CHICAGO -- No one watching the Chicago Blackhawks game Tuesday night against the Phoenix Coyotes wants to hear it. Nor do the players want to admit it. But in losing 4-1 the Hawks played exactly how a team does when it looks “hung-over” from a long road trip.
That's why it’s become a cliché in the NHL: First games back from long trips can be a killer.
“Whether it’s your reactionary habits or delay in the switches, but I thought we were really weak in the puck areas,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “They had better sticks and quicker sticks and quicker feet in the puck areas. We didn’t win any puck battles.”
That fits the description for a team lacking energy. Patrick Kane grudgingly agreed with the whole “first game back from a road-trip” theory. Grudgingly.
“You could use that excuse, you could use fatigue, you could use time change, different things like that,” Kane said. “For whatever reason it is, sometimes you come back home to put on a show for the fans.”
It would be one thing if the Hawks came out flying and lost 4-1, or 9-2 for that matter, but it’s not the score that tells the story. It’s the sleepy attitude they displayed. As for putting on a show at home, the Hawks tried to do exactly that, but the show that preceded them at the United Center -- the circus -- was undoubtedly better.
“Our best looks were the ones we didn’t get our shots away,” Quenneville said of some second-period chances.
As inexplicable as this first game back at home is, so is the fact that a player such as Marian Hossa would want to put on a “show.” Hossa stick-handled his way out of scoring chances or tried low-percentage passes. He finished with one shot on net, coming very late in the third period. His game was a microcosm of the Hawks’ night.
“There’s no way we should pack it in like that,” Hossa’s linemate Patrick Sharp said. “Especially in the third, we have to find a way to make it close, but the score went the other way. We can’t be happy with that.”
To add insult to injury the Hawks had just one power-play attempt. It also came late in the third with the game long over.
“You generate power-play opportunities based on zone time, puck possession, speed, quickness, advantages, and there were very few,” Quenneville said.
Again, the lack of those attributes points to a lack of energy which might come from a quick turnaround from their road trip or maybe the Hawks played the worst possible opponent for that type of game. The Coyotes are great with the lead and when Daymond Langkow squeaked one by Corey Crawford in the first period, the energy on the ice and in the building died.
“Obviously we’re not happy,” Jamal Mayers said. “Our energy level, it’s unacceptable.”
As always with these kinds of games it’s how the Hawks respond next time out -- on Friday against the lowly New York Islanders -- that will tell the story of their current resilience. As for that lack of energy, the coach saw it as well.
“There were a couple shifts that looked like some but it wasn’t enough for me,” Quenneville said.
The Hawks produced a season-low 25 shots on net. Two less than the previous season low, achieved Saturday in Los Angeles and one other time.
Despite registering just one shot on net, Toews won 73 percent of his face-offs.
After winning 6 of 8 face-offs, Marcus Kruger has won 16 of his past 20 over his past three games.