Blackhawks

Struggling Blackhawks still trying to find a path forward

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AP

Struggling Blackhawks still trying to find a path forward

ST. LOUIS — One year ago today, the Blackhawks were enjoying an off-day after snapping their second eight-game losing streak of the season with a 6-3 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins. Adjustments were still being made under new head coach Jeremy Colliton, but there was at least some optimism that light would be at the end of the tunnel once they all got on the same page.

The Blackhawks have an off-day on Friday, but they’re in a much different place this time around. And not in a good way.

After losing for the ninth time in 12 games (3-7-2) and third straight (0-2-1), the Blackhawks are making standings watching irrelevant in Chicago in a year where it shouldn’t be. Their playoff chances are slipping away quicker than an odd-man rush and nobody wants to start looking ahead to the 2020 NHL Draft class because they shouldn’t be in this position again.

The inconsistency issues are real, the injuries continue to mount, the losses are getting uglier and the schedule is only getting tougher. The Blackhawks aren’t just losing hockey games. They’re not even giving themselves a chance. 

In their last six losses, the Blackhawks have been outscored 29-11 for a minus-18 goal differential. They’ve given up at least five goals in four of them and have one regulation win since Nov. 17.

And it’s hard to see how it can get better.

The easiest in-season change to make when a team with playoff expectations is underperforming is to change the voice and message the players are listening to. But the Blackhawks played that card last season.

In 2015-16, the Blackhawks deservedly earned a pass for running out of gas in the first round after coming off a season in which they captured a third Stanley Cup in six years.

In 2016-17, the Blackhawks called being swept in the first round by Nashville as the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference a "wake-up call" and promised changes.

In 2017-18, the Blackhawks pointed to Corey Crawford’s season-ending injury in December as a reason for their second-half spiral.

In 2018-19, the Blackhawks preached patience after making a coaching change for the first time in 10 years.

In 2019-20, there is no excuse. The Blackhawks had another long offseason to get it right and Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews were coming off career statistical seasons at age 30. The roster is better but the product on the ice hasn’t changed.

The tide eventually might turn for the Blackhawks, but right now it's difficult to see a path for how it will.

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Patrick Kane’s love-hate relationship with St. Louis fans highlight of 2020 NHL All-Star Game

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USA Today

Patrick Kane’s love-hate relationship with St. Louis fans highlight of 2020 NHL All-Star Game

ST. LOUIS — Patrick Kane has been booed all weekend in St. Louis and the nine-time Blackhawks All-Star poked a little bit of fun at Blues fans for their, shall we say, warm welcoming. But Saturday put the crowd in a weird spot.

On one hand, Kane is an arch rival in St. Louis. On the other, he represented the Central Division and was teammates with the four Blues All-Stars (Jordan Binnington, Ryan O'Reilly, David Perron and Alex Pietrangelo).

After falling into a 3-0 hole to the Pacific Division, the Central Division stormed back for three straight goals. Perron scored the second goal, which drew huge cheers. Fourteen seconds later, Kane scored the equalizer, which also drew loud cheers. 

But then the St. Louis fans realized who had scored and Kane had some fun with them by holding his glove up to his ear. 

"Tried to like put my hand up to my ear to hear the boos," Kane said. "But then I was showing them that hey, I’m playing with the Blues players, I’ve got the same jersey as them. Just had fun with it. "

The Blues found themselves conflicted for a second time when Kane evened the score at 5-5 after converting on a breakaway. The interaction between Kane and the crowd was the most memorable moment of the night.

"It’s all in good fun," Kane said following a 10-5 loss to the Pacific Division. "To be honest with you, sometimes you get booed, you kind of like it a little bit. It’s St. Louis and Chicago, it’s a huge rivalry. Not only in hockey, but pretty much every other sport they play against each other. I guess that’s only baseball, but, you know what? Had a lot of fun this weekend and I thought that was a pretty cool moment."

Even the Blues had fun with it.

"Those were boos," a smiling Pietrangelo said. "Not cheers."

But at least somebody had sympathy for Kane.

"I felt bad for Kaner," Blues coach Craig Berube said. "He comes out in his introductions and is getting booed and stuff and then he scores and they're cheering for him. Tough situation for him. Players all know. They all handle it very well. It's a fun event."

In the end, it provided entertainment and brought some life to the event. What Kane is really trying to figure out is why he's snake bitten at All-Stars Games. He hasn't won since 2012 in Ottawa when Team Zdeno Chara defeated Team Daniel Alfredsson 12-9 under the fantasy draft format.

"I know, right?" Kane said. "Central can’t get over the hump. We won one last year and lost in the final. I think every time you look at the roster, you always think you have a really good roster with some of the players that are on the team, and for whatever reason we can’t do it."

The Central Division slipped to 1-5 under the 3-on-3 format, but Kane may have a solution on how to fix their struggles.

"Maybe it would be better if the Central played an Eastern team next year or something," Kane said half-jokingly. "Maybe you could switch it up that way."

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Patrick Kane finishes NHL All-Star Tournament with two goals

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AP

Patrick Kane finishes NHL All-Star Tournament with two goals

Patrick Kane made his ninth NHL All-Star appearance in Saturday's 3-on-3 tournament in St. Louis. It was short-lived, but the superstar forward scored two impressive goals for the Central Division's team before they were eliminated after one game. 

The 31-year-old winger won the inaugural "Shooting Stars" challenge in the Skills Competition on Friday, beating the Blues' Ryan O'Reilly and Maple Leafs' Mitch Marner in sudden death. 

Then, the three-time Stanley Cup champ scored to tie the game 3-3 at 7:18 of the first period for the Central in the semifinal bout against the Pacific on Saturday. Kane kept the puck on a 2-on-1 with Eric Staal and fired it in stick side on goalie Jacob Markstrom. 

He later scored on a breakaway, shooting five-hole on David Rittich to tie it 5-5 at 1:37 of the second period. The Central lost the contest 10-5 and missed out on winning the million dollar prize. 

Kane, who recorded his 1,000th NHL point last Sunday, had four hometown Blues players as teammates: Jordan Binnington, David Perron, Alex Pietrangelo and O'Reilly.

The Atlantic beat the Metropolitan 9-5 in the first semifinal game. Former Blackhawks forward Anthony Duclair had three goals and an assist in the first game of the tourney. Duclair has 33 points (21 goals, 12 assists) in 47 games with the Ottawa Senators this season.

The Pacific beat the Atlantic 5-4 in the final. It was the Pacific's third straight tournament victory. David Pastrnak of the Atlantic (and Boston Bruins) was the MVP of the tournament, winning a 2020 Honda CR-V HYRBRID. 

Attention Dish and Sling customers! You have lost your Blackhawks games on NBC Sports Chicago. To switch providers, visit mysportschicago.com.

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