Hawks failing to fix defensive problems

CHICAGO -- Exactly halfway into the season, the Chicago Blackhawks still are making the same defensive miscues in their own zone. It happened again in Game No. 41 on Friday and the Colorado Avalanche took advantage, winning easily, 4-0.

“We’ve given up too many of the type of goals like we saw tonight,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “They can be preventable with positioning and awareness.”

How many times has he said the exact same thing throughout the first half of the season? Too many to count. And if defensive awareness wasn’t enough of a problem, then a lack of work ethic was.

“They outworked us,” Jamal Mayers said. “We’re not going to make excuses in here. They outplayed us in pretty much every aspect of the game. We’ve got to compete harder for 60 minutes. If you don’t do that, you’re not going to give yourself a chance.”

The Blackhawks dressing room was as down and quiet as it’s been all season. After a loss just the night before, their spirits weren’t as broken, considering they nearly pulled off a great comeback and had even led twice before falling to the Philadelphia Flyers. There was no such silver lining on Friday.

“We got what we deserved,” Quenneville said in a short but meaningful statement.

The lack of effort probably led to the Hawks being shut out for the fifth time this season. Generating one power play over the last two games also points to a less-than-aggressive style.

But set aside the work ethic for a moment. It’s not often the Hawks don’t bring it. The bigger issue continues to be on defense. After 41 games, the same mistakes keep happening. Not every night. But more often than not when the Hawks lose, it’s nearly for the same reasons.

“It’s not like we’re doing it on purpose,” Niklas Hjalmarsson said. “We’re obviously trying. Colorado played a real good game.”

The Avalanche did play well and are in a nice groove right now. But it wasn’t that long ago the Hawks were as well. With a nine-game road trip looming soon after the second half of the schedule commences, the Hawks will be pressed to gobble up points. They need to do it now.

“Every team goes through it,” Mayers said. “We want to nip it in the bud and get back to work, get back to our identity as a team. We’ll be fine.”

They probably will be fine but the Central Division is as tough as they come. A longer slide might mean a slide down the standings.

“We need to put it behind us, get back to work and get a little pissed off,” Mayers said.

Start with defense. It’s what wins games and championships.