CHICAGO – In what has already been a bit of a trying season, where his team has dealt with the loss of an All-Star goaltender and been on the outside looking into the playoff picture, even this one was a little much for “Coach Q.”
Arriving at his postgame news conference, there was little to say when simply asked about his team’s forgettable loss to the Red Wings at home on Sunday.
“That was tough to watch,” said Joel Quenneville. “Use the word brutal that might be complimentary. ‘Out to Lunch,’ use them all, but that wasn’t good enough.”
Again, the coach isn’t being overdramatic with his assessment of a 4-0 loss to Detroit in which the team was flat from the start. Whether the 11:30 AM wake-up call never came for the team or not, the loss is a bad way for the team to end one of the longest breaks of their regular season. After the game against the Red Wings, the Blackhawks have five days off before hitting the ice again to face the Islanders at the United Center.
Yet Sunday leaves quite a bitter taste and doesn’t help the Blackhawks chase for the playoffs, which continues to be rocky as the middle of January approaches. Right now they sit in a crowded race for the final Wild Card spot, now one point behind Dallas for that last position in the playoffs. Right now five teams going for that second Wild Card are separated by just two points.
All season long the Blackhawks have been unable to pull ahead to put themselves into a comfortable position for the postseason. Now past the halfway point of the season, there will be no worrying about seeding for the team, it’s all about getting in.
Sunday didn’t help that cause.
“We’ve got a ton to think about over our break here,” said captain Jonathan Toews. “Obviously there is a ton of hockey to go throughout the season but we keep talking about the standings and where we’re at and obviously we can’t have efforts like that.”
So why do they happen? The loss to the Red Wings was especially puzzling since it came after a win two nights earlier over the Central Division-leading Jets at home.
“There’s moments throughout the season where, I wouldn’t say they’re deciding moments, but they’re key moments where we need to keep playing hard and keep playing the way we’ve been playing, especially when we’re stringing wins together,” said Toews. “Some moments we haven’t backed it up the way we know we have to. It’s a game like today where we know we have to have an effort, we need to go out there and play like veterans and play like pros and we weren’t prepared to do that.
“It’s not any specific blame on anybody in particular, it’s everybody as a team.”
Maybe some reflection over the next five days could help.
“There is going to be a lot of rest, there’s no excuses going forward here,” said the forward Sunday. “There is no reason why we shouldn’t be physically and mentally sharp coming out of these breaks and we know we’re not going to use the time off as an excuse for being rusty coming back. It will be on each player to be ready to go.”
If not, they could be facing a longer break sooner than expected this spring.