The Blackhawks talked all training camp long about how important it would be to get off to a strong start going into the 2021-22 season. We're not even a week and a half in and it's been anything but that.
In fact, it's been the exact opposite.
After losing 4-1 to the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday, the Blackhawks fell to 0-4-1 and are off to their worst start since the 1999-2000 season when they went winless through their first eight games (0-4-4-0). They're beginning to run out of words to explain the disastrous start.
"Obviously frustrating, but can't feel sorry for ourselves," said Patrick Kane, who's celebration for his 1,000th NHL game was spoiled by the loss. "Got to find a way to dig ourselves out of a hole."
The Blackhawks have played 300:57 of hockey so far and have not held a single lead. It's the first time in franchise history they've gone this long without doing so to start a season.
The Blackhawks have also given up the first goal in five consecutive contests. The fact they keep playing from behind is a major reason why they remain winless.
"Obviously you score the first goal, it's a different game," head coach Jeremy Colliton said. "They got it and we battled back and then we couldn't get the next one. It's hard to chase. It's hard to chase the game. We got to find a way to break through."
The Blackhawks' lone goal on Thursday came on the power play, which has found the back of the net in four of five games this season. That's a plus. But their even-strength struggles continued, which has become an alarming concern.
During 5-on-5 play, the Blackhawks have scored only three goals in five games. They've allowed 17. That's a goal differential of -14.
Perhaps even more frustrating? Two nights after allowing fewer than five high-danger chances in a game for only the second time in the Colliton era, the Blackhawks gave up only three high-danger chances in 45:56 of 5-on-5 action. They were great defensively.
And yet the combined score over the last two games: 8-2.
"In there, we know we have a good team, we know we can control the pace," Kane said. "We've shown that, especially the last couple games. We know we can do it. It's just putting it together. I think we're pretty upbeat, as upbeat as you can be for being 0-4-1. You can't really think about the record too much. I know it's hard to do that, but if we find ourselves winning just one game it would be a pretty good feeling."
Somehow, the Blackhawks are finding ways to stay positive. But it's hard to believe things are that calm inside the dressing room. As the losses pile up, the Blackhawks are, no doubt, feeling more pressure to get a win, even if it's an ugly one. It's impossible not to.
And while it may still be super early, the ticking on the clock is getting louder and louder to right the ship before the Blackhawks are forced to reassess what exactly isn't working and make the necessary changes.
"You want to get that first win," Kane said. "It's never a good thing starting out behind the eight ball. You definitely want to find ways to have a good start to the season, and I think we can still do that. We can still turn it around and have a good start after 20 games and feel good about ourselves. It's just a day at a time, a game at time and try and get that first win."