The Blackhawks changed everything they could Saturday: forward lines, defensive pairings, the goalie.
But they still squandered an energetic start, still spent too long on the ice each shift, still had a brutal defensive breakdown at a crucial time and still finished winless on the season after a 3-2 overtime loss to the Jets.
“As a group, we have to have that character to close out games and step on their throat when they’re down,” winger Brandon Saad said.
Clearly, through three games — each a painful defeat in its own way — the Hawks don’t have that down yet.
Leading 2-0 after the first period and 2-1 midway through the third, the Hawks were in position to overcome another poor second period.
Then defenseman Calvin de Haan and Jonathan Toews vacated the front of the net and left Andrew Copp open at the back post for the tying goal.
The Hawks, clearly losing steam as the game wore on, survived a late Jets power play and earned the overtime point but couldn’t last even a minute of the three-on-three session.
“We’ve got to clean up the details — that’s what it comes down to in close games,” said goaltender Robin Lehner, who made 30 saves in his Hawks debut. “We’ve just got to tighten it up, pull [out] a 2-1 win.”
The new, strange lines and pairs coach Jeremy Colliton debuted at practice Friday did little to jump-start the team’s stars. At five-on-five, the Hawks had fewer chances (21-17) and did not score — their goals came only when short-handed (Saad) and on the power play (Brent Seabrook).
Toews, who admitted after the morning skate that “there’s a lot I can do better,” remains mired in a season-opening slump.
Patrick Kane never quite jelled with Dylan Strome and Andrew Shaw, either. Even the Dominik Kubalik-David Kampf-Saad line lost its luster, hammered to the tune of a sub-30 percent Corsi rating.
“The minute we turn it over, [the Jets] have a ton of skill, and they’re going to make plays,” Saad said. “They had a lot more zone time, and it’s a lot harder to play defensive zone coverage than try to get on the offense. It’s just making simple plays.”
Many of the breakdowns that marred the Hawks’ first two losses were back at the United Center just as quickly as Carl Dahlstrom (the former Hawks defenseman, claimed off waivers less than two weeks ago, had an assist and a 56 percent Corsi rating in 16:36 for the Jets).
The Hawks averaged 51.2 seconds per shift, two seconds longer than their already-high average from the first two games, despite claiming that shorter shifts would be a priority.
They were charged with 18 giveaways, more than in either of the first two games, even though turnovers killed them in those games, too.
And the second period was simply abysmal. The Jets generated eight scoring chances to the Hawks’ two.
The Hawks have had way fewer scoring chances (35-10) and been outscored 5-3 in their three second periods.
“The best teams, they dominate the second period, and so it’s a point of emphasis for us,” Colliton said.
“We’d like to control the tempo of the game and control the territory. . . . That’s where you show how good you are, so we’re not close to where we want to be in that area.”
Or really in any area.