SAN JOSE, Calif. — The Blackhawks lost another hockey game on Wednesday night. A more pressing concern is if they’ve lost their captain for any significant amount of time.
Jonathan Toews left Wednesday night’s 2-1 loss to the San Jose Sharks in the second period and didn’t return with what Joel Quenneville called an “upper-body injury.” Toews fell awkwardly at 8:18 of the second period, and left the game shortly after that. Quenneville said he would know more on Thursday, but was hopeful that it was “nothing long term or serious” and that he could play on the final two games of the trip.
As for the game, the Hawks fell behind 2-0 early and couldn’t claw their way back. They’re now 2-3-0 on their seven-game road trip and, with games against Anaheim and Los Angeles left, in danger of enduring their first losing circus trip since 2006.
The Hawks had a much better first period than they did in both Vancouver and Edmonton, generating several good scoring chances and outshooting the Sharks 14-13, but still found themselves trailing 2-0. Logan Couture’s one-timed rocket of a Joe Pavelski pass beat Corey Crawford 12 seconds into a 4-on-3 power play at 11:32 of the first. Then came the decisive play, a shorthanded goal by Joel Ward that Brent Seabrook and Crawford both wish they could take back.
Seabrook was unable to make a lunging stop at the blue line of a Sharks clearing attempt, and the puck ticked off his stick and skittered toward the Hawks’ end of the ice. Ward raced past Seabrook to catch up to it. Crawford should have come out of his net to play the puck rather than let Ward get to it, and once Ward did, Crawford was caught in no-man’s land. He bit on Ward’s shot fake, and then was helpless as Ward went out wide and slipped the puck in the net.
“I just didn’t read it well,” Crawford said. “Just a bad, terrible read. I should have went out and played that puck. Didn’t think it had the momentum, and before I knew it, it was at the top of the circles and he was coming in. Just horrible read and a little impatient on that one.”
Remarkably, it was the fifth shorthanded goal the Hawks have allowed this month; they’ve only had four power-play goals in that span.
“We haven’t seen that before,” Quenneville said. “Every one of these opportunities have been different. You have to be respectful when you’re out there, that you can’t just be thinking about scoring. You have to be respectful when the puck goes over, whether it’s an odd-man break or a breakaway. We’ve been giving up some plays we characteristically don’t give up.”
Four minutes after Toews was hurt in the second period, the Hawks finally got on the board when Artem Anisimov fed Artemi Panarin for a one-timer from his usual spot in the left circle to cut San Jose’s lead to 2-1.
Things got dicey after that. Marcus Kruger was hit along the boards by Evanston native Tommy Wingels, which put the Hawks on a power play. But a too-many men penalty and a Tyler Motte slash put the Hawks on the kill — a kill that was made even harder when Kruger was sent off to the dressing room, apparently by one of the league’s independent concussion spotter. Without Toews and Kruger, two of their best penalty-killers, the Hawks survived the 82 seconds of a 5-on-3 to stay within striking distance for the third period.
Kruger returned for the third period, but Toews did not. It was the first time the Hawks have dealt with the new concussion protocol. Quenneville said he had no problems with it.
“Everyone, I think, was trying to do the right things,” he said.
The Hawks continued to press in the third, but Jones finished with 33 saves. Crawford, after the shaky first, finished strong, as well, making 33 saves in the loss.
“Overall, that was a really good game by us,” Crawford said. “We were creating stuff, and their guy make some big saves, and [we] were just a little snakebitten.”