RALEIGH, N.C. — When Patrick Kane, who has made the game look easy for more than a decade, admits hockey is tough right now, it’s clear things are bad.
“A lot of hard work, a lot of 50-50 battles we’re trying to win, and it doesn’t seem like anything’s coming from it,” Kane said. “Hopefully, sooner or later, those things are going to break.”
The Blackhawks’ effort improved slightly, but their execution was lacking again in an ugly 4-0 loss to the Hurricanes on Saturday.
Through nearly two periods, the Hawks were generating more shots and scoring chances than the hard-forechecking Hurricanes. And despite a one-goal deficit, they seemed to be responding to the adversity after Thursday’s humiliation the way coach Jeremy Colliton was hoping for.
But a late second-period breakdown — a long shift in which the Hawks couldn’t escape their defensive zone, eventually leading to a Carolina goal — deflated the team and led to another lopsided third period.
“We were playing hard, and we just needed a goal, we needed somebody to make a play,” Colliton said. “Even then, I think we had a few shifts where we were fine, and then we started getting loose. Whether it’s pressing or whether we’re just wearing down, I’m not sure.”
The Hawks have lost four in a row and have scored only two goals in their last three games.
That lack of success is clearly weighing on the players. Jonathan Toews, still without a five-on-five point, was asked after the loss how difficult it is to keep searching for positives.
“It’s the only choice you really have. What else can you do?” Toews said with a shrug. “Things are just kind of snowballing in the wrong direction for us, and it’s really easy to get frustrated, and you start searching for ways to try to end the slide. But we’ve just got to stay with it.”
The “stick with it” mentality has been what Colliton has preached for weeks.
But with the Hawks 28th in offense, 19th in defense, 26th on the power play, 28th on the penalty kill and 21st in scoring-chance ratio, there’s not much to hang your hat on.
Colliton did try switching things up. He moved Zack Smith into the lineup, benched Drake Caggiula, slid Dylan Strome to the fourth line and reunited Toews and Kane, seemingly going against his Thursday rant that the line combinations don’t matter. Asked about that contradiction, he admitted that shuffling the lines “gives the guys a jolt of energy,” even though it “doesn’t mean you don’t believe in the combos” that already existed.
There were no jolts of energy to be found, though.
The Hawks might have deserved a goal or two — Petr Mrazek (32 saves) clearly bested Corey Crawford (27 saves on 31 shots) — but not much else.
“No one’s going to lend us a hand out of this,” Colliton said. “We’ve just got to keep playing.”