For the first time all season, the Blackhawks' dressing room was a truly angry place after Monday night's 3-1 loss in Calgary.
Instead of the same old rhetoric about "needing to work harder" and "needing to prove we're a playoff team", the Hawks seem to have received a wake-up call. Let's hope so, because that would be the only potentially good thing to take on the flight out of Calgary.
Duncan Keith in particular lost his composure during a postgame interview with ESPN's Jesse Rogers
. When asked if the ineffective power play was to blame for the loss, Keith said "F*** the power play. Nobody goes to the net to score goals. That's why we don't win."
Quenneville wasn't happy either, stating that the Blackhawks' effort was "nowhere near good enough to get it done."
This season has been full of tough losses, but tonight's game seems to have been the unanimous "panic button" game of 2011 for fans and players alike. Twitter and Facebook have already blown up with comments about how the Hawks are done, last year was a fluke and season ticket holders will be saving money in April and May. Hey, there's another positive!
As a writer, I try to be as objective a fan as possible. If I had written this piece 2 hours ago, it would have consisted of one 4-letter word in caps and a Photoshopped picture of Nick Boynton jumping from the Golden Gate Bridge.
Now that I'm calm, let's look at what we have. The Blackhawks have slipped into 11th place, and this time, looking at points percentage doesn't make the situation any better. They're 11th in that category too. The 8th best record in the West (going by points %, which is what matters) belongs to the Minnesota Wild who have 59 points to the Hawks' 58 with one less game played. That means 8th place is on pace for 93 points; the Blackhawks need to finish something equal to 16-10-3 to reach 93. Doable on paper, but not if they don't pull their heads out.
The scary thing is that the standings won't stay this close forever. Now is when things tend to separate between the contenders and pretenders. Every game matters. The Hawks haven't proven over a single 2-week stretch this season that they understand this. If they're going to make a run, that mentality has to set in immediately.
During the past two seasons, the month of March has provided endless nightmares for Blackhawks fans. The Campbell injury, the last-second debacle in Philly, the Colorado/Islanders back-to-back Sunday games in 09 and other losing streaks are just a few examples. This year, a performance in late February and March will need to be the opposite of the last two seasons. Instead of being able to coast, they'll need to turn it on. I remain faithful that they will, and you should too. As long as Jonathan Toews is on this roster, I refuse to believe they're going to die easy.
I've said it numerous times and I'll say it again: this team has come so very close to breaking our hearts the past three years. They ALWAYS manage to redeem themselves in some way. I've seen it happen too many times to write them off.
With that said, there are some things that would go a long way toward making this happen:
1) Yank Mike Kitchen's special teams responsibilities
. A piece I wrote last month
explains his incompetence coaching the penalty kill, and the Hawks' power play has gone 1 for 13 under him while he inexplicably has been in charge of it the past 3 games. Give the reigns of both units to Haviland. Keep this guy away from a dry erase board, please.
2) STOP SKATING BOYNTON. To me, the Nick Boynton over Jordan Hendry decision is as bad as the Bears' preference of Collins over Hanie. The entire stadium sees it, every fan sees it, and the media sees it...why doesn't Q? During the short time that we saw Hendry skate 3rd pairing minutes with Leddy, the team's entire game looked smoother. I understand that this team's problems run much deeper than their 6th defenseman, but hockey is the one game where one shift can change everything. One 30-second sequence. One failed clearing attempt. One bad turnover. Every time Boynton's skates touch the ice, the surface seems to tilt in the opponent's favor. It does matter. Scratch him.
3) Less talking, more action. Sounds like someone's motto heading into their senior prom, but in this case it pertains to Duncan Keith and the Blackhawks. I like the fact that Keith was pissed after that loss. He should be. But more importantly, he and the rest of the team need to take that anger out on the rest of their opponents. No points are going to come easy, and if the team keeps getting themselves into 3rd period ties, the killer instinct needs to kick in now.
Next up, the Hawks travel to Edmonton to face a bad but sometimes dangerous Oilers team on Wednesday night. With plenty of other Western Conference action taking place, things will slide in the standings one way or the other.
Its never fun to call a game a "must win" in early February.....but that's what the Hawks are facing.
Love the passion Dunc, but its time to nut up or shut up.
Blackhawks, Chicago Blackhawks, Joel Quenneville, Jonathan Toews, Mike Kitchen, Nick Leddy, Stan Bowman, United Center
Blackhawks, Blackhawks playoffs, Chicago Blackhawks, Duncan Keith, ESPN, Jesse Rogers, Joel Quenneville, Jonathan Toews, Jordan Hendry, Mike Haviland, Mike Kitchen, Minnesota Wild, NHL Playoffs, Nick Boynton, Nick Leddy