By Chris Emma–
CHICAGO (670 The Score) — Only the pads of injured goaltender Corey Crawford were left in a dressing room empty of Blackhawks after another home defeat.
The media waited for answers following a 3-2 overtime loss to the Maple Leafs at the United Center on Wednesday. A back door was ripped shut by Duncan Keith, whose penalty six seconds into overtime allowed William Nylander the chance for his game-winning goal.
What was said behind those closed doors surely couldn’t resemble what the Blackhawks have offered to the public after getting three points in a six-game homestand split with a bye week. This was the golden opportunity for these Blackhawks, now 22-19-7 on the season. They squandered another one.
“Really disappointing,” defenseman Connor Murphy said with the dressing room still clear of teammates. “There’s not much else to be said. Disappointing.”
In seasons past, there might be silver linings to a loss like this. The Blackhawks scored a pair of power-play goals to snap an 0-for-16 skid, found their form late in regulation and came up just short. Backup goaltender Jeff Glass did his part, stopping 33 shots and giving his team a chance in place of Crawford, who’s still sidelined with concussion-like symptoms.
But there’s no place for feeling good about a loss. Even after gaining a point, the Blackhawks are still six points back of a playoff spot with opportunities slipping away. This was merely one step closer along an uphill battle where an Avalanche is waiting.
The Blackhawks have said enough in the last week that they must be a better team, that consistent performances and stronger efforts can catapault them back at least to the wild-card race. The confidence hasn’t been lacking for a team with championship pedigree, at least in the form of message.
But the likes of Keith, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane haven’t experienced losing like this since their Blackhawks became a modern-day hockey dynasty. Thirty-four games is all they have left to salvage this season and reach the playoffs.
“There’s time to get on a run, to get excited and then go from there,” coach Joel Quenneville said.
The fact a three-time Stanley Cup champion coach is hoping his tested team can get “excited” is telling to what this season has become.
Last April, the Blackhawks were swept away by the Predators as the top seed in the Western Conference, the second consecutive occasion in which they were bounced in the first round. Changes were made to Quenneville’s coaching staff, trades came with the hopes this team would be better and now desperation grows with each game now.
Is Quenneville, the second-winningest coach in NHL history, in jeopardy of being fired? Will general manager Stan Bowman sell off parts at the trade deadline next month? Could this team see drastic changes ahead? These are all real questions facing the Blackhawks.
Two weeks ago, one would’ve naturally presumed a run of victories to come at the United Center. Eight, nine, 10, heck, a dozen points could’ve come from this homestand to save a season.
Would’ve, could’ve, should’ve.
“We talk about having fun and making sure that you remember, I mean, we’re the Blackhawks,” Muphy said. “It doesn’t get much better than this. And if we play with pride and play together, things are going to go our way.”
Behind that closed door, there must be enough pride from the years past. Right?