The Blackhawks are a frustrating team to watch.
Two nights ago, they scored four third-period goals in a span of 7:59 to knock off the red-hot Colorado Avalanche, who might be the favorite to come out of the Western Conference. Two nights before that, the Blackhawks scored three goals in the third period to beat the Winnipeg Jets 4-1. Two road victories against Central Division opponents were character-defining moments.
On Monday, the New Jersey Devils came into Chicago sitting in second-to-last in the NHL with 27 points. They left looking like playoff contenders.
The Devils, who ranked 30th in both goals for per game (2.37) and goals against (3.51) going into the matchup, scored seven straight goals after giving up the first one to roll past the Blackhawks 7-1 at the United Center.
This was an opportunity for the Blackhawks to head into the three-day Christmas break on a positive note. Instead, they took another two steps back after one step forward.
"Just an embarrassment," Jonathan Toews said. "I don’t know if that’s an emotion but that’s what we’re all feeling and what we should be feeling at this moment. Pretty tough. Pretty tough all-around game. Not much to say."
It was an ugly game in every facet for the Blackhawks. For starters, they went 0-for-7 on the power play and gave up a shorthanded goal.
The Blackhawks also allowed 21 high-danger chances at 5-on-5, which was their most of the season; their previous high was 16 on Nov. 26 against Dallas, according to Natural Stat Trick. On the flip side, it was the most high-danger chances the Devils had generated all season long after their previous high was 12 (three times).
Nothing about Monday's game was positive and the Blackhawks will feel it going into the break.
"Enough's enough," Toews said. "We've talked about being pissed off. We can't keep letting this slide and just talk about the Xs and Os like it's just another game. We showed a great example of these last two games on the road of how we want to play for each other, and that's got to be the standard. We just completely got away from it tonight. ... Everything fell apart."
The feeling in the locker room is no longer frustration. It's annoyance.
If the Blackhawks won on Monday, the talk in Chicago over the break would've been whether they've turned a corner with four wins in five games. Instead, it feels like nothing has changed.
"It's a missed opportunity," head coach Jeremy Colliton said. "We should be embarrassed. If we're going to make progress you've got to give yourself a chance to make progress. I don't think we did that tonight. Seems like we need to start over all the time.
"We need to understand what kind of team we are. We've got to work every day and when we do we're good enough. We've shown we can get points and we've had some big-time character wins. But the work and compete's got to be there."
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