Maybe it was the fact that the Chicago Blackhawks had been playing so well lately. Maybe it was the generally garbage performance the team drudged out over 60 minutes. Either way, things rarely looked good for the team in a 4-0 loss to the Dallas Stars on Saturday night.
Entering the game with four straight wins, it seemed like the 'Hawks had hit their high gear for the stretch run, but none of that showed Saturday. Instead we got three periods of lethargic hockey, resulting in so many odd-man breaks for the Stars that the 'Hawks needed several lucky breaks just to lose by four.
If the team had not been absolutely rolling entering this game, there would probably be more reason for concern. This was the team's worst performance in weeks, but that also points to the fact that up until this game, the team was rolling. A bump in an otherwise hot stretch was probably inevitable.
The dismal tone for the night started early on with a pair of failed power plays. I don't know if this is necessarily a trend for the 'Hawks, but it seems like every time they get a couple early chances with the man advantage and don't capitalize, things go downhill from there.
That quickly played out Saturday, with two missed chances early on giving way to an early Stars goal from Patrick Eaves. Just minutes later, Tyler Seguin added another one on a Dallas power play, and suddenly the Blackhawks were down 2-0 despite holding the shot advantage.
At least it seemed like the team might be able to turn things around at that point. Over the next 40-plus minutes, Chicago played some of its weakest hockey in weeks, struggling to capitalize on countless chances against Kari Lehtonen. On one occasion, Marian Hossa failed to beat Lehtonen one-on-one, and in the third period, Brandon Saad whiffed on his first career in-game penalty shot.
Those failed opportunities set the tone for the game, as the Stars took advantage of theirs. That's what happens when you give a team countless chances to head into the zone with the puck and defense out of position, though. This was the Jason Spezza goal in the third period:
There's not a whole lot else to say about this game, because the mistakes were so obvious. Michal Rozsival continues to be a complete mess on the third pairing, and I just don't know how you can justify continuing to play him regularly over David Rundblad. I know neither is perfect, but the lack of mobility from the Rozsival-Kimmo Timonen pairing just doesn't work night to night.
Credit goes to Dallas and Lehtonen, because they played a great game against a team that didn't seem nearly as interested. It's getting a bit late in the season for these kinds of performances, but I won't get too stressed out given how well the team has played lately. Frankly, I'm more upset about the embarrassment that is my NCAA bracket.