Coach Joel Quenneville fielded the question on what the Chicago Blackhawks needed after their 6-5 loss to Edmonton, their second in as many games. What did he have to look at in these next few days?
“Rest is the one thing that was obvious,” he said. “That’s what we see in our team.”
Yes, after getting a point in their first 24 games before falling in regulation twice, fatigue was the biggest issue Quenneville saw with this team. And with three days between games now, the Blackhawks will address that, with rest.
The Blackhawks played 26 games from Jan. 19 to March 10, a very busy schedule, indeed. And be it coming off these two straight losses or the whole early schedule in general, the Blackhawks’ three-day respite couldn’t come at a better time. They took Monday off and will do the same Tuesday before returning to practice on Wednesday. For the players, that’s just fine.
[RELATED: Hawks' comeback bid falls short in loss to Oilers]
“It’s big for us, for sure,” said Patrick Kane, who had two more goals on Sunday night. “To have a few days to just relax before going on the road again, it’ll be good to regroup and get away from the rink for a few days and then get back at it when we go to Columbus.”
The Blackhawks have a big four-game road trip coming up on the other side of that break, beginning with a Blue Jackets team that’s won five in a row and has played the Blackhawks tough. Certainly, the Blackhawks are still sitting in a good position thanks to their incredible undefeated streak. But the cracks were beginning to show in their last two games. They weren’t as sharp – and it didn’t help that they were missing Patrick Sharp, either. They made a lot of mistakes, ones that they kept to a minimum in the first 24 games. Just about everyone was having a bad game.
So time to take a break.
“It’ll be nice. We know it’s something we have to take advantage of, maybe get a few practices in, who knows,” said Jonathan Toews. “We’ve been playing a lot of games and it’s great when you have four lines going every single night and everyone’s chipping in. That helps you keep going as a team. But it was a busy couple of weeks. We can use the rest and we’ll take advantage of it and be ready for Thursday.”
[MORE: Edmonton's Gagner has the Blackhawks' number]
Perhaps it was Blackhawks' fatigue – and the Oilers’ panache against them – that led to that awful first period on Sunday, when Edmonton led 4-0. The Blackhawks liked their comeback, one in which they looked like they left everything on the ice. But they were definitely feeling the effects of it all. The team that doesn’t like to use fatigue as an excuse admitted that, yeah, fatigue may have been an issue.
But just a little bit of an issue.
“There are going to be nights where you don’t have your legs, but you don’t think like that,” Toews said. “You play the situation and adapt to it. We’re never going to make excuses like that. We have to be better, smarter.”
But the fatigue was nonetheless there, and Quenneville said it does manifest itself.
“When you’re able to play the game when you feel good, your thought process is much more effective. Whether it goes directly to your hands or feet or legs, but when you’re not thinking well it slows your team game down,” he said. “The last 40 minutes was just the opposite of the first 20, and that’s basically how we played for most of the start of the year.”
Quenneville wasn’t majorly concerned with the errors the Blackhawks made in their last two games because they were there, mainly, due to fatigue. That’s an easy thing to correct. The Blackhawks will rest. They’ll get their legs back. And they’ll try to get their good streak back again, too.
“It’s going to be nice to get some rest, refuel the tanks,” Andrew Shaw said. “It’s a tough season. You’re playing every night, there’s a lot of travel. We just need some rest and we’ll get back at things.”