After losing seven of their last ten games, with the most recent loss coming against an inferior Winnipeg Jets team that was thoroughly outplayed for two periods, Chicago Blackhawks fans probably assumed that things could not get any worse for the defending Stanley Cup champions. Well, it did get worse on Tuesday night against the Calgary Flames as the Hawks combined sloppy defense and bad goaltending for a theme that has become all too common for Chicago.
Backup goalie Antti Raanta started the game in net and had one of his worst performances to date, giving up four goals before being pulled for Corey Crawford. To Raanta’s credit, only three of the four goals were his fault as the fourth was a three-on-one shorty, the seventh shorthanded goal of the year for the Flames. The other three goals were the result of bad defense and even worse goaltending. While the Blackhawks forced overtime, the No. 1 offense in the league could not overcome their sloppy play on the ice.
Before Tuesday night’s game, Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews was frustrated with his team’s recent performance saying, “The last three games, it seems we’re back to that sloppy style of play. We need to get rid of these bad habits and get rid of them fast.” It seems the rest of the team either didn’t listen to Toews or they were unable to overcome their own ineptitude. In a key moment during the second period, Blackhawks forward Bryan Bickell took a bad angle to the puck before wiping out, allowing David Jones to make an easy pass to Matt Stajan for the go-ahead goal. The sloppiness continued as the Blackhawks allowed a shorthanded goal later in the period to go down 4-2.
Despite the bad defense, bad goaltending and overall chaotic play, the Blackhawks were able to even up the score at four goals apiece with a shorthanded goal of their own in the second period. However, even the top scoring offense in the league could not overcome their mistakes in the end as the Flames scored a wraparound goal off the stick of Nick Leddy early in the overtime period. The Blackhawks have now lost four straight and eight of their last eleven games.
While five of those losses came after the end of regulation, the Blackhawks are simply not playing like the same team that won the Stanley Cup a season ago. During this cold streak the team’s main problem has been a lack of scoring, an area that was sure to turn around eventually. While they did score four goals against the Flames, the overall theme of sloppy play continues to plague the Hawks on a nightly basis. Gaining momentum is crucial heading into the playoffs. While the Blackhawks have plenty of time to get back on the same page, each loss that piles up adds to the uphill battle the team faces as they try to win Lord Stanley’s Cup for a second straight season.