It's just about that time of year for the Chicago Blackhawks. They're all but set in a playoff spot, so you won't necessarily see the best of efforts every game. That's exactly what happened Thursday night at the United Center, as the Dallas Stars blew the game open with a 4-0 lead in the first period, and never looked back to take home the win.
The outcome of this one was never in doubt as the Stars rained goals on the Hawks throughout the first. Coming in, if I asked you which Patrick would come out with a hat trick, you would have guessed Kane or Sharp, right? Well Patrick Eaves, otherwise known as the guy everyone forgets about next to Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn, scored a first-period hat trick. It was exactly one of those nights for Chicago.
With the loss, Chicago now holds just a one-point lead on the Stars for the Central Division lead. Dallas has played three less games. Dallas also holds a 2-1 lead in the season series as each team that has won, has picked up a win in blow out fashion.
Corey Crawford gave up all four goals on the Stars' 18 first-period shots. Scott Darling entered in relief in the second period and shut out Dallas.
Eaves scored the first goal for Dallas off an incredible angle almost behind the goal line in which Corey Crawford simply had no chance.
Six minutes later, John Klingberg snapped a shot from the point to make it 2-0 as the Hawks circled around in their own zone all night, having trouble with simple clears. As I said, basically a typical February game.
Eaves would tally two more in the final few minutes of the first to give the Stars the 4-0 lead they would never relinquish, and a career game he won't soon forget. You can probably bet on the fact that the Blackhawks will though.
A late third period rally saw Duncan Keith and Patrick Kane get on the board to cut that deficit to 4-2. It was Kane's 33rd goal this season, trailing Alexander Ovechkin, who scored a hat trick against Minnesota on Thursday, for the league lead by one.
All of the classic traits of less than ample play in their own zone, not much offensive traction, or even crisp passing was evident in the Hawks and it's nothing to get worked up over. The February slump is on, at least for now.
Quicker notes than usual:
- One would think with how lethargic the Hawks have looked offensively this week, that after missing his second straight game due to illness, Artemi Panarin would be a Hart trophy candidate. The offensive depth and creativity has clearly been missing even in efforts where there was more to be desired. When Joel Quenneville breaks out Jonathan Toews and Kane together down 4-1 in a game in mid February, you can tell how bad it's been.
- A positive that may come out of this short slump we'll soon forget in the spring, is that without the lack of offensive talent at left wing, general manager Stan Bowman may push even harder at the trade deadline. That of course is my pure speculation but Panarin's absence to me has only shown that the Blackhawks should push even harder for someone like Andrew Ladd on the top line. This team will probably make their usual deep run anyway, but the lack of depth at LW if anyone goes out, is staggering.
- Seriously, there's no need to get worked up over this loss. It's another game without one of your leading scorers. It's another mid February game where traditionally these Hawks haven't been at their best, etc. etc. Two points is nice, but interest and wins in April/May/June are actual games to get very tense for. There is perhaps no team that can go from looking completely unbeatable to completely discombobulated within a span of a few days in the regular season like the Hawks. Regardless, it doesn't matter, because this is what they do.