ST. LOUIS – OK, the outdoor games are just not friendly to the Blackhawks.
Yes, as the Blackhawks players and coach Joel Quenneville told us, this one was a close one that could’ve gone either way. But it’s the fourth of five outdoor games that went against the Blackhawks, as they fell 4-1 to the host St. Louis Blues on Monday.
We talk about the not-so-good outdoor record knowing full well it won’t matter: commissioner Gary Bettman said on Sunday that the league is planning on three outdoor games next season and we’ll be floored if the Blackhawks aren’t in one of them.
But we digress. The Blackhawks are struggling whether they’re outside or in right now, and they’ll have a few things to fix early in the new year. Before we get to that for an off-day story, let’s look at the Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ Winter Classic loss.
1. Maybe not on the quick starts. The Blackhawks haven’t gotten off to very many fast starts this season but they did on Monday. Michal Kempny’s knuckleball shot put the Blackhawks up 1-0 just 62 seconds into the game. But for the second consecutive game a quick start didn’t translate into a strong finish. Oh, it was another good game for Kempny, who now has two goals in as many games. But the Blackhawks couldn’t muster enough at the end to build off that early lead.
[SHOP: Gear up Blackhawks fans!]
2. Conditions were just fine. Hey, we were all wondering how this one was going to go, considering the forecast leading up to this game and the rain falling at the start of it. The concerns were unfounded, however, as there were no real issues. Duncan Keith said the ice was, “probably the best we’ve had in an outdoor game.” Trevor van Riemsdyk, one of many players who wears a visor, said that wasn’t a problem, either. “You gotta wipe it off more than in a normal game. Just being outdoors it may fog up on you a couple of times but once you get moving it clears up.”
3. Vladimir Tarasenko does it again. Tarasenko was close a few times before breaking through in this one, including hitting iron on a third-period power play. But he got his goals against the Blackhawks, as he often does. Tarasenko, who scored twice in less than two minutes in the third period, now has 12 goals in 19 career regular-season games against the Blackhawks. The guy just loves torturing the Blackhawks – and their fans.
4. Too quiet start to the third. The Blackhawks had to start the third period on the penalty kill. But they didn’t get much momentum off recording their fourth kill of the game. The Blues just kept the pressure on while the Blackhawks couldn’t get a shot on goal for about 10 minutes. Their first shot came on their power play midway through the third period – Jonathan Toews – but it took way too long for the Blackhawks to get going in those final 20 minutes.
5. Blackhawks 1-4-1 in their last six games. We’ll get to this more on Tuesday, which we’ll assume is going to be a Blackhawks off day. The Blackhawks are still atop the Western Conference but they’ve looked shaky lately. It doesn’t help that Marian Hossa is out – just in case anyone still doubted his impact on every freaking game. The Blackhawks are hoping to get Hossa back on Thursday, when they host the Buffalo Sabres. They need to get more of a complete game back, too.