There was a time when you could see a fire in the Chicago Blackhawks.
You would have certain players, especially captain Jonathan Toews, seething and putting their angst into words. Even as much restructuring and readjusting that last years team faced, there was a big response before losing streaks got out of hand.
But as the Blackhawks losses have mounted in February, youre seeing less of that. The anger has dissipated into bewilderment and, to some degree, a feeling of resignation. This skid has been a punch to the Blackhawks midsection, and theyre struggling to catch their breath.
The Blackhawks havent had a losing streak like this since the 2008-09 season. And for a still young group thats used to winning a lot, there seems to be a sense of, What do we do now?
So is this just a total collapse, or were there cracks in the faade even during the best of times this season?
Even when we were in first place and it was tight, I think there were a lot of games when we werent that good, Duncan Keith said prior to Saturdays game. Now its caught up with us.
Thats true in a few aspects. Even in some of their victories they were giving up a lot of goals, as team defense and goaltending have struggled. They have yet to record a shutout this season, have yet to prove they can win those 1-0, 2-1, tight, low-scoring games.
The Blackhawks core pushed them to the top of the NHL standings through the first three months. But individual slumps happen, and unfortunately for the Blackhawks their top guys are all slumping at the same time. And the supporting cast hasnt been enough to buoy the Blackhawks through their troubles.
Coach Joel Quenneville has juggled lines trying to get something, anything. Nothing is working. Occasional healthy scratches for Bryan Bickell and Michael Frolik havent bolstered their games, and other leashes have been way too short -- Brendan Morrison was a healthy scratch Friday, after just four games with his new team.
You need every guy in the room, said Patrick Kane, whos been way too quiet this season. When we were successful, whether last year or the year before, we had a lot of depth, a lot of players stepping up beyond their game. That goes for me and for anyone in the room.
And, yes, Kane called himself out too.
Its something where Ive got to pick it up, got to score goals. The onus is on a lot of guys, but first and foremost you look at yourself and try to figure out what you have to do better.
The Blackhawks have to figure it out quick. The teams in front of them are pulling away. The ones behind them are gaining. They need to re-ignite that fire.
We need everybody on board, Quenneville said. Were not thinking about standings right now. Were thinking of trying to win a game.