. So what was the lesson learned?
“You have to be ready to play,” Joel Quenneville said answering that question. “You have to be respectful of the opposition and you can’t get outworked. You have to be simple.”
“Trap game” was a common phrase used before the contest. Despite an eight-game winning streak on the line, anyone that knows anything about team sports knew this would be a tough contest.
A couple of sunny days spent in non-hockey weather may have contributed to the early malaise or maybe it was the less the intense atmosphere, in a less than full building, that brought the Hawks down.
One thing it wasn’t, according to several, was skipping the morning practice, though it was a twist on their “normal” routine.
“It was a 45 minute drive for a 20 minute skate, one way,” Quenneville said. “It was an hour and a half on the bus. Last year and this year we had success doing it. [It had] nothing to do with that.”
Marian Hossa agreed.
“You can say that but I don’t think that was it,” he said. “We are professionals and it doesn’t matter if you skate or not. We just thought it was going to be easier.”
At least Hossa was honest in his assessment of what went wrong.
“That was our worst period of the season,” he stated. “You have to play 60 minutes no matter who you play against. We got a good lesson in the first period.”
Corey Crawford might need to stay after school for a while. He was pulled after one period, looking ordinary, compared to his recent stellar play. He didn’t quite see it the same way though.
“I didn’t feel that bad,” he said. “I gave up a bad rebound on the first one. The second one I didn’t see through the traffic. The third one he got a pretty good wrister off. I felt good. I felt good yesterday. It’s just one of those game that’s not going your way.
“I don’t think we were that bad. We turned it on and showed how good a team we can be. I don’t even think that first one was that bad.”
He’s about the only one, but he gets an incomplete grade for those comments since he’s been at the head of the class for most of the year.
There was some good news, the Hawks dominated the final 40 minutes. In fact they gave up just seven shots in the second and third periods combined. But goalie Tomas Vokoun, and probably the hockey gods, reiterated the lesson: the Hawks were not going to get away with such a bad opening 20 minutes.
But finals aren’t for another month. That’s when Crawford and the Hawks need to shine. Though Wednesday against Tampa Bay wouldn’t be a bad place to go for a better grade.
That’s if the lessons were truly learned.