If Saturday’s shellacking hadn’t followed a bad 5-2 loss in Calgary the night before maybe it could be thrown out, but the Hawks have some defensive issues that need addressing.
“If I could explain it we’d have the problem solved,” a dejected Patrick Sharp said after the shocking loss.
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville often says he judges his team by how it defends. Giving up 14 goals in two nights, his team did little right in any facet of their defensive game.
“We have to tighten it up,” Quenneville said in an understatement. “Penalty kill, D-zone coverage and defending the rush. I’m not worried about offense with our team, it’s how we play without the puck.”
This could be a year-long theme and that’s more important than any one loss. Defeats have had a common thread this season: the inability to defend in the Hawks zone, especially near the goal. Edmonton scored four power-play goals and five even-strength tallies and only one came from the point -- a 5-on-3 score by Tom Gilbert. Everything else was around the net, either off the rush or on rebounds or just little plays which require little space. The Hawks obliged.
“Right now it seems every little mistake we make ends up in the back of our net and we’re making a lot of mistakes,” Duncan Keith said.
Keith is having his own issues. He was minus-4 for a second consecutive night and was on the ice for seven of nine Edmonton goals. But he wasn’t the only one with issues.
“We only have ourselves to blame,” Jonathan Toews said. “We’re not making any excuses. It’s not one or two guys, it’s everyone, collectively… We’re embarrassed. We’re pissed off. I’m not going to lie. We do have a lot of pride in this room. We’re not happy about letting something like that happen to each other.”
So what’s the answer?
Panicking won’t get anything done and teams at the top of the conference don’t usually need to make desperate moves to fix their problems. A trade is something to consider for the future, but for now, it’s back to the drawing board.
“There are things that can be fixed,” defenseman Sean O'Donnell said. “If you can fix them then it’s just two more losses. If you can’t fix them and it starts to snowball then you really have to look at these two games and wonder what went wrong.”
Playing without Brent Seabrook isn’t an excuse. The Oilers are banged up on defense as are many teams every night in the NHL. The Hawks have to commit to defense and maybe winning four in a row in dominating fashion got them thinking it would come easy. It happens often in the NHL.
“We know our effort has to be way better,” Toews said. “The way we played tonight and last night is completely unacceptable.”