Blackhawks undermined by poor finishing, awful turnover in loss to Blues

The Hawks were generally clean and efficient in all three zones Thursday. But an inexplicable error by Boris Katchouk and a continued lack of goal-scoring doomed them to a 3-1 loss.

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Andreas Athanasiou reacts after a missed chance.

Andreas Athanasiou and the Blackhawks’ scoring woes continued in a loss Thursday against the Blues.

AP Photo/Jeff Roberson

ST. LOUIS — The Blackhawks have scored one or zero goals in eight of their last 11 games.

That’s a lot of numbers, but they tell a simple story: The Hawks barely score. And in a hard-fought but fruitless 3-1 loss Thursday night against the Blues, it held true again.

“We’re getting some decent chances around the net,” defenseman Seth Jones said. “I don’t know if we’re running into hot goalies or what the case is. You [have to] think something’s going to give if we continue to stay the course. Mistakes are that much more magnified when we’re not putting the puck in the net.”

One particular mistake was magnified so much it might have been in a biology lab. Winger Boris Katchouk’s inexplicable, blind, slow backhand pass in the second period sent the puck from below the Hawks’ goal line to the middle of the slot with no teammate around. Blues defenseman Calle Rosen intercepted it as though it were intended for him and ripped a shot past Hawks goalie Alex Stalock for what turned out to be the game-winning goal.

Hawks coach Luke Richardson said he had “not much” to say to Katchouk after the play, but he tried to support the fourth-line grinder in his postgame comments. 

“The players on the bench were really good, rallying around [Katchouk] and telling him to have a good shift the next time,” he said. “It’s hard to shake those off as a player, but you have to. He had a really good penalty kill at the end of the game . . . and he almost sprung himself for a break. That’s a good sign of a player overcoming a tough break and bad decision.”

Stalock remained stellar in his usual chaotic way. His 26 saves (on 28 shots) were a season low, exemplifying how well he has played. And the Hawks were cleaner and more efficient in all three zones against the Blues than they were Tuesday in a loss to the Hurricanes.

However, when Katchouk makes that kind of error and the Hawks fail to finish offensively, it’s nearly impossible to win.

“We had some pretty good looks,” Richardson said. “It didn’t go in as much as we’d like, but they’re there. When they’re not there, that’s when everybody gets really concerned.”

Lafferty avoids absence

Forward Sam Lafferty missed morning skate Thursday with an illness and was deemed a game-time decision, but by warmups, he was back on the third line with Jason Dickinson and Andreas Athanasiou.

That was a relief for the Hawks; that trio has arguably been their best lately.

Richardson said forwards Jujhar Khaira and MacKenzie Entwistle, who were both scratched, are dealing with nagging minor injuries.

Another scratch for Mitchell

On defense, meanwhile, Ian Mitchell has been scratched in favor of veterans Jack Johnson and Caleb Jones in consecutive games. That’s a curious decision, considering Johnson and Jones basically are who they are at this point, but Mitchell’s NHL upside has yet to be nailed down.

Richardson stumbled through an explanation Wednesday, saying the Hawks scratched Mitchell on Tuesday because they wanted “good skaters” against the speedy Hurricanes. Mitchell was scratched Thursday so the Hawks would match up better against the “big, heavy” Blues.

Mitchell had played relatively well before the holiday break, scoring two points and averaging 18:03 in his last three games. But the Hawks don’t seem interested in giving the soon-to-be 24-year-old a steady NHL role.

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