“One Goal” has been the Blackhawks’ rallying cry for years. These days, though, it’s starting to sound more like a cry for help. No goals at Tampa Bay. One goal against Edmonton. No goals against New York. A comfortable blowout of Carolina more the exception than the rule.
On the power play, the Hawks haven’t scored in their last 15 tries. At even strength, their shots are coming from too far out, goalies unscreened and largely untested. Rebounds are few and far between, and easily cleared.
No offense, but the Hawks have no offense. That the Hawks still managed three points in their previous two games while scoring just one goal doesn’t diminish the concern.
“We had some chances,” Joel Quenneville said after Sunday’s 1-0 overtime loss to the Rangers. “Not enough quality to the chances, though.”
It’d be easy to point to the Patrick Kane-sized hole in the lineup, shrug, and assume this is the new way of the Hawks’ world — grinding out low-scoring affairs and hoping Corey Crawford steals a few games. After all, Kane was their (and the league’s) leading scorer when he was injured on Feb. 24, and was so integral to the power play that he was playing on both units.
But that lets off the rest of the Hawks too easy. The Kane-free lineup the Hawks iced on Sunday featured eight 20-goal scorers, and a few more dynamic playmakers.
“He’s a huge loss there,” Kris Versteeg said. “But [we have] a lot of guys that have done it before. It’s just about getting the job done.”
Quenneville said Kane’s injury has forced the Hawks into more of a defense-first mindset, adding, “That’s how you win in our league, anyways.” But you can’t win without scoring. And goals usually come from the middle of the ice, not the perimeter, which is where the Hawks seem to be spending most of their time lately.
“You said the words, middle of the ice — you’ve got to get there,” Quenneville said. “You’ve got to find a way to get through it and be willing to go there. … If you get on the outside, you make the defenseman’s job so much easier, even more so on a goaltender.”
Kane’s absence seems to be most felt on the power play, where the Hawks have been unable to even get themselves set up in the offensive zone. Misguided passes at the blue line, poorly aimed dump-ins and half-hearted, one-man retrievals have made it far too easy for opponents to clear the puck out of the zone. Not that the power play was a well-oiled machine with Kane, but his speed and skill made things much smoother.
“I think we realize how fortunate we are when you’ve got Kane on your power pay, be it entries, loose pucks, patience, play recognition, and all of a sudden there’s great [scoring] opportunities,” Quenneville said. “There’s a void there. And there’s [an] opportunity at the same time. Somebody’s got to seize it and grab it.”
Since Kane’s injury, Quenneville has tried several combinations on the power play. Rookie Teuvo Teravainen — who has shown more than a few Kane-like flashes of skill and vision lately — was on the second unit Monday. Duncan Keith said it’s about “simplifying” things. Patrick Sharp said it’s about putting pucks on net.
Both said Kane’s injury is no excuse for how bad the power play has looked.
“We’re used to having Kaner out there, [and] you know what kind of player he is,” Sharp said. “But we’ve got quality players out there, as well. They’ve played the power play before.”
They’ve scored goals, too. Lots of them. And with first place suddenly in their sights again, they’d better remember how in a hurry.
“It’s coming down to it right now,” Versteeg said. “The desperation, I think, is a big part of it. We just have to find a way.”