At the start of the 2018-2019 season, it was uncertain for Blackhawk fans how the team would be. The question still possessed whether goalie Corey Crawford would play again, which is one of the main reasons why the Hawks didn’t make playoffs last season. Summer trades didn’t give them much more strength on defense than they had last year, adding Brandon Manning and Brandon Davidson. Yet, somehow they came out and took the first eight of ten possible points. It was a shock to see the Hawks sitting 6-3-3 in the first month of the season.
That all disappeared when the Blackhawks flew into the Great White North to face the Canucks, Oilers and Flames, losing every game.
Halloween night in Vancouver, they let up 4 goals, 2 of which Jake Virtanen of the Canucks took. Patrick Kane didn’t put the skates on in Vancouver due to sickness. When asked about not playing Wednesday night, Kane explained the feeling like, “You’re just sitting there in the hotel room watching the game. You just feel like a bum.”
Scoreless in Edmonton
Still, one lost didn’t seem like the end of the world to the team at that time. However, if they thought that was the worst it could get, they were wrong. Despite 40 shots for the Hawks against the Oilers, they were handed their first pointless loss of the season. They now had 8 goals scored against in 2 nights.
So, naturally, they headed into Calgary for the last game of this disastrous trip looking to get 2 much needed points. Going down 1-0 in the first, it seemed like it would be a repeat of the last few games. Duncan Keith was ejected very early on in period 1 for a nasty hit that sent Dylan Dube into the boards head first. Somehow though, the Hawks rallied back to get 3 unanswered goals. Jan Rutta even picked up his first on the season, while Jonathan Toews got his 300th goal of his career. Even Brandon Saad scored a goal. Nevertheless, the Hawks looked terrible in the last 7 minutes of play. The Flames took it upon themselves to score 3 unanswered late in the game, ripping away a 3-1 lead from the Blackhawks.
As much as the trip was dreadful, it was much needed. It’s been clear that the Blackhawks have been struggling defensively, but this was really eye opening moment where they could see what they need to change and how to do better, starting with defense, special teams and not relying on Kane and Crawford to save them every night.
After Saturday’s lost, Crawford said, “We’ve got some time to turn it around. Just gotta clean up some things.” It is still early, and the Blackhawks aren’t terrible like their last games suggest, but they definitely need more than just some work in order to reach playoffs.
Next match-up: Hosting Carolina Hurricanes (6-6-2) Thursday night.
Photo: Jason Franson/AP