Jeremy Colliton’s ire after the 6-5 loss to the Jets on Thursday night might have seemed premature coming just 11 games into his tenure as Blackhawks coach.
“We’ve had enough games. We’ve had enough practices. It’s time,” Colliton said when asked what it would take to snap the Hawks out of a defensive funk in which they have allowed 26 goals in five games.
But Colliton’s frustration implicitly acknowledged the uncomfortable reality that he’s coaching the same team Joel Quenne-ville had. His response to the loss was similar to Quenneville’s not-so-latent frustration in his final games.
There were some positives. The Hawks’ third and fourth lines produced all five goals — Marcus Kruger, John Hayden, defenseman Jan Rutta, Dominik Kahun and Artem Anisimov. Down 6-3 in the third period, the Hawks rallied with goals by Kahun and Anisimov to have a chance to tie in the final two minutes. But like Quenneville at the end, Colliton was in no mood to look at the bright side. Depth, confidence and resilience make good teams great. This job is much bigger than that.
This is the new reality for the Hawks. They started the season under Quenneville as a borderline playoff team that might rely on the experience and guile of their veteran core to make a run. Now they’re in transition, hoping these backward steps in the early days under Colliton lead to a giant leap.
The truth is that the Hawks really don’t know where they’re headed. They have a worse record under Colliton (3-6-2) than they did under Quenneville (6-6-3). They’ve been outscored 13-3 in the first period in their last five games, losing four of them. They’ve trailed an almost incredible 90.1 percent of the time in all of those games. Their last 16 goals have been while trailing — including seven when they were down by three or more.
“[It’s] still one of those things, you’re trying to trust the process and hopefully see some results here sooner than later,” Patrick Kane said. “There’s portions of every game where you’re getting those chances and you’re having good shifts and it seems like we’re taking the play to them — and it just seems too easy for the other team to come down and get chances.
“[They’re] not really giving Crow [Corey Crawford] much help, either. We’re talking about it. We’re working on it every day. It’s something we’re stressing in here, there’s a lot of focus on it and I guess there will continue to be until we kind of figure it out.”
Captain Jonathan Toews sees some positive signs that the Hawks eventually will snap out of it.
“We’ve gotten scoring from across our lineup these last few games,” Toews said before the game against the Jets. “For a few games there, the power play, penalty kill … we were moving the puck around with confidence, and things were looking really good. Guys are starting to settle in, and we’re not thinking — everything is at game speed, and everything is on instinct. I think when you have that, things will start to fall in place as long as the effort is there.”
But even for Toews, the process of taking a step backward to theoretically take two steps forward is a little foreign.
“Yeah, but it is what it is,” Toews said. “You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do. Sometimes you ask yourself, ‘How bad do you want to win, and what are you willing to do to go out there and win?’ If that’s what it takes, you gotta do it.”