End of season can’t come soon enough for miserable Blackhawks
The Hawks, losers of 12 of their last 14, have only three games left. “This is just draining right now,” interim coach Derek King said.
Blackhawks defenseman Seth Jones didn’t need many words to explain what was evident in his expression and demeanor Saturday.
‘‘There’s really nothing to be happy about,’’ he said.
The Hawks have endured a remarkably difficult and unsuccessful season since the first night, but the last month has been particularly tough to get through.
Consecutive 4-1 road losses to the Kings and Sharks dropped the Hawks to 2-10-2 in their last 14 games, and they have been outscored 60-35 during that span. Even the small silver linings most teams can find during slumps have disappeared. So has any sense of meaning attached to the results, win or lose.
The Hawks are defeated, deflated and aimless, slogging their way to the finish line because they have no other choice. It has been even more grinding mentally than it has been physically.
‘‘Yeah, it doesn’t make the game fun,’’ Jones said, again offering no elaboration.
At least the final week has arrived. The Hawks will host the equally awful Flyers on Monday and the fighting-for-their-playoff-lives Golden Knights on Wednesday, then visit the late-surging Sabres on Friday.
And then they finally will be done, having played 88 games (including preseason) in 218 days and having accomplished virtually nothing.
‘‘These are the grinds that it’s not easy to grind out,’’ interim coach Derek King said. ‘‘These are the ones that you’ve really got to dig deep to find a way to motivate yourself or just figure a way to win that puck battle, shorten that shift [or] do all the little things right.’’
Added forward Tyler Johnson: ‘‘When you’re playing these games, it’s tough to say you’re trying to build something right now. But at the same time . . . you want to be playing the best you can. In order to do that, you play as a team.’’
King refused even to consider a question about whether some of his players already had checked out — ‘‘Even if I thought it, I would never say it [because] they can’t check out,’’ he said honestly — but it sure seems as though some might have.
Depending on the results of their final three games — the Hawks enter play Monday with 63 points — their 2021-22 season will be their worst full season since 2005-06 (65 points) or 2003-04 (59 points). If they lose out, it’ll be their second-worst full season since 1976-77 (also 63 points) and their third-worst full season since 1957-58 (55 points in a 70-game schedule).
That weight of history might be taking its toll, too. The Avalanche, Blues, Wild, Canucks, Sharks and basically every other team the Hawks regularly squashed during their Stanley Cup era have derived great pleasure from watching their recent disintegration, as have many general hockey fans outraged about the Kyle Beach sexual-assault scandal.
Knowing everyone else savors your misery must be a lonely feeling for the current players, most of whom hold no connection to the scandal or the Cups.
‘‘Mentally, they’re fried,’’ King said. ‘‘This is just draining right now. They’ve got to find a way as a team — not individually, as a team — to just overcome all these speed bumps and just fight through it.’’
But with the Hawks almost certainly destined for sweeping changes this offseason, as general manager Kyle Davidson dives deeper into his rebuilding plans, they have little motivation to search for that chemistry now. Indeed, the end of the season simply can’t come soon enough.