VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Coach Joel Quenneville was talking about the Blackhawks early season, looking for the right word to describe how the “ride,” so to speak, has been.
“Bumpy,” he said prior to Saturday’s game, a 6-3 loss to the Vancouver Canucks. “Certainly had some good stretches. This trip, it looked like we had two real good games coming into the start, picking up three of four points could be flattering. But we’re going to have to play better; [need a] little more balance in our team.”
The Blackhawks played better to a degree on Saturday but the Canucks – well, mainly the Sedins – handed them a loss.
The first three games of this Circus Trip have been a microcosm of the Blackhawks’ first portion of the season: some good games, some bad games, some opportunities capitalized upon and some squandered.
“Ups and downs,” Patrick Kane summarized following Saturday’s game. “I think we’ve had good games, beat some good teams and we’ve had some tough games as well. Up and down right now. We’re still trying to find our groove. But it seems like some other players are starting to get into it a little bit and get themselves going. That’ll be a good thing moving forward.”
Kane’s been part of a second line, with Artem Anisimov and Artemi Panarin, that’s accounted for a bulk of the scoring. The trio has combined for 68 points so far this season; the rest of the Blackhawks have combined for 85 points. As Kane said, others have started getting on the score sheet lately, but the Blackhawks need more. They need more consistency, be it on offense, defense or goaltending.
General manager Stan Bowman would’ve liked a stronger start but he’s not worried that the Blackhawks didn’t get it.
“If you were to line up the 30 GMs or coaches and ask them, other than maybe two or three teams – maybe Montreal, Washington and New York – everyone would probably say it’s been a bit bumpy,” he said on Saturday. “It’s just a really tight league. You’re a three-game winning streak (away) from being in the top five in the league, and you’re a three-game losing streak from being in the bottom third. It’s all really compacted.
"I think we didn’t have the start we did a couple years ago when we went 24 games without a loss, but that’s not going to happen anymore. That was a pretty spectacular year.”
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The Blackhawks didn’t get out to a spectacular start this season. It’s not a complete surprise given the changes. If there is a surprise it’s the fact that one line has been doing so well for so long and the other three have struggled to find anything resembling consistency. But the Blackhawks will work through it and try to figure things out. It’s early, but they don’t want to wait too long to get things going, get more consistency throughout the lineup and get more needed points.
“We can be better. For sure, we can be better. We’ve had some good elements in the start, but I don’t think we’ve played our best hockey consistently. I think we’ve had spurts of it and I think that’s part of some changes and you have some new faces and they have to sort of learn their roles and learn where they fit,” Bowman said. “But I think we’re probably like 25 other teams in the league in the same way. There are a couple teams that have been really good from the beginning. And there’s still three-quarter of the year to go, so we’ve got to find that consistency.”