CHICAGO – Boos cascaded down from the 300 level to the 100 level. Fans weren’t even staying around to see it end. The game was out of reach with most of the third period to play.
What the heck is going on here?
That was on the mind of most Blackhawks’ fans who took their Saturday night to watch an unfortunate 60 minutes of hockey at the United Center.
There were a few shots early but then a quick Predators goal. Then there was a second. Then a third. Then a fourth. Finally there was the fifth in the final two minutes of the game.
5-0 was the final – and the Blackhawks were on the losing end. Ouch.
“I’m pissed off. I think we all are,” noted Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook. “Tough game last night. It was embarrassing being at home, losing five-nothing. It was a tough night last night. Tough to sleep, but you got to get back on the horse. You’ve got to be ready to go. That’s it. It’s playoff time. They’re not going to wait around for us. We’ve got to roll.”
Longtime fans of the franchise have seen these moments before. On Saturday night, I went through and looked back at similarly ugly losses in Blackhawks playoff history dating back to the early 1990s. But for a number of passionate fans who’ve started following the franchise in their resurgence the past decade, this was a shock.
So here is a quick three-step program to get over this rather jarring defeat that puts the Blackhawks in a sizable hole in this series.
1. Allow Yourself to Be Upset
You should be perturbed at what transpired on Saturday night.
An effort such as this isn’t representative of a veteran team that’s won three Stanley Cups since 2010. Urgency should have been there after a 1-0 loss in Game 1 that, while not panic-inducing by any means, was a bit disconcerting. Losing by five goals on home ice the next game is something representative of a team that’s hasn’t been there before instead of one that has.
At least the Blackhawks seem to understand that after the game.
“That was frustration to a different level. That wasn’t fun to watch. You can look at it, we dug ourselves a tremendous hole across the board,” said Joel Quenneville after Game 2. “Not too many positives come out of tonight’s game. Everybody was responsible, from the coaches down to every single player.
“We got to get out of this mess and hole.”
2. Understand Why This is Happening
Effort is part of it, sure, but the Blackhawks’ top stars are experiencing a major power outage.
Dating back to last year, Patrick Kane has just one goal in nine playoff games. Jonathan Toews hasn’t scored a goal since Game 4 of the 2015 Stanley Cup final and has managed just five shots in the series. Those guys have to producer for the Blackhawks to succeed and for the pair to be shutout like this causes problems.
Rookies that were extremely effective during the regular seasons have struggled in the playoffs. Quenneville has been flipping Ryan Hartman and Nick Schmaltz up and down the lines in hopes of getting something generated in the first two games with so far no result.
Both guys each have just one shot on goal. Hartman has 14 penalty minutes and his game misconduct late in Game 2 was probably the low point of the two losses.
Guys go through slumps but when everyone is struggling, you just are not going to win.
Also understand that the Predators are not a bad team. Statistically the Blackhawks and Predators were much closer than their gap in the points showed. If a few of their 12 overtime losses go the other way, this might be a possible division final match-up instead of a first round showdown.
Nashville is good and they are playing well and it’s causing the Blackhawks some problems. Credit them as much as anything for the team’s struggles.
3. Realize The Series is Not Over
Now that all of the warranted frustration is out-of-the-way, it’s time to settle down and realize this is still very much a series.
The same reasons there was no panic after Game 1 is the same reason to feel like things still might be OK.
Quenneville is a veteran coach who has shown that shrewd moves can produce change in a series. The Blackhawks are a veteran group who do know how to make a comeback.
Three years ago the Blackhawks rallied from a 2-0 deficit against the Blues to win their first round series. The team has even lost the first two games of a series and come back to win, but you do have to go back to 1995’s first round against Toronto to find that.
So, like Game 1, don’t get too wrapped up in a couple of bad games. Should the Blackhawks lose Game 3, then this program might need a few more steps.