By Chris Emma-
CHICAGO (CBS) — Stunned silence was in the air of the Blackhawks’ locker room as each player sat in his stall, an unusual postgame scene. That was quickly broken when a clumsy cameraman stepped on the team’s cherished logo.
“The logo, man,” yelled out one player.
It got stomped on in an awkward postgame scene and for 60 minutes of lethargic ice time against the Boston Bruins. The Blackhawks didn’t show up on Hockey Day in America.
Boston earned a 6-2 win over Chicago on Sunday afternoon, and it hardly felt that close. The Blackhawks were embarrassed by their 2013 Stanley Cup foe. The Bruins had dropped seven straight and scored just 13 goals in that span. They put half a dozen past Corey Crawford and Antti Raanta.
“That was one of those games where you can’t be happy,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said.
Nobody cracked a smile in the Blackhawks’ locker room as the media assembled. They declined to acknowledge it, but a team meeting took place. General manager Stan Bowman even came down to the room.
“Nothing,” Niklas Hjalmarsson said. “Nobody really said anything.”
Added Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews: “It goes without saying what we need to do better.”
It was Hjalmarsson who took a Zdeno Chara slapshot to the midsection and admitted that the loss hurt more. That summarized Sunday for the Blackhawks. The United Center filled with cheers as Crawford skated off the ice in the second period. The Blackhawks’ goaltender slammed his mask to the home bench, capping his frustrating afternoon.
This brutal defeat wasn’t on Crawford, whose defense was largely helpless in this loss. It wasn’t on Daniel Carcillo, either, whose checks and punches caused more harm than mythical sparks for the home side. This surely didn’t happen because of Quenneville’s latest lineup mixing and blending.
Put this loss, in all its ugliness, at the feet of Bowman, whose Blackhawks aren’t equipped for another pursuit of the Cup with which he was named, the chalice his name was etched to twice.
The Blackhawks currently own 75 points, 12 behind first-place Nashville and ranking third in the Central Division. A 35-20-5 record doesn’t reflect their inconsistent, concerning play this season.
Chicago’s lacking a scoring punch, with Patrick Sharp among those struggling. Quenneville has gone to desperation mode by placing Bryan Bickell on the first line with Toews and Marian Hossa. Meanwhile, Brad Richards moved to the third line, for some odd reason. The lineup jumble continued on throughout the game Sunday, with no change in the troubling play.
The most glaring weakness is at the blue line, where the Blackhawks need more capable defensemen. Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Hjalmarsson can be counted on, but who else after that? Johnny Oduya’s injury is cause for concern, and Trevor van Riemsdyk’s return will be welcomed, but he’s just a rookie with 18 games and one assist under his belt.
That trade deadline is a nearly a week away. Bowman better get on the phone.
Everything has seemed fine and dandy for the Blackhawks up until this point; it appeared we just had to wait until playoff time and the push for a third championship in six seasons. Maybe they just had to turn it on, we’ve thought. But their problems are more than just effort and energy, as Toews and others suggested.
Chicago has talent in the organization, with promising prospects like Teuvo Teravainen, Klas Dahlbeck and Stephen Johns awaiting a full-time run with the Blackhawks. It also has expendable pieces Oduya and Michal Rozsival taking up roster spots. Sending Raanta down and recalling Scott Darling — and soon after, extending him through 2017 — appears to be a precursor for major moves to come, freeing up cap space in the process.
It’s time for Bowman to use spare parts and ensure Cup contention. Sunday’s embarrassing loss was reason to hit the panic button.
“It definitely gets your attention,” Quenneville conceded.
As currently constructed, the Blackhawks are a few pieces away from fighting for another championship. Losses like these don’t happen by accident.
Silence in the locker room spoke volumes for the Blackhawks and their current state.
Follow Chris on Twitter @CEmma670.