Bad to worse: Joel Quenneville’s Blackhawks vs. Jeremy Colliton’s Blackhawks
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You know what they say about Las Vegas: What happens there, stays there.
Blackhawks fans, this is your cue to hope against hope that’s true.
Thursday’s 4-3 loss to the Golden Knights was the Hawks’ 17th in their last 20 games. All the usual themes repeated themselves, from quickly falling behind to gamely fighting back to all-too-predictably screwing up in the end.
Maybe Sunday’s home game against the Canadiens will be where the Hawks’ luck turns around? Think of it like hitting your favorite number in roulette. Crazy stuff happens sometimes.
“I’m disappointed because I think we played really hard to battle back,” coach Jeremy Colliton told reporters. “We were in good position, and then, obviously, it falls apart on us. Disappointing because I want to see the guys get rewarded when they play hard. Clearly, we don’t do enough. We have to be better than we are if we expect results.”
The Vegas game was Colliton’s 15th since taking over for the fired Joel Quenneville, whose own season last 15 games. The Hawks were 6-6-3 when the change was made and are a cover-your-eyes 3-10-2 since.
Any and all talk of rallying with a run to the playoffs has long since ceased. The Hawks are in survival mode now, whatever that means.
“We need points,” defenseman Duncan Keith said. “Let’s face it. It’s tough. It stings.”
Are the Hawks a worse team under Colliton than they were under Quenneville? It certainly seems so, though the schedule was friendlier before Colliton came aboard. Only five of the games coached by Quenneville were against teams that were, entering Friday night’s action around the league, in the playoff field. Eight of the last nine Colliton-coached games have been against current playoff teams, with the Hawks falling to each of the eight.
The Hawks have allowed the same number of goals — 56 — under Colliton as they did under Quenneville, but they’ve scored 10 fewer, 36 vs. 46. They’ve fallen to 24th in the league in scoring (2.73 goals per game), with their goals-against (3.70) still scraping the bottom at 30th.
Simply put, the Hawks have the worst special teams in the NHL — but they’ve stooped even lower on Colliton’s watch. Over the first 15 games, they were 7-for-50 (14 percent) on the power play and allowed 11 goals in 47 penalty-kill situations. Over the last 15 games, they’re a putrid 3-for-37 (8.1 percent) on the power play and have allowed 12 goals in 39 times on the kill.
Not only does their overall power-play success rate of 11.5 percent rank dead last in the league, but it’s worse than any NHL team has fared over a full season since the Panthers in 2013-14. On the kill? Only two teams rank below the Hawks (73.3 percent) this season.
The Hawks’ top offensive players haven’t come through for Colliton, either, which the coach must take a share of the blame for due to his endless rejiggering of line combinations. But there’s no explaining away the fact that Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Alex DeBrincat combined for 27 goals (with 11, eight and eight, respectively) with Quenneville behind the bench and have totaled only 10 (with two, five, and three, respectively) under Colliton.
Yep, a whole lot is going wrong — and the schedule doesn’t soften up until after the new year. The Canadiens, in sixth place in the Eastern Conference, come in hot, having won three of four and scored five goals in each of those victories.
“No one’s going to lend us a helping hand out of this,” Colliton said. “We’ve just got to keep playing hard and we can clean some things up, make it a little easier on ourselves.”