SUNRISE, Fla. — That proverbial wall that’s spoken of sometimes? The Blackhawks might be close to hitting it.
After a tremendous 12-game winning streak, the Blackhawks have lost two in a row, including Friday night’s quiet 4-0 loss to the Florida Panthers. Well, that’s the way it goes sometimes. So before we all head home, let’s look at Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ loss to the Panthers.
1. It’s catching up to the Blackhawks. Since Dec. 27, the Blackhawks have played 14 games. That schedule has pretty much been a game every other day, and outside of these last two, those games all ended with victories. But as coach Joel Quenneville pointed out, the Blackhawks “lost a little enthusiasm” when the Lightning ended their 12-game winning streak on Thursday. Couple that with fatigue, which the Blackhawks have to be feeling whether they want to admit it or not, and the All-Star break can’t come soon enough.
2. Florida was better. There’s no getting around it tonight: the Panthers were strong at the start and never really let up against the Blackhawks. The Panthers, who had a 12-game winning streak of their own not too long ago, had energy and were swarming the Blackhawks from the start. It was just too much for the visiting team.
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3. Late goals hurt. It’s doubtful the Blackhawks were going to come back in this one, even if they trailed 1-0 or 2-0 at the end of the first — again, they were listless from the start. But Quinton Howden scoring with just 2.1 seconds remaining in the first period didn’t help. As Marian Hossa said, “usually goals at the end of the periods, whoever scores (them) gets the momentum.”
4. Pulling Scott Darling with eight minutes remaining. Yes, it looked bizarre, more so than any Patrick Roy pull ever has. But the Blackhawks were down 4-0, so why the heck not? Quenneville said, “you never know. You get one and then all of a sudden you get excited. It’s usually not my go-to move but you never know. It could happen one day where it works.”
5. Time to go home. The Blackhawks haven’t lost two consecutive games since December. But coming off a disappointing visit to Florida the Blackhawks head home, where they’ve worked plenty of magic this season. Couple that with a visit from their Central Division rivals, the St. Louis Blues, and the Blackhawks have everything they need to dredge up some pre-break energy. “We know it’s a big one. We know what to expect against that team, and we’re looking for a bounce-back from these two games,” Jonathan Toews said. “The motivation’s right there.”