The Chicago Blackhawks like to pace themselves and needed a breather. That's pretty much the only explanation I got for the team's poor, lethargic performance in a 5-0 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday night. With the All-Star break now beginning, it seems apparent much of the team was ready for some rest long before this contest.
Taking something away from this game is difficult because it was such a disaster in so many areas. The defense was a complete mess around the blue paint, the forwards struggled to build anything in transition and the goaltending wasn't ready to make up for all those other deficiencies. For a team playing its 14th game in the past 24 days, the upcoming week-long reprieve from the busy schedule seems badly needed.
Carolina piled three goals on Corey Crawford in the first period, then added two more against Scott Darling in the second frame. The opening 20 minutes were especially brutal with the Hurricanes holding a 16-3 lead in shots on goal at one point. Jonathan Toews (pictured above chilling super hard) didn't even return for the third period once the game was out of hand. The captain is reportedly dealing with some kind of illness, though it wasn't serious enough to keep him out earlier on. Jiri Sekac, you better not have gotten Toews sick!
Jeff Skinner, John-Michael Liles, Riley Nash and former Blackhawk Joakim Nordstrom scored for Carolina. Nash scored two goals and 11 different Hurricanes recorded at least one point.
For a team that's familiar with the Stanley Cup grind, the Hawks seem to play the long game sometimes. Getting through an 82-game schedule plus the postseason isn't easy and every once in a while it appears that the team eases off the pedal to better handle the slog. This pre-ASG break stretch, which also included a recent 4-0 loss to Florida, felt like that.
Maybe that shouldn't excuse ugly performances like this one, but coming on the heels of a recent 12-game winning streak, it shouldn't be surprising that the Hawks came up a bit empty in the tank right before an extended break. That's kind of been the team's thing this season. At least they stepped up to topple St. Louis two nights ago.
The other good news is that the Hawks -- well, most of them -- now get to rest for several days before needing to suit up again. Toews (hopefully healthy, possibly chilling) and Patrick Kane will be appearing at the NHL All-Star Game in Nashville over the weekend, but otherwise a worn-out group gets some much needed rest.
The team is in very good shape, too, with sole possession of first place in the Central Division and a 15-point advantage over the final playoff spot in the conference.
Getting upset over this kind of defeat isn't warranted (unless you maybe spent a whole bunch of money to attend the game). I just don't think anyone expected the vacation to start this early.