Effort has not been a major concern for the Blackhawks this season. For the most part, it's been there. You could see it over the last two months when they started to string together a run.
But on Wednesday, it was.
The first period wasn’t great. The second period was decent. In the third, things went off the rails.
The Blackhawks lost focus and the compete level wasn't anywhere near where it needed to be, giving up five third-period goals (four of which came in a span of 7:08) in their first home game in exactly two weeks.
"Makes you angry," head coach Jeremy Colliton said following a 6-3 loss to the New York Rangers. "Because it's a game that you're looking for like, we needed this game. We didn't do the things right from the start to put ourselves in the best position to win. We just didn't have enough guys ready to play."
The Blackhawks picked up two of a possible 10 points on their five-game road trip in Western Canada but that wasn't necessarily indicative of how well they played. All five games were there for the taking but they squandered opportunities to get it done on the power play. The Hawks are now 0-for-17 on the power play in their last six games.
It was a tough road trip for the Blackhawks not just because they didn't get the desired results, but because it was a demanding travel schedule that started and ended in Winnipeg. Though they wouldn't use that as an excuse.
"To me, the story of the game tonight is you're going to have games throughout the year where you don't have energy, where it's hard to find," Jonathan Toews said. "You've got to find the motivation to go out there and play your best game. It's just a mental thing that you have to do and that's just the name of the game, playing NHL hockey. That's one of the challenging things that if you want to make the playoffs and you want to be a winning team, you're not going to feel at your best every night.
"There's going to be tough travel, tough schedule, a lot of adversity, things that pile up in your way and you've got to find a way to overcome it. So we didn't do that tonight."
With Wednesday's loss, the Blackhawks are 1-5-2 in their last eight games after going 12-5-0 in their previous 17. They remain eight points out of the final wildcard spot in the Western Conference and have four teams to jump, two of which have a game in hand.
At this point, Playoff hockey seems like a pipedream and you have to wonder how this latest spiral could impact the team’s plans ahead of the Feb. 24 trade deadline. It's always a challenging time of year for players but that doesn't mean it's time to wave the white flag.
"We have to think really short-term," Colliton said. "And that's tomorrow. How are we going to prepare? Because we didn't prepare well enough. The coaches have to do a better job of preparing the team, the team needs to do a better job of preparing each other and individually, they've got to do a better job of preparing themselves to play."
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