Any one of these days the Chicago Blackhawks will start scoring at even strength again. We're still waiting after the Hawks lost to the Winnipeg Jets, 3-1, on Thursday night to end a four-game winning streak and extend their regulation scoring woes to three straight games.
It's becoming clear that the biggest thing the Hawks lost with the injury to Duncan Keith was an ability to move the puck between zones and make quality entries into the offensive end. Far too often the team has been forced to dump the puck or missed a key pass that would've helped establish better possession. While the team holds steady on defense for the most part, the offense's complete lack of explosiveness is an issue. Corey Crawford can only have so many amazing performances.
The Hawks actually opened the scoring Thursday night just minutes in with a goal on the power play. Artemi Panarin made a fantastic cross ice pass to set up Patrick Kane, who fired it past Michael Hutchinson to put Chicago up, 1-0. The Jets would respond minutes later with a goal from Blake Wheeler, then added one apiece in the second and third periods to put away the game.
Chicago tried to mix things up and add some size to the lineup by scratching Teuvo Teravainen in favor of Bryan Bickell, but the move unsurprisingly fell flat. Bickell continues to look like a non-factor on the ice no matter how much money he's owed. The result was that Joel Quenneville eventually turned to the blender in search of answers that wouldn't come. Presumably Q was just trying to play a little matchup game tonight by going with Bicks over Teuvo, but it goes without saying that the Hawks need a productive Teravainen in order to balance their scoring across four lines.
David Rundblad also had a rough game, reminding us that the Hawks are still working with a limited deck on defense. The 25-year-old made a couple pivotal errors in the game, and while he's becoming an easy target, the defenseman hasn't done much to help himself. It might be time to give Erik Gustafsson a look.
The loss drops the Blackhawks to 6-4-0 after 10 games this season. They'll be on the ice again Friday night to visit the Minnesota Wild. The Jets hop over the Hawks in the division with a 6-3-1 record and are set to face the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday.
ONE, TWO, TREE THOUGHTS
Hutch owns the Hawks
I don't know what it is about Michael Hutchinson and the Blackhawks but the dude just straight up owns them. An amazing 45-of-46 save performance Thursday improved the Jets' goaltender to a 4-0-1 record in five starts against Chicago. He's been lights out in those contests, posting a .965 save percentage and 1.2 goals against average with one shutout. Hutchinson is off to a great start this season, but his fantastic play against Chicago was especially unsurprising. He gets up to play the Hawks.
Andrew Shaw, fourth line need to score, even a lil bit
There's a certain point where patience gives way to frustration. We might be getting there with Shaw, who's been a ghost so far this season. The Hawks have deployed him on the defensive-minded fourth line, so he entered Thursday getting nearly 68 percent of his zone starts in the defensive end, which partially explains the lack of scoring. Still, for a player who typically put up good underlying stats, his possession and shot generation numbers are worrisome. Even if you consider his changed role and linemates, that grouping is performing far worse than it did during the 2015 postseason. Shaw doesn't need to be a big-time scorer. He's skilled enough that one assist and 14 shots on goal in nine games is underwhelming. Obviously Shaw's not going to be a 20-goal scorer again as long as he's on the Kruger line, but he's there to help that group produce offensively. So far they haven't.
Get back in there, Teuvo
Whatever experiment was conjured up to remove Teuvo Teravainen from the lineup didn't work. There's no point in complaining about Bickell's performance at this point, it's a known commodity that explains why nobody else around the league wants him, at least coupled with his contract and past health issues. Meanwhile, you have a dynamic 21-year-old who's played in the Stanley Cup Final and routinely gets listed among the most exciting young players in the league. The top priority is obviously to get the offense going at whatever cost. I'm pretty confident that will involve Teravainen in one form or another, so his absence from the lineup is a lateral move at best. Presumably he'll be back next game so this is all for nothing. It just shouldn't happen again.