The Chicago Blackhawks had a good opportunity to gain some momentum going into the Olympic break. Unfortunately, a listless, uninspired and (possibly) lethargic team was shut out by a still-pesky Phoenix Coyotes team. The Hawks, who were without the mourning Patrick Kane, could not convert any chances past Mike Smith. Meanwhile, the Coyotes took advantage of Hawks’ mistakes for a 2-0 victory.
The penalty trouble started early when Brandon Bollig was penalized for tripping up Coyotes captain Shane Doan early in the first period. The Coyotes scored just 69 seconds into the game thanks to Keith Yandle. Another goal by Radim Vrbata on a power play in the second period doomed the Hawks. The Hawks had to go in the penalty kill one too many times, and squandered whatever power play opportunities they had.
There was a lack of precision, especially in the passing game. It’s doubtful Kane’s absence had anything to do with it, but it certainly didn’t help. Whatever shots the Hawks put on goal were turned away by the familiar pain known as Smith. Corey Crawford did make 24 saves, but it wasn’t enough; the offense, despite flashes of aggression, could not break through.
Perhaps a multitude of factors were behind the uninspired and sluggish play. Kane had already left for his hometown of Buffalo to attend his grandpa’s funeral. His absence left a big hole in the team (and should be a warning to GM Stan Bowman once the subject of his contract comes up). The other factor may have been the timing. This was the last game before the Olympic break, and the hockey equivalent of pre-Christmas break apathy may have set in.
Or, perhaps the Coyotes were just better on this evening. Whatever the case, the Hawks will go their separate ways for the Olympic break, forced to rue their blown chance.