By Connor McKnight–
For the Blackhawks, three days off comes at just the right time. After two deflating losses to the Blues and Blue Jackets over the weekend, the Hawks need some time to forget about it, regroup and, maybe most of all, practice.
“I gotta just try not to run my mouth and say things I might regret right now,” Jonathan Toews said after the loss to the Blue Jackets. “There’s no way we should throw away that game. [These two losses] were two big division points.”
That’s about as unchecked and emotional you’re likley to see Toews after a game. Normally cool and collected, Toews needed a moment–albeit brief–to reign himself in. Toews also mentioned that some players need to step up.
“We’ll find ways to score goals eventually,” Toews said. “We need a couple guys here and there to start picking up the slack… we know that’s going to come. … I think we’re just skating through puck areas. We’re not stopping and starting. It’s just little lazy plays like that that catch up to us where we’re going to give up some ugly goals in our own zone. They can easily be avoided if we just smarten up.”
It’s certainly been the defense that has let the Hawks slip to 5-4-1 in the first ten games of the season. The Hawks have given up far more shots-on-goal per game than last year and it’s the “skating through puck areas” Toews is talking about that’s getting them in trouble.
Like last year the absence of Brian Campbell is notable. Campbell gave the Hawks a jolt in the playoffs and will need to do the same when he returns in about two weeks.
Getting Campbell back will settle the defensive pairings and allow the Hawks to better frustrate teams when entering the Hawks zone–not to mention help the Hawks enter their own offensive zone.
At times, Nick Boynton has looked solid playing top-four minutes alongside Niklas Hjalmarsson. At times, he’s been a goat taking late penalties that have gone on to lose games.
In the dressing room after Saturday night’s game a number of players (Duncan Keith, especially) said they were ready to get back to a few days of actual practice as opposed to a somewhat rough schedule of 10 games in 17 days.
While the schedule is packed, the Hawks had to live with similar schedules last season as well. It’s the practice that should help. Joel Quenneville needs to drill some defensive responsibility into his team and, no doubt, plans on doing exactly that before the team gets back on the United Center ice Wednesday night against the Kings.