SAN JOSE, Calif. — It was a meaningless goal in a blowout, just an extra punch on the way down, but the comedy of errors that led to San Jose’s sixth goal in a 7-2 victory Thursday night was somehow fitting.
Goaltender J-F Berube, under siege all night thanks to one of the most putrid defensive efforts in recent Blackhawks memory, gloved a shot from the point and seemed poised to hold on for the whistle. Instead, he suddenly dropped the puck to his side, hoping to run out the last few seconds of the second period. Then rookie defenseman Carl Dahlstrom, on the ice for four goals against, kicked the puck directly to San Jose’s Marc-Edouard Vlasic rather than just kill it along the boards. Then Vlasic, from behind the goal line, banked the puck in off a backtracking Berube with 1.8 seconds left to make it 6-1 Sharks.
It was brutal. It was embarrassing. It was the Hawks’ last two months in a nutshell.
“Not good,” Joel Quenneville said. “It was tough, knowing that we wanted to do things right, and I don’t think we did much right all night long.”
After scoring first on an Artem Anisimov snipe just 2:12 into the game, the Hawks fumbled and stumbled through a truly awful defensive performance. The Sharks scored on a 4-on-2, a 2-on-0, a scrambling and sliding mess that resembled a Benny Hill sketch, a redirect (the only normal goal of the bunch) and a 2-on-1 before Vlasic’s inexplicable tally. The Sharks had their way with the Hawks’ third pairing of Erik Gustafsson and Dahlstrom, who were out of position and turning the puck all over all night, and the other two pairings weren’t much better.
“I don’t think you could say anybody had a great night,” Quenneville said. “It wasn’t like you could just talk about one pair.”
Since an impressive 2-1 victory over the high-flying Winnipeg Jets on Jan. 12, the Hawks are 5-13-2.
Thursday’s lineup was loaded with borderline AHL/NHL players auditioning for future jobs, and it wasn’t pretty. Berube, who stopped 42 of 43 shots against these same Sharks last Friday, gave up six goals on 28 shots before being replaced by Anton Forsberg in the third period. Berube didn’t have much of a chance on at least four of them, and Forsberg promptly gave up a goal early in the third that went in off Duncan Keith. Nick Schmaltz scored with 32.6 seconds left.
Asked if the team had quit, Quenneville pointed to the last three games — two wins and a strong game in Columbus — as positive signs. But as has been the case all season, every step forward seems to be followed by two steps back. Or a full-blown face-plant like this one.
Jonathan Toews also insisted the Hawks haven’t quit, but admitted that it’s been tougher to find motivation and fire going into games this season than in recent ones, when there was so much more to play for.
“There’s no doubt when you’re winning and pucks are going in, it’s easier to work,” Toews said. “But even when things aren’t going your way, you’ve got to keep working. You’ve got to find a way to turn things your way.”