CHICAGO – It was a familiar end to a Blackhawks game that had so much promise. But it’s a script that has to change at some point because with every passing game, ultimately, decisions will be made as to who stays and who goes.
Surely, this team isn’t going to be a playoff entrant. But there has to be a consistent effort that yields results and it just hasn’t been there enough.
“I felt like they got a couple goals and then we sat back and maybe got on our heels, and then the third period we just didn’t really do anything,” forward Jason Dickinson said. “It’s hard to win games when they control the whole third period and you’re down a goal.”
An all-too familiar story from the team this season after falling to Montreal 5-2 Friday night.
What Happened to the Blackhawks Team That Beat Colorado?
During the second intermission, Santa Claus participated in the shoot-the-puck promo and buried one on his last chance. But the Christmas magic ended there for him as he couldn’t score again when he only had one opening to get.
The Blackhawks had a similar story. They buried a couple, looking like they’d skate out of the United Center three days before Christmas with quite the gift–another win. Instead, Montreal roared back with four unanswered before sealing it off with an empty netter.
But in what’s been a common problem for long stretches of the season, the Blackhawks failed to seize a full sixty-minute effort and ended up on the wrong side of things–again.
Now what? Both Dickinson and defenseman Isaak Phillips know that at some point, everyone is fighting for a way to stay on the roster even though its a rebuilding team. Dickinson was rather blunt about it.
“There’s never a time that I think a guy should feel comfortable in his position,” Dickinson said. “There’s many guys that are on long-term deals that get traded, get bought-out. That stuff happens all the time. Never get comfortable. You’ve always got to remember that there’s somebody that wants this just as bad if not more than you.”
For Phillips, who has shuttled back and forth to Rockford this season, he believes he’s shown exactly what is needed to stay on the roster in Chicago.
“Yeah, I think I’m proving myself every game,” Phillips said. “I can’t control what they think or what anyone else thinks, but I can control how I feel and how I believe and I think I’ve been solid and I can continue to get better. There’s still a lot to grow, but I think I’ve been happy with my time here so far.”
All of this is well and good–but how do the Blackhawks keep drawing from that effort that produces a win like it did against Colorado?
Simple: It’s About Consistency
Head coach Luke Richardson was asked about it specifically and it boils down to consistency being played in all three zones along with a full 60 minutes.
“I think that is the biggest thing that you have to learn is to manage the puck at probably both blue lines, but all three zones, and I don’t think we did that tonight consistently,” Richardson said. “There were times we did it, and some people did it, but we didn’t all do it the whole game.”
But that consistency continues to lack–whether it’s quick goals that bury the Blackhawks beyond a simple comeback or a terrific first period effort that runs cold by the middle of the second period.
Some of it is growing pains, and some of it is just not having the talent to hang with some of the other teams in the NHL. It’s just the truth.
But the Blackhawks spoke of structure and how it had to be maintained in order to get those wins. Tonight was another example of it, but no one’s looking excuses. They’re still looking for answers–just ten games short of the midway point of the season.
Perhaps game-by-game is similar to shift-by-shift.
“You can’t fix what you already did, you just have to play the right way the next shift,” Richardson said. “And if you continue to do that in the game plan, we just trust that good things will happen. So we continue to preach that message to them.”
At some point, that message has to take hold.