For one brief 20-minute segment, the Blackhawks tapped back into their old ways, scoring at will and looking dominant on home ice en route to a 4-2 edge after the first period. Then the second period began and the Blackhawks regressed, falling into the bad habits that have plagued them this season.
“That's a tough lead to give up, especially to get no points and give up seven goals against,” Patrick Kane said. “Obviously a disappointing last couple periods.
“I don't know if we thought it was going to be easy the rest of the night or what.”
It wasn’t that long ago that the Blackhawks, with the combination of talent, work ethic and trust in each other, made it look easy. They were a stoic group, unruffled in the face of any issue that came up on the ice. Losing? They’d find a way to come back. Leading? They held onto the edge. When one teammate was struggling, someone else was there to pick up the slack. You’re not seeing much of that right now. When something goes wrong it usually snowballs, the confidence wanes and in the case of Sunday night, a seemingly strong 4-1 lead evaporates and turns into a 7-5 victory for a New Jersey Devils team that wasn’t messing around.
The last time the Blackhawks looked confident and in control from start to finish was their second game of the season against the Columbus Blue Jackets, a 5-1 victory.
“We shouldn’t think it’s easy. It’s a tough league now. You just have to look at the standings. Everyone is very close, points are valuable every night,” Patrick Sharp said. “I know what [Kane] is saying: sometimes when a lot of goals are going in like that it changes the dynamic of the game. But we have a team that’s been around long enough to know certain situations and it’s tough to give that many up.”
As much as this is not a happy synopsis this is also not a sky-is-falling diatribe. The Blackhawks are not lacking in talent; they’re lacking in finish. Since you have the former you can figure out a way to get the latter. But the Blackhawks need to start turning the corner now and to do that they have to remember what worked for them the past few successful seasons. Be strong from start to finish, trust the guy next to you will do his job and focus on doing the same yourself. Everyone, from the youngest to most veteran, has to do more.
There’s not one magic move or decision that’s going to change the Blackhawks’ fortunes right now. No one call-up from Rockford is going to alter the course by himself. Same for any trade that they would consider between now and the trade deadline, which is months away. As Sharp said following Sunday’s game, “I’ve been through it 1,000 times.” Many of his teammates have, too.
The Blackhawks were reminded once again on Sunday that nothing comes easy. When they were at their best it took a lot of hard work to make it look easy. They’ll have to work that much harder now.