Blackhawks’ biggest names need to step up in word and deed

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Joel Quenneville said the Blackhawks’ recent slide “certainly gets your attention.” (Getty Images)

The Blackhawks never have been the most viscerally satisfying team after a loss. There’s hardly ever any fire and brimstone, rarely any righteous rage, never any in-house fighting.

You point out that they’ve lost five of six games, they remind you that it’s only October. You point out how awful a start was, they note how strong a finish was. You point out that the power play is an unmitigated disaster with 15 consecutive failures, they say they’re moving the puck around well and just need a little more traffic in front of the net. You point out the small stuff, they look at the big picture.

Even after falling behind 5-0 and losing 6-3 on Saturday to the Avalanche, the dressing room was calm. The Hawks were frustrated, not furious; bothered, not ballistic.

For better or worse, the daily drama almost always is saved for the United Center’s other tenant. The Hawks are almost maddening in their levelheadedness.

‘‘We want to look at the big picture and stay positive,’’ captain Jonathan Toews said. ‘‘There’s got to be urgency, but we can’t overreact. That only makes things worse.’’

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It’s a sentiment Toews has shared frequently during the Hawks’ occasional regular-season lulls through the years and even during postseason crises, such as in 2013 against the Red Wings, 2014 against the Kings, and 2015 against the Ducks. The way Toews always sees it, the Hawks are only one or two goals away from opening the floodgates.

That attitude and self-belief have been well-earned over time. At some point, though, calm becomes complacency. At some point, the Hawks are going to have to get — and, more important, play — angry.

‘‘Obviously, we can’t be happy,’’ coach Joel Quenneville said. ‘‘Gets your attention, for sure.’’

For players such as Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Patrick Sharp, Brandon Saad and Corey Crawford, that wider perspective makes sense. But these aren’t the Hawks of 2013, 2014 and 2015. This is a younger team, a less experienced team, a team that’s looking to its leaders to step up in word and deed.

Toews didn’t have a single shot attempt against the Avalanche. Keith had a ghastly giveaway that changed the complexion of the game Friday against the Predators. Seabrook needs to shoot more. Sharp needs to score more. Ryan Hartman needs to stay out of the penalty box. Artem Anisimov needs to find his five-on-five game again. Kane can’t do it all himself.

There’s blame to be found with a coaching staff that, year after year, can’t seem to make a star-laden power-play work; with a general manager who traded a three-time Stanley Cup champion defenseman for a guy who already has been a healthy scratch three times; and with a young defensive corps struggling to find its footing.

But it comes down to your best players playing their best, and the Hawks’ best players simply aren’t producing. After scoring 21 goals in their first four games, the Hawks have scored only 17 in their last eight. And if it takes a 5-0 deficit and a goalie change to get the Hawks going every night, it’s going to be a long season.

‘‘We have a little more hesitation in the first period: ‘Am I supposed to go there or not go there?’ ’’ Anisimov said. ‘‘And when you lose that second [of time], you lose the puck. We just need to play 60 minutes the way we played the third period, [like when] our backs are against the wall and we have nothing to lose.’’

Quenneville said he’s not looking to Rockford for help in the scoring department, even with Vinnie Hinostroza and Tomas Jurco tearing it up in the American Hockey League. He probably will keep changing the lines, tweaking the power-play units and giving Cody Franson more chances. Anything to get his team going.

‘‘I think there’s enough offense within the group,’’ Quenneville said.

It starts at the top of the lineup. And actions speak louder than words.

Follow me on Twitter @MarkLazerus.

Email: mlazerus@suntimes.com


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