Blackhawks’ connectivity lacking in pitiful loss to Canadiens
Coach Luke Richardson has judged the Hawks more by effort level than scoreboard results this season. He typically has been satisfied, but he was not in an ugly 4-0 defeat Tuesday.
MONTREAL — Everyone around the Blackhawks knew this season would feature plenty of losses. That’s what any rebuild entails, especially the drastic type to which the Hawks committed last summer.
So the barometer for satisfaction has shifted more toward effort than results.
Coach Luke Richardson has had a firsthand view of it all. Before the Blackhawks’ 4-0 loss Tuesday to the Canadiens — a team he formerly coached that is undergoing its own rebuild, albeit of a different style — he discussed both topics.
‘‘[We have been] very transparent . . . [about] exactly what we’re doing, and that’s the first big step,’’ Richardson said. ‘‘Certain big markets are afraid to admit that. They don’t want player pushback or lost revenue. We realize we have to do it the right way.
‘‘When I came in for the job, they told me that about five times. I said: ‘I heard you. I’m still coming. I’m good. Are you trying to scare me away from the job?’ And they said: ‘No, we just want to make sure you know.’
‘‘I said: ‘Well, I’m [still] going to try and win every night.’ And our team feels like that, and it shows in our play. I like that. That’s the first step of what we needed to do: build that trust in our culture and get that implemented this year. Does it mean we win every night? No. But we’re getting closer and getting better as a team.’’
It’s a good thing Richardson discussed that before the game rather than after it. The effort the Hawks showed made them look like a group that has given up on a pointless season, not one fighting through tough circumstances to build a culture for the future.
It was most likely an anomaly. All teams have off-nights; they’re simply more noticeable from teams such as the Hawks, who have so little skill to fall back upon.
It can’t be allowed to become a pattern, however.
‘‘Right now, it’s hard to accept because I haven’t seen it that much this year,’’ Richardson said after the game. ‘‘I’ve been impressed [this season] with the guys’ attention to detail. Some nights, other teams just overpower us with depth, but we push usually right to the end.
‘‘Tonight, when they’re not connected early and it doesn’t seem like it’s coming and it gets more frustrating on the bench and on the ice, it’s hard to reel it in. You can try to move guys around on their lines, just to get something sparked up . . . but it just seemed like nothing was going to go our way.’’
Defenseman Connor Murphy summed it up more succinctly.
‘‘It’s not that we got off the game plan,’’ he said. ‘‘We didn’t get to the game plan.’’
Rookie goalie Jaxson Stauber (27 saves) kept the Hawks alive into the third period but eventually succumbed to a wave of three goals in six minutes and suffered his first career loss.
Offensively, the Hawks mustered only 22 shots on goal. They had 10 scoring chances in five-on-five play, one off their season low.
They took a physical beating, too. Defenseman Jarred Tinordi, making only his second appearance after missing 20 games recovering from facial surgery, slipped when dumping in a puck in the first period and departed after logging four shifts. He won’t play Wednesday against the Maple Leafs because of a lower-body injury, Richardson said.
Forward MacKenzie Entwistle’s availability Wednesday is also in question after he left in the third period. Forward Jason Dickinson, meanwhile, left briefly with a wrist injury but later returned and ‘‘should be OK,’’ Richardson said.