COLUMBUS – Who cares if it was just four minutes into the game? Jeremy Colliton sure didn’t.
After watching his Blackhawks’ team surrender two goals in the opening moments of their game with the Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena, the head coach used a very early timeout.
Just 3:13 into the game usually isn’t the time to burn one, but an animated Colliton used that moment to try and motivate the team in hopes they could turn the tide. After all, this game would be the first of a five-game road trip where points are at a premium as the Blackhawks chase the playoffs.
“We just didn’t look ready to play. It’s a big game for us. Just want to hopefully get everyone’s attention. I don’t love using them to be honest. I think you get typically enough time to speak to the team in the commercial timeouts and while the play’s going on.
“Tonight just felt like we needed it.”
So what did he stress?
“Got to defend better, I thought they beat use repeatedly to the net the first few minutes and it’s not going to pay off,” said Colliton. “I though we got better.”
Indeed they did, as the “speech” motivated the Blackhawks to a pair of much needed points which helped them tighten the playoff race.
The Blackhawks got goals from Alex DeBrincat and Carl Soderberg before the end of the first period, then got two more in the second to grab the lead for good. Those four-straight scores were enough to push the team to a 4-3 victory in Columbus.
This truimph over the Blue Jackets along with the loss of the Predators to the Lightning now puts the Blackhawks just two points out of the last playoff spot with 14 games to play.
“I always pick my spots, but typically its behind closed doors,” said Colliton of talks to the team. “You just try to the right thing for the team, just like they’re trying to do.”
They certainly did after that talk with the two first period goals then two more in the second to grab the lead for good. Rookie Wyatt Kalynuk got his first NHL goal as his long shot snuck through Blue Jackets goalie Elvis Merzlikins’s pads for the score to make it 3-2.
Dylan Strome would score his eighth goal of the season later in the period, and that would turn out to be the game-winner. Patrik Laine put Columbus within one with 49 seconds left, but the Blackhawks’ defense that struggle early held up to preserve a victory.
“He wasn’t happy, obviously, none of us should have been or were,” said DeBrincat of Colliton’s talk. “It’s tough when you go down by two goals right off the hop. It’s a good thing we came back, but we can’t let that happen again.”
Colliton will do his best to prevent that, through strategy and speech.