SAN JOSE -- Make no mistake, the Chicago Blackhawks' seventh consecutive loss, a 5-3 defeat to the San Jose Sharks on Friday, came down one thing and one thing only: Another awful display of killing penalties and subsequently playing defense.
San Jose scored three times with the man advantage while the Hawks lacked a commitment to blocking shots near the point before they could cause chaos near the net.
But it’s hard to get them to admit a lack of real desire is the problem in breaking this losing streak.
“Minutes after another loss its tough to look at the bright side of things,” Jonathan Toews said. “But we played hard out there. Saw some fights, saw some scratching and clawing, some battling in front of the net. We played the way we had to but gave them too many opportunities on the power play.”
Too many opportunities is one issue, but what about killing them off? What about laying out to block some shots? The Hawks haven’t done it all season.
“It’s the second chances that they’re getting, the rebounds that are going in,” Toews said. “We weren’t clearing those today.”
True, but the question put to Toews was about blocking shots. They want to avoid the question because the answer goes to a lack of commitment to win a game. The Hawks wouldn’t have to clear as many pucks in front of the net if they were willing to pay the price near the point. Scared is a dirty word in hockey but why else wont they get in front of a shot?
Power plays are where shots get blocked by forwards. San Jose spent 8:43 on the power play to the Hawks’ 5:42. Sharks’ forwards blocked 17 shots while Hawks forwards got in front of exactly five. This was about lack of desire and it goes to the bigger picture about this team. If they aren’t scoring bushels of goals they don’t know how to win.
“They had a shooting power play,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “We have to make sure the pucks don’t get through. We have to be in those lanes. Whether it’s the rebound lane or shot lane.”
No one was worse in this department than Marian Hossa. On the first two San Jose goals, he did very little to break up the plays. He came at Brent Burns from a bad angle allowing a shooting lane that led to a Justin Braun score. Later, he stood intact near the slot while Braun fired from the point leading to a Dan Boyle tally.
“The rebound came right at their guys stick and basically it was in,” Hossa said. “It seems like every little mistake we make it’s biting us and ending up in the net.”
Again, he’s addressing the aftermath and not what caused it. The Hawks are in denial about their effort and nowhere is it more obvious than on the penalty kill.
“I think we all share out there what we could have done differently,” Quenneville said.
Maybe the coach should stop sharing the blame and start pointing at individuals. Yes, Nick Leddy was on the ice for four San Jose Sharks goals, but his lack of execution pales in comparison to Hossa’s lack of desire to get in front of a shot.
But he’s not alone in lack of desire and execution killing penalties. The Hawks are 28th in the league in that department so there is plenty of blame to go around. They lack execution, desire and maybe even personnel. The sooner they admit it, address it, and deal with it the sooner they might win a game.
On Friday the Hawks' penalty killing was a microcosm of their season. Knowing they have average goaltending should only increase that desire to stop everything from getting to the net. It’s simply not happening because they aren’t committed to it.
“It’s beyond frustrating,” Jamal Mayers said. “We’re going to be better for going through this.”
The question is, when?
• Marcus Kruger scored his fourth and fifth goals three minutes apart in the second period. Both came on rebounds as he stood in fron of the net. Kruger led the Hawks with six shots on net.
• Bryan Bickell briefly tied the game in the third period with his first goal since December 21.
• Hossa is pointless and minus-5 since the All-Star break.
• Viktor Stalberg was benched after being part of a turnover that led to the Sharks third goal of the game. Stalberg didn’t play in the third period.
• Quenneville said his goaltending “has to be better” when asked about Corey Crawford’s performance