It was a game they should have won. Not only did the Chicago Blackhawks need it, but it was all Blackhawks for 40 minutes until they gave up two goals to the Winnipeg Jets. The Jets had indeed been on a roll, but there was likely some belief among Hawks fans that the Hawks might make it an easy win. Instead, the reaction from many in the Hawks’ fanbase might be a simple but powerful, “what the heck just happened?”
In an attempt to get some offense and send a message, head coach Joel Quenneville benched the struggling Bryan Bickell and replaced him with Michael Kostka. However, it did little good at all. Once again, the Hawks’ big scorers were left off the score sheet, except Brandon Bollig, who continued his offensive surge. But the Jets stayed close, helped by the performance of their goalie, Chicago native Al Montoya. Several mistakes allowed Blake Wheeler to tie and then Jets captain and former Hawk Andrew Ladd put the Jets ahead.
To put it in very simple terms, this was a blown chance. The team is struggling, and needed a win … badly. Unfortunately, they looked more and more sluggish as the game went on, with Winnipeg — who had gotten into Chicago early in the morning and didn’t even hold a morning skate! — got better as the game went on. They didn’t shoot as much as the Hawks, but what they got was quality chances. Sometimes quality trumps quantity.
The Hawks will need to make changes ASAP. Quenneville should shake up the lines. Start by putting Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews back together. They don’t have to stay together for too long, just long enough to get the offense back together. Perhaps the third line can be fixed by putting an offensive star on that line. And it might sound drastic, but perhaps Brandon Pirri or Jeremy Morin should be called up. Michal Handzus hasn’t produced as of late. Someone younger should be given a chance. Heck, the other option might be simple: More practices.
The Hawks let one go and it will hurt. What it should do is wake the team up. They won’t have another home game until March 1, and they won’t play in the United Center until March 4. The month of January cannot end fast enough. This has been the worst month for the Hawks so far and they need to figure out a way to get back into their winning ways. Tonight was a sorrowful symbol of the month, and hopefully it will be the end of their struggles.
What happened? The Hawks lost a must-win, that’s what.