PHILADELPHIA — Jonathan Toews always believes.
Just like every player, he has suffered through plenty of individual slumps — when there are nights you can’t even get anywhere near the net, and nights when you can’t cash in Grade-A chances, and nights when you just run into a hot goalie. Every time it happens, you’ll hear Toews talk about getting just one break, just one bounce, just one chance to see the puck in the back of the net. Then it all comes flooding back. And, sure enough, it almost always happens that way.
And while Toews can’t remember a time when the entire Blackhawks team has been mired in a scoring drought like this one, he still believes the goals will come. He has to.
“I mean, what other choice do you got?” he said.
The Hawks lost 3-1 to the Flyers on Thursday night, their 14th consecutive regular-season loss in Philadelphia (the 2010 Stanley Cup Final was an obvious exception). And it was more of the same for this perplexing, dyspeptic start to the season. Another indifferent start. Another spirited attempt at a rally. Another futile night of offense.
The Hawks have only four non-empty-net goals in their last four games. They have scored more than three goals once in their last 14 games.
Connor Murphy’s second-period tally was their first five-on-five goal in more than 186 minutes — that’s more than three full games worth of hockey.
Lately, it seems that if goaltender Corey Crawford doesn’t steal two points, the Hawks have no chance.
“We generated enough chances,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “That’s the positive side tonight. The finish certainly has to be better.”
The start, too. The Hawks fell behind 3-0 early in the second period and spent the rest of the game scrambling to catch up. Remarkably, they had a chance to do it.
Despite a first period that Patrick Sharp deemed “embarrassing,” despite getting overrun in transition time and again, despite too much time spent on the perimeter and not nearly enough time in Brian Elliott’s face, the Hawks somehow found themselves in the game late in the second period.
Murphy had finally, mercifully, ended the Hawks’ five-on-five goal drought with his first goal in a Hawks uniform, cutting the Flyers’ lead to two goals. It was the Hawks’ first goal from a defenseman since the third game of the season. A minute later, the Hawks were gifted a whopping 1:44 of five-on-three power play when Ivan Provorov sent the puck over the glass shorthanded.
A minute and 44 seconds later, the momentum was gone. So was any real chance of the Hawks rallying for an improbable victory.
“It was huge,” Toews said. “You get a 3-2 game, and we’re off to the races. We put pressure on them the rest of the game. It’s not easy to play with a one-goal lead, especially if we would’ve scored two.
‘‘It’s moments like that — we need to feed off the momentum, and we just couldn’t find a way.”
All three Flyers goals came from their dynamic first line of Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier and Jakub Voracek, which has combined for 23 goals. As for the Hawks’ much-touted old-school top line of Sharp, Toews and Patrick Kane, it lasted less than a period, with Brandon Saad replacing Sharp late in the first.
It was the latest in a seemingly endless sequence of lineup moves by Quenneville, as he desperately searches for an offensive spark. The Hawks still believe it’s coming. As Toews said, they have no other choice.
“It’s good that we had some chances,” Saad said. “We got better as the game went along. We’ve just got to keep the faith.”
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