GLENDALE, Ariz. — The Blackhawks are not just losing with startling regularity in recent weeks.
They’re noncompetitive with startling regularity.
The Blackhawks were dominated from the start in a 5-2 loss to the Coyotes on Thursday, falling behind 3-0 after the first period and merely treading water instead of pushing back for the remaining 40 minutes.
The Hawks have now lost six of their last eight games — and an incredible five of those six losses have come in blowout fashion, with final deficits of three or more goals.
“Up and down the lineup, we can do a better job of protecting each other and putting each other in spots to have success,” said Jeremy Colliton said. “We have injuries, but we’ve got to find the recipe anyway. A lot of that is just not exposing each other by decisions we make. If you’re too aggressive in a situation that doesn’t call for it, then we’re exposed going the other way and it makes it tough for your teammates.”
Many of the Hawks’ recent routs have looked better in terms of scoring chances than in terms of goals, with futile third-period pushes artificially boosting their statistics before the final horn.
Thursday’s contest was not one of those games. The Coyotes dominated on the scoreboard and every other regard, too, en route to their second win over the Hawks in a five-day span. Scoring chances were 31-20 in favor of the home team; high-danger chances were an even more lopsided 19-6.
“I wouldn’t say they dominated the game, but again it’s similar — we’re just giving up quality chances where they’re going to find an open guy on the doorstep,” Jonathan Toews said. “Can’t rely on your goaltenders to make miraculous saves every single night, even though they pretty much do. Just giving up too many rushes, too many open side plays.”
The Hawks’ defense is unquestionably decimated right now, with Olli Maatta’s return from illness a far-too-small plug to stop the water gushing through the hole that Duncan Keith and Calvin de Haan’s injuries have created. The AHL-in-the-NHL pair of Adam Boqvist and Dennis Gilbert was split cleanly for a first-period breakaway; Brent Seabrook went for a mindless skate to the faceoff dot before another Arizona goal.
But Colliton and Robin Lehner, who finished with 35 saves in another high-volume start, both subtly pinned Thursday’s swiss-cheese defense on the Hawks’ forwards consistently putting their defensemen in impossible situations.
“Breakaways, 2-on-1s, 3-on-1s, 3-on-2s, 3-on-2s are awfully common right now,” Lehner said. “It’s not about the defensemen. The defensemen are working as hard as they can. In the league right now, in the past few years, you have to defend as five [skaters] — defensemen are not the ones only. We have to be cohesive, work together.”
“We’ve got to be careful about being too aggressive on the forecheck and not having numbers back,” Colliton added. “A couple of times, we let ourselves get stopped with no momentum to recover.”
Two weeks ago, despite their admittedly sub-par record, the Hawks actually sported a dead-even goal differential. At that time, they probably deserved more wins than they had.
Now, their goal differential has plummeted to negative-17, ranking 26th in the NHL. Their shot attempt ratio is 25th; their scoring chance ratio 27th.
Suddenly, having just 12 wins through 32 games seems about right.