The third period was an energetic one for the Blackhawks, at least through the first half of it. The shots were there. So were the good scoring opportunities. So was the necessary urgency. Before that, however…
“Yeah, just not really much going on,” Patrick Kane said of the first two periods of the Blackhawks’ 4-3 overtime loss to the Dallas Stars. “I thought we had the puck and then we gave it away and it was tough to get it back. We started buzzing a little bit in the third and had some momentum which was good to see. But not much really going on. I think we had 10 shots after two, which is unacceptable.”
It was an unacceptable opening 40 minutes for the Blackhawks, who could use every point they can get in an already tight Central Division. The good work they’ve built up through most of November wasn’t there enough on Thursday. The power play was listless. The shot count wasn’t acceptable until late. After so many consistent games, the Blackhawks took a bit of a step back against the Stars.
“Good first 10 minutes of the third. We slowed down a bit again after we tied it up,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “We didn’t have enough pace with the puck, pressure on the puck or enough of the puck. And what we did with it, we gave them a lot of quality opportunities because we didn’t keep it or protect it.”
If there was any consistency it came from Alex DeBrincat and Artem Anisimov. The Blackhawks had 41 goals in November, and DeBrincat and Anisimov combined for 19 of them.
“Both had great months. Cat went to a higher level than we’ve seen, tremendous upside, a threat every time he was out there tonight,” Quenneville said. “Arty’s been consistent as well, productive, net presence, defensively responsible, so he’s had a great month and we need arty to keep going and we need some guys to get going.”
And that’s got to be the mantra for the Blackhawks from here on out. At times in November, it looked like they were righting the ship. They were playing better hockey, finally scoring goals after starting the month in an offensive drought. But there are still too many who aren’t bringing the consistent performances. The top line had a so-so night. Richard Panik is struggling mightily; as Quenneville said, if he’s not scoring he at least has to bring the physical element more.
The Blackhawks did some good on Thursday but not enough. The production through most of this one was, as Kane said, unacceptable. There’s a lot of season left but the Blackhawks are already fighting for position in the standings, and they’ll see the Stars again on Saturday night. The Blackhawks started trending in the right direction in November but they need more. It won’t be getting any easier.
“Disappointing, obviously. We just needed to get the win. In the standings we had a tie before that game. We needed to find a way to make points, win the game,” Artem Anisimov said. “It’s going to be a big game for both teams [on Saturday].”