The Chicago Blackhawks have a seven-game losing streak dating back to March 26. There are many aspects that went wrong in those games: offensive fights, defensive failures, goalkeeper, etc. Anything that could go wrong has gone wrong over the past couple of weeks. However, there is one story missing from the last week: three of the seven losses have come against opponents who came out of the second game of a back-to-back, including the 6-3 defeat to the Dallas Stars on April 10.
Consecutive matches are usually a gift to opposing teams because they can face a tired club that is out of sync. But if you’ve seen how the Blackhawks played against these teams, you’d never know. So what went so wrong for them during these games? Let’s take a look back.
Blackhawks playing in the competition
The start of the trend came against the Buffalo Sabers on March 28th. The Sabers came into play after a 5-4 overtime loss to the New York Rangers the night before. The Sabers had 56 points at the time, while the Blackhawks had 58 points. While not a huge points gap, the Sabers were still a team below them in the standings. The Blackhawks also had history on their side as they had been 15-1 against them in the previous 16 fights.
Even if it didn’t happen that way. The back-to-back curse seemed to be on the Blackhawks’ side to start the game, as the Sabers looked tired and sloppy. The Blackhawks took a 4-0 lead early in the second period, then everything fell apart. They gave up four consecutive goals at Buffalo to draw 4-4. Alex DeBrincat broke the tie and led the game to 5-4. In the final minutes, Alex Tuch of the Sabers drew 5-5 with the extra forward.
Shortly thereafter, Dylan Strome took a tripping penalty and the Sabers scored a power-play goal with less than 20 seconds left to win the game 6-5. The shots were 37-21 in favor of Buffalo.
Related: 6 Blackhawks That Should Be Built Around
Then came the Seattle Kraken on April 7th. Kraken came into play after losing 4-1 to the St. Louis Blues on April 6, and they are another team at the bottom of the table, third worst to be exact. It was the perfect opportunity to stop their five-game losing streak as the Kraken suffered a nasty defeat the previous night. Unfortunately, this was not the case. The Hawks were left 2-0 in one of the worst games of the season. They also had four power plays that they didn’t convert to as they received three penalties in one minute when Ryan Donato was called for interference and Carson Soucy landed a double minor for top attack.
As a result, the Blackhawks had a four-minute powerplay that included a 5-on-3, in which they failed to score. They also weren’t able to hit the net in that time frame. In fact, they could not convert in any situation with the extra attacker. It included 5v3, 5v4 and 6v5 at the end of the match when the Blackhawks shot the goalkeeper. Seattle is ranked seventh worst in the league for the penalty, which was a punch to the stomach. The shots were 31-29 in favor of the Kraken.
Finally the Stars arrived on April 10th. The Stars arrived in Chicago after suffering an embarrassing 3-1 defeat to the New Jersey Devils on April 9. The Blackhawks were able to win the game as well as they were leading 2-1 in the first period thanks to Philipp Kurashev and a goal in power play from Jonathan Toews. They showed some struggle, and then it went off the rails when Dallas quickly drew the game 2-2 with a goal from Joe Pavelski. It got worse when they scored three goals in the second, despite Boris Katchouk scoring his first goal of the season for Chicago during that period.
In the third period, the Stars added another goal. Two minutes later, Kirby Dach scored for the 6-4 with less than four minutes left in the match, but by then the damage was done and they couldn’t recover the score. For the most part, the Hawks played well, but downplayed another opponent by taking advantage.
What all of these games had in common was that the Blackhawks belittled their opponents. Plain and simple. Having an opponent who is not doing well in the standings and breaking away twice would have been a good victory of confidence. Instead, they proved that they are not very different from them.
They have been eliminated in all three games, have given up 14 goals and the effort has been terrible. Giving up a four-goal lead to the Sabers is unacceptable for any team, but especially for the Blackhawks in that circumstance. There’s no reason Chicago shouldn’t have been able to pick up a goal against Kraken, considering all of their chances and the fact that Seattle’s goals against the average are 3.11. The Stars are in the running for the playoffs, but that game wasn’t the best. The Blackhawks looked decent most of the night, but they didn’t have the gas to shut it down. They made too many mistakes in quick windows that went to the bottom of the net. They beat them 40-30, but goalkeepers and special teams were still a problem.
The Blackhawks Special Teams have gone bankrupt
The Blackhawks special teams have been a problem all season. The power play jerks from being hot and cold, but the penalty kill has been a constant problem all along. Their power play is in 17th place in the league (success rate of 21.1 percent), while their penalty is at 27th (success rate of 74.9 percent). When the Hawks faced the Sabers, they went 2/2 on power play but went 1/3 on the penalty kill. During the Kraken game, Chicago went 1/1 on the penalty kill but went 0/4 on the power play. The lack of success in the power game is what cost them the victory in that game.
Eventually, Dallas went a perfect 2/2 on the power play during their play. It was a significant disappointment considering they had only scored two goals in power-play in the last nine games of the match. That was an opportunity for the Blackhawks to make a statement and they failed. Whenever they lose, it can be attributed to the power play or the penalty killing, and it appears that the penalty killing during those matches is what sealed their fate and, by extension, the season as a whole.
Demonstrated the lack of effort of the Blackhawks
During matches against Sabers, Kraken, and Stars, the only major component in Blackhawks manager Derek King’s post-match commentary was the lack of effort on the part of his team. Looking at how the scores came in, it is clear that lack of effort and / or concentration was a big problem. Having lost games to two teams that aren’t in a playoff spot, which is the same position Chicago is in, it seemed like there would be no problems from an effort standpoint. As everyone is out of the race, it seemed like a good time to show off for next season and it never materialized.
Manager King perfectly described the result after the defeat to the Sabers, stating, “We stopped playing the right way. We just decided on ourselves to go and do what they wanted to do. They didn’t do anything we asked them to do. I am very surprised, disappointed. And they should be disappointed. We will find out next game how disappointed they really are for losing such a game (from “Blackhawks jump four goals ahead, suffer an embarrassing defeat against Sabers”, Chicago Sun-Times28/03/22).
After playing the Kraken, King noticed it was there no urgency and too many passengers. This seems to be a recurring theme and is worrying. Even if they’ve made a better effort against the Stars, that kind of performance comes in waves. They can dominate a few periods or shifts, but then go back to being sloppy. It was tough to watch, but I hope they can make better use of the effort from the Dallas match. It can’t get much worse, can it?
Related: Blackhawks: 4 Things Coach King Is Doing Different
These fights prove that you cannot take anyone lightly in this league. The Blackhawks and their fans may have thought the matches against Sabers and Kraken were automatic wins. However, every match must be fought in this league, and even if the teams are “bad”, they are still pro teams that can beat anyone on any given night.
The Blackhawks took clubs and their circumstances for granted last week. Being able to take care of teams that are coming out of consecutive games is what you want to see for development purposes and it seems to have haunted the Hawks. This losing streak falls heavily on those three games. The good news is that this could be a reminder for other teams not to take Chicago lightly. There may be more anger and purpose to their game with a prolonged losing streak like this one. After all, NHL teams that have their backs to the wall can be the most dangerous.
It will be interesting to see if the Blackhawks are able to leave this forgettable series behind before the season ends in a few weeks.
Just a small town girl with Midwestern charm; combined with the love of dogs, writing, frappuccini, Chicago isms, sport and a lot of Blackhawks hockey. Twitter: @brooke_lofo.