VANCOUVER, British Columbia — The Blackhawks’ model for climbing out of their current doldrums and back into the playoff race may be to follow the exact blueprint they outlined Wednesday.
There’s just one problem: that blueprint still resulted in a 3-0 loss against the Canucks, the Hawks’ fifth in a row.
“It’s tough to go in there after that kind of effort and another loss, but ultimately the only we’re going to get wins is by playing to a similar level,” coach Jeremy Colliton said. “Kind of reinforces the lost opportunity of the last couple games where we weren’t at that level. All of a sudden, we play well and we don’t get the win, and we’re on a little bit of a slide.”
The Hawks attempted 78 shots, their second-most of the season, and got 49 of them on goal, a season high, against Vancouver goaltender Jacob Markstrom. On the other end of the rink, they allowed only 37 shot attempts and 20 shots on goal by the Canucks, both season bests.
In other words, they completely dominated every facet of the game. They won puck battles, cleanly moved the puck up the ice and found open men and juicy angles in the offensive zone. They did everything they’ve talked fruitlessly about doing since the All-Star Break.
And they got nothing for it.
“We’re just happy about getting our effort back to where it needs to be, and we’ll go from there,” Jonathan Toews said. “You can sit around and sulk about it for 20 minutes, and then you’ve got to make a decision on how you want to react and get ready for the next one. So that’s all we can do right now.”
Toews’ somewhat surprising optimism actually resonated throughout the postgame locker room, reflecting the character and resilience this sub-.500 team has — to their credit — maintained all year long.
Both Colliton and Toews mentioned how much hockey is left in the season, and 25 games is indeed a sizable chunk. But the trade deadline, now only five games away, provides an unofficial breaking point for when the organization might make some tough roster decisions based on the team’s present-day trajectory.
“Most guys try not to think about that,” Drake Caggiula said. “The trade deadline is something that’s out of our control, we have nothing to do with that. We’re just the moving pieces. But we’re doing everything we can to help this team win.”
On Wednesday, all four lines and three pairings did seem to be doing everything they could, and actually doing it well. Zack Smith suffered a hand injury in the second period — and will be “out for a little bit,” per Colliton — but even down to 11 forwards, the Hawks’ onslaught continued.
Unfortunately for the Hawks, though, they need far more than encouraging efforts at this time.