The 60-minute game: every team talks about it and every team constantly stresses how important it is. The Blackhawks used to log them on a regular basis but this season, not so much. This season, the team you see in the first period could be vastly different than the one you see in the second. Or the third.
The only consistent part of the Blackhawks’ game is its inconsistency. For too many games this season the Blackhawks, struggling to score goals, leaned on their goaltending. On Sunday the goals finally came in the first period. But their play from that point on, coupled with a relentless New Jersey Devils team and a decided off night from Corey Crawford, led to another point-less night.
“That was frustrating,” Patrick Sharp said. “I thought we came out, had a great first period, building off that comeback win in Raleigh and the game just got away from us there. It was disappointing to give up that many in our building. Some positives coming off the game offensively but it’d be nice to put the full 60 together and get the win.”
Again it goes back to the full 60. Sunday’s second period was a forgettable one for the Blackhawks, who have had issues in that frame dating back to prior seasons. A mistake here or there leads to opponents’ goals. The overall sense of confidence goes away and the Blackhawks are reeling again. As coach Joel Quenneville observed, “the variance from our first to second of being exactly how you want to play and exactly how you can’t play.” In past outings Crawford has been there to bail them out. On Sunday he was pulled after 40 minutes.
“That was pretty obvious. Just a struggle right from the start. Those ones come every once in a while during the year. Just have to forget about it and keep playing,” said Crawford. “It’s tough too. We played so well and scored a lot and just couldn’t find a way to make a save.”
You can talk about the good things the Blackhawks did in this one, the continued great weekend that Alex DeBrincat had, the improvement Nick Schmaltz showed going back to left wing. But the good moments here and there are still being offset by too many disappointing finishes. There’s no quick fix to the situation. There’s not a lot of wiggle room with the way this Blackhawks’ roster is assembled. A tweak here or a call-up there is only going to do so much.
The answers have to come from who’s here, and there’s still more than enough talent here to figure it out. The Blackhawks have enough guys who know how to put together a full 60-minute game. Now to do it, and do it consistently.
“I’ve been through it 1,000 times. The only thing you can do is stay positive and keep working. Nobody’s going to feel sorry for the Hawks, no one’s going to feel sorry for me. Hold your head up and keep working,” Sharp said. “Things are going to break and I believe in this team in here.