The Blackhawks went into the Christmas break with a whimper. They came out of it the same way.
Brent Seabrook supplied the only offense – and that was with just three seconds remaining in regulation – as the Carolina Hurricanes beat the Blackhawks 2-1 on Sunday night. It was too quiet a night for the Blackhawks, who hadn’t played since Tuesday and were just three seconds away from being shut out for their second consecutive game.
And for the second time in as many games, the team beating the Blackhawks was playing the second half of a back-to-back.
The Blackhawks had been finding more offense throughout their lineup in those last several games before Christmas. But they now have just one goal in their last two games. Marian Hossa said the problem was easy to identify on Sunday.
“I felt we played too much outside tonight,” Hossa said. “We had a few good chances but not enough. And when we did the goalie [Eddie Lack] saw everything. We got a goal at the end but it was too late.”
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Coach Joel Quenneville agreed about the lack of traffic.
“Not ‘til late,” Quenneville said on when that net-front traffic finally surfaced. “We got a little bit more predictable and we were more effective. They blocked a lot of shots but we were looking to make too many plays either entering their zone or into the slot that were denied. We’ve got to get greasier goals; that’s how you score in our league. You’ve got to take it to the net. I counted about six chances that were either empty nets or potential empty nets that we either misfired or didn’t bear down or weren’t hungry enough. That might have had us in the lead; scoring first was important.”
Justin Faulk got that all-important first goal for the Hurricanes, scoring his 14th of the season with just 18.2 seconds remaining in the second period. Victor Rask’s 10th of the season, which he scored about five minutes into the third period, proved to be the game winner.
The Blackhawks’ third and fourth lines had some of the better chances. Not surprising, considering those six players are the ones usually playing that hard-driving game. At other times the Blackhawks seemed to get caught up in making one pass too many.
“I think maybe we’re a little bit of guilty of trying to be too pretty with the puck instead of just keeping it simple,” Duncan Keith said. “Throw it at the net and have one guy there and just do a better job of getting it to the net and guys going to the net.”
The Blackhawks wanted to come out of the Christmas break rested and playing with energy. They were certainly rested. But the energy, and the drive to get to the front of the net and make life difficult for Lack, wasn’t there.
“I think everyone was well rested so that should be to our advantage. Obviously we didn’t take advantage,” Hossa said. “This game, we should’ve played a little different. We didn’t have enough bodies going to the net and sacrificing to get the ugly goals.”