The Blackhawks huddled at center ice, catching their breath after a series of end-of-practice sprints, something the team usually doesn’t do. Coach Joel Quenneville, unhappy with how the Blackhawks looked the last part of practice, barked out a heated message to his players and then immediately left the ice, something he usually doesn’t do.
“Those are never fun but you know what? It’s great in terms of [the fact that] losing is not acceptable here,” Cody Franson said.
Yes, that was definitely one part of the message on Tuesday. A sidebar to that could be that this is a reminder to the Blackhawks that, regardless of how much winning you’ve done in the past, sometimes you need a fire lit under you.
“The intensity and the pace went down. It was tough to look at it and I was just, ‘let’s go,’” Quenneville said of practice. “I think you’re always going to have bumps over the course of the season and stretches where your game isn’t where you want it to be, or there’s something that needs to be worked on in the game, attitudes or whatever. We want to make sure there’s enough intensity where we get something out of the practice. At the end, the pace wasn’t good enough.”
Tuesday’s practice, at least the part of it Quenneville wasn’t happy with, was a microcosm of the Blackhawks’ season thus far: not enough of a sustained work ethic and, as a result, disappointing results. From lackluster offense (including the power play) to facing early deficits, the Blackhawks have been frustrated by the recent results.
“We’re 5-5-2. It’s obviously not the start we wanted but we still have a lot of good players, we still have a good team. Let’s not push the panic button just yet,” Patrick Kane said. “Even looking back to last year, we had a really good regular season and guys and media and different things wanted to push the panic button because we got swept, and probably rightfully so. But I think when there’s a lot of attention on that, sometimes you have to loosen up.”
Again, there’s plenty of season remaining and the Blackhawks, losers of three straight, have shown they can get on a winning streak as quickly as they fall into a slump. Would it help if they loosen up? Maybe. But that looseness has to be coupled with a consistent work ethic and fire, otherwise there could be more sprints and harsh coaches talks in their future.
“When we’re playing our best hockey and we’re having fun, guys are out there smiling we’re not holding sticks too tight,” Kane said. “It’ll be fun to go out there [Wednesday], score a few goals, have some celebrations, get the boys smiling. I know that comes with hard work and winning games, but that seems to be when we’re at our best.”