The Chicago Blackhawks mustered one point off the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night. But that was small consolation for the Blackhawks, and even less for their coach.
“Awful,” coach Joel Quenneville said about the Blackhawks’ 3-2 shootout loss to the Blues. “I didn’t like our game at all after the first 12 minutes.”
There wasn’t much happening for the Blackhawks after Brandon Pirri scored his first NHL goal to put the team up in those first 12 minutes, save a great breakaway goal by Marian Hossa and strong goaltending by Corey Crawford. Whether it was the Blackhawks lifting their foot off the gas or the Blues lifting it for them, the ‘Hawks had a rather forgettable effort against a Blues squad ready to take their division crown.
“We were good in the first, but our second and third have to be better,” said defenseman Brent Seabrook. “We’re not scoring a lot of goals right now. We’re having a tough time finding the back of the net. But we have to muscle these games out. That’s the mindset we have to have when we’re not scoring goals.”
Indeed, Thursday marked the sixth consecutive one-goal game for the Blackhawks, who also haven’t scored a third-period goal since their season opener against the Washington Capitals, when they scored three.
As Quenneville said, “awful.”
“I didn’t like our pace, how we turned pucks over. We didn’t get pucks to the net, we didn’t generate any offense after the first,” Quenneville said.
At the start, however, it looked like this game was going to have all the energy and back-and-forth opportunities of the first Blackhawks-Blues matchup this season. During those first few minutes, the Blackhawks were playing their typical first-period style: fast, furious and opportunistic. Pirri got it started, taking a Hossa feed and lifting it above Jaroslav Halak to give the Blackhawks a 1-0 lead.
And then it stopped. Whether the Blackhawks stopped themselves or the Blues did it, the Blackhawks got away from their game. They weren’t shooting at will anymore; they weren’t really generating anything at all. Quenneville made some line changes, albeit briefly, and that didn’t create anything either. As unhappy as Quenneville was with how the Blackhawks regressed, Blues coach Ken Hitchcock was that happy with the Blues withstanding the early onslaught.
“We weathered the storm,” Hitchcock said. “We knew we were going to weather a storm after what happened in the last game, but I thought after the first 10 minutes we played a really good hockey game, especially in the third period and overtime. I thought we really played strong. We played with a sense of composure and discipline. I was really happy with our effort."
Even when the Blackhawks did get another lead, it didn’t last long. Hossa broke free – Patrick Sharp was right behind him – took a pass from Niklas Hjalmarsson and scored to give the Blackhawks a 2-1 lead in the second period. But less than a minute later Alex Steen redirected Jay Bouwmeester’s shot – it also hit off Duncan Keith’s stick -- to tie it at 2-2.
“That’s what they do: they put pucks on the net. They score ugly goals,” Quenneville said. “We’re not willing to do that.”
The Blackhawks will have to be willing to do that soon. There’s no category for style points in the NHL. The team with a plethora of offensive weapons is struggling to score two, let alone three, goals in a game. The Blackhawks are getting their wakeup call from the Blues. Again.
“We’re going to see a lot of them, and we’ll be fighting with them for spots in our division,” Seabrook said. “We have to be better against these guys and come out Saturday night and have a better effort.”