You’ve seen it at times in recent Blackhawks games. A player waiting one extra second to make that pass or take that shot. Another going full steam ahead up ice toward the net, only to stop not far past the blue line and look for other options.
As the early losses have piled up several trends have formed. We’ve been through the scoring droughts (read 5-on-5 and power play) and there are times it looks like the Blackhawks are second guessing themselves out there. Has hesitation crept into the Blackhawks’ overall game?
“It’s tough to say,” Patrick Sharp said following Monday’s practice. “It’s been a frustrating last week, last couple of games, not getting the results we’ve wanted. It’s still early in the season and maybe we’re trying to find our way. But more than that, it’s just individuals getting themselves ready to play, competing a little bit harder and being ready for every game because every opponent that we’ve played has been ready to play us. We need to match that level of intensity.”
Yes, most opponents have been ready. The Colorado Avalanche suffered a 7-0 drubbing to the Vegas Golden Knights heading into Saturday night’s game against the Blackhawks. Likely ticked off after that performance the Avs jumped on the Blackhawks right away, taking advantage of an off night from Anton Forsberg. That rare off-goaltending night aside, the Blackhawks haven’t had a consistent killer instinct. After doing a lot of things right in their 2-1 loss to Nashville on Friday night, the Blackhawks took a step back the following evening.
“When we don't play so well, we're a little bit too easy giving up scoring chances. When you're playing from behind all the time you start to kind of force the offense and then it just gets harder and harder, especially when you're getting your chances. They don't go in as often when you're trying too hard,” Jonathan Toews said. “A lot of it is just simplifying our game and getting back to outworking teams and eventually you're going to get those ugly goals and those bounces around the net. That's what builds your confidence in the long run.”
It’s been rare when the Blackhawks haven’t looked like a confident bunch, but they’re not appearing to play the part right now. There’s been a hitch in their game. It’s early in the season and there’s time to iron out the kinks, but the Blackhawks know they definitely have to get back to playing strong, determined hockey soon.
“There’s been a handful of mistakes, a handful of letdowns. But part of the process is just getting better, identifying the errors and trying to improve as the season goes along,” Sharp said. “We have a talented group in here and it’s just matter of time before we put it all together.”