By Jay Zawaski–
(CBS) It was a perfect atmosphere for an outdoor game: overcast, cold (but not too cold), a slight breeze. Everything was set for another memorable NHL contest in the elements. That was until the road team decided not to show up.
From the opening face-off to the final horn, the Blackhawks were pantsed and embarrassed by the Minnesota Wild, 6-1, on Sunday at TCF Bank Stadium. That score was completely indicative of the play too.
Over the last couple of years, there has been a resignation from Blackhawks fans that during the regular season, that the team will occasionally play at about 85 percent effort. On Sunday, I think Chicago played at about 60percent.
It was about as listless and lifeless as the Blackhawks have looked all year, and while it would be silly to panic over a regular-season loss, it leaves me scratching my head. What does get the Hawks excited? Which games do they get up for? If not an outdoor game against a divisional rival, then when?
The Blackhawks as difficult to read as the emotions on Darth Vader’s face. Let’s hope their fate is better than the sith lord’s when this episode ends. (Spoiler alert — Darth Vader dies.)
Here are the shorties of the night.
TV-where-R-ya?: It’s tough to isolate on one player after a brutal all-around performance, but defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk has been a problem lately. He was on the ice for three goals against Sunday, and numbers aside, he’s looked lost defensively.
After starting the season on a strong note, the 24-year-old van Riemsdyk has regressed.
With the trade deadline looming, it’s well-known that the Hawks have prioritized a top-line left winger — specifically Winnipeg’s Andrew Ladd.
Should the Hawks consider adding a defenseman as well? Absolutely. In fact, if they can’t get Ladd, which I agree should be the top priority, the focus should immediately shift to defense. Erik Gustafsson, Viktor Svedberg and van Riemsdyk have shown flashes, but I truly feel the Blackhawks need one more proven, dependable defenseman before the playoffs begin.
State of hockey, huh?: For only the second time in 17 NHL outdoor games, the venue wasn’t sold out. Reports say that both the Wild (35,000) and Blackhawks (10,000) sold the allotment of tickets they were both given, so was it the NHL who dropped the ball here?
TCF Bank Stadium held 52,000 for this event; 50,426 people attended.
Were extra tickets in the hands of scalpers? Did the NHL hold too many for sponsors and clients? I will tell you this: When the Blackhawks and Penguins played their Stadium Series game at Soldier Field in 2014, NHL representative were walking around with stacks of tickets, handing them to anyone who looked interested (myself included). This, to me, would indicate a surplus in the hand of the league.
Whatever happened, it’s not a good look for a city and state that has been clamoring for an outdoor game for as long as NHL outdoor games have been played. Regardless of blame, it will be the organization and fans that bear the ridicule.
Rozsi-wall: In the second period Sunday, Blackhawks defenseman Michal Rozsival delivered an open-ice hit to Wild forward Jason Zucker, whose head hit the ice. Rozsival was served with a game misconduct and a five-minute interference major.
I’d fully expect the league to review this hit. However, after watching the replay, although Rozsival’s elbow seems to come up, the hit isn’t intentional or malicious and certainly doesn’t warrant a suspension of any kind.
Still, it’s nearly impossible to deem what is and isn’t suspendable anymore.
Remember the Blackhawks’ last game against the New York Rangers? Artemi Panarin was scoring his third goal of the game when Rangers defenseman Keith Yandle lumberjack-chopped Panarin’s legs from underneath him. Luckily, Panarin wasn’t hurt after crashing viciously into the boards.
To me, that was the kind of play that warrants a review and suspension. It was an intentional act to injure a player. Of course, it didn’t initially include contact to Panarin’s head, so the league isn’t prioritizing the hit.
So is the NHL’s Department of Player Safety really a department of player safety or is it more of a public relations brainchild created to give the illusion of concussion concern and control?
It’s hard to tell, honestly.
Jay Zawaski is the executive producer of the Spiegel and Goff Show on 670 The Score and the Blackhawks columnist for CBSChicago.com. He also hosts a weekly podcast with James Neveau of NBCChicago.comthat you can listen and subscribe to here. Follow him on Twitter @JayZawaski670.