GLENDALE, Ariz. – The starts have been key for the Chicago Blackhawks all season long, and their ability to have good ones set the tone for success on this road trip.
But a bad one on Friday night put them behind early, and they could never recover.
[Quenneville: It was a very positive road trip]
Corey Crawford stopped 24-of-26 shots, but the Blackhawks gave up two power-play goals en route to a 2-0 loss to the Phoenix Coyotes at Jobing.com Arena. On a night where they were without Johnny Oduya (lower body) and Patrick Kane (family matter), the Blackhawks needed to be sharp from the start. They weren’t.
“Disappointing game,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “We battled, they made some saves on us the latter half of the game. You can’t start like that, though; we put ourselves in a hole right off the bat.”
It was the first time the Blackhawks were shut out in a regular-season game since Feb. 25, 2012, a 4-0 loss to the Los Angeles Kings. They went 3-1-2 on this road trip.
“We didn’t seem to have that energy we’ve had the last little while. Long trip, lots of travel, sometimes you come out flat,” Jonathan Toews said. “We got better as the game went along, but every time we got momentum we’d take a penalty and put ourselves in a tough spot. (Against a) defensive team like that, you’re not going to be able to play catch up. We were trying to come from behind and we’d keep ending up on the penalty kill. It wasn’t our best effort, not our best game as a team tonight.”
Brandon Bollig was whistled for tripping just 61 seconds into the game. Eight seconds later, Keith Yandle’s power-play shot put the Coyotes up 1-0. Bollig didn’t play the rest of the first period.
The Coyotes got another power-play opportunity, this one a 5-on-3, when Brandon Saad (goaltender interference) and Michal Rozsival (unsportsmanlike conduct) went to the box late in the second period. Once again the Coyotes capitalized, with Radim Vrbata giving them a 2-0 lead. Crawford was angry immediately after the goal; Antoine Vermette appeared to interfere with him, although replays show Niklas Hjalmarsson might have tripped him on the play. But Crawford was subdued on the call after the game.
“I got hit but it’s his decision. I can’t control what he’s going to call,” Crawford said. “We respect their decision. We just have to get over it and keep playing.”
Quenneville was more frustrated at the whole situation on that goal.
“I didn’t like the whole sequence of events,” he said. “Didn’t like that call, what happened in the whole turn; three calls, or non-calls.”
The Blackhawks will go their separate ways now, with 10 players going to the Olympics and the others likely to vacations. They were on a pretty good roll on this road trip, and were satisfied with the overall results. It didn’t end as they would’ve liked but they’re not hanging their heads too low.
“Some calls just weren’t going our way. It was tough to stay focused and it was a tough break on their second goal. It maybe changed the game. But I thought we had some chances, too,” Crawford said. “It might not have been our best one but we were still in the game and still made some great plays. It was a game where I think we could’ve had a chance to win, but it slipped away from us.”