It was a bad week for the Blackhawks, and the best they can say about it is they’re still hanging around the playoff field.
They managed two wins despite playing poorly in all four games, but it’s hard to sneak past a playoff team like the Blue Jackets with that kind of performance.
The Hawks looked like they were running out of gas Saturday, and the Blue Jackets raced by them 5-2 at the United Center. They’re three points behind the Wild for the second wild-card spot.
“We were sloppy with the puck and too loose defensively, and they’ve got some pretty good players who put the puck in the net,” coach Jeremy Colliton said of a first period in which his team fell behind 3-1. “We made it hard on ourselves.”
The last four games have been mostly disappointing.
The Hawks didn’t play well in wins against the Red Wings and Devils and competed only in spurts in losses to the Bruins and Blue Jackets.
It was the end of a good run for goalie Cam Ward, who put together five outstanding starts before giving up five goals on 30 shots against the Blue Jackets. And it could’ve been much worse.
Former Hawks standout Artemi Panarin had two goals — “Definitely gave him too much space,” Colliton said — and hit the post on another shot.
Cam Atkinson had a goal that was nixed when a replay review showed the Blue Jackets were offside.
But Josh Anderson buried the Hawks with five minutes left on a shot that Ward initially stopped, then he bobbled the puck, and it fluttered into the net.
“The chances we gave them were Grade A — and too many of them,” defenseman Connor Murphy said. “You’re gonna lose if you give them that many.”
Help could be coming soon from Corey Crawford. He has been practicing and said he’s ready to play.
Colliton said the staff has not discussed whether Crawford is an option Monday against the Senators.
The two guys the Hawks have been able to count on all season — Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews — were the only ones who did anything worth mentioning against Columbus.
Kane scored on a power play in the first period for his 35th goal of the season and triggered the Hawks’ best offensive play of the night with a pass to Erik Gustafsson near the net in the second period.
Gustafsson bypassed the shot, took the puck around the back of the net and fed Toews for a close-range goal.
With 27 goals and 58 points, Toews has matched or exceeded his totals from either of the last two seasons and is threatening his career highs of 34 and 76.
“It’s nice to be getting on the score sheet every night,” Toews said. “I think playing with Kane, the way he’s playing right now, you’re bound to create and get chances.’’
The Hawks are going to need more than Toews and Kane to push all the way to a playoff spot, and eventually they’ll have to prove themselves against good teams. Fortunately for them while they’re struggling, their next two opponents are the Senators and Red Wings.