They did it again.
The Chicago Blackhawks struggled at the start, made up for it and even took a brief lead! But, ultimately, it was all for naught, as the Blackhawks lost their sixth straight game: a 4-3 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights on Thursday night.
First-period goals from Reilly Smith and Deryk Engelland in the opening frame forced the Blackhawks to play from behind for the ninth consecutive game.
But after another disastrous first period, Chicago again rallied in the second. First, it was Jonathan Toews banking a puck in off Vegas goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury to make it a 2-1 game.
Dylan Strome then tied the game with his third goal in six games on a bad-angle shot after Patrick Kane missed the net on an attempt just moments prior.
Then, in the third period, the craziest thing happened: the Blackhawks actually took a freaking lead. No, seriously, it happened. Artem Anisimov scored on a breakaway to put the Chicago up 3-2.
And, in case you were wondering, it had been an incredibly long time since the Blackhawks had a lead in a hockey game:
Prior to Anisimov’s goal, the #Blackhawks had gone 527 minutes and 14 seconds between leads in regulation.— Blackhawks Talk (@NBCSBlackhawks) December 7, 2018
But good things cannot last during the 2018-19 Blackhawks season, apparently. Because, 41 seconds later, Vegas tied it back up on Jonathan Marchessault’s goal. And 12 seconds after that, Alex Tuch scored the game winner.
The Blackhawks had a flurry of chances at the end — again — but could not find the game-tying goal, losing for the sixth straight time.
I can’t find the words to put together three thoughts after this game, so one will have to do. The Blackhawks are now in a stretch of 20 games with only three resulting in victory. Three wins in 20 games. That’s about 12 victories during an 82-game NHL season. Think about how awful that is.
Now, are the Blackhawks actually that bad of a hockey team? I don’t believe they are. A team with this much talent on it would muster a winning percentage better than .150.
The Blackhawks seem ... broken.
There’s not a better word to describe it. Something always goes wrong. One game it’s Duncan Keith getting tossed. Another game it’s Chris Kunitz taking a major penalty that results in two decisive power-play goals. Another game it’s horrific defense. Another game it’s a total lack of offense. Another game it’s hitting the post four times. Another game it’s a few soft goals allowed by goaltenders. There’s always a new way (often self-inflicted) for the Hawks to lose a game.
And here’s the bigger issue: how does it get fixed?
How does this slump finally end? For several stretches Thursday night, it looked like Toews was going to single-handedly carry this team to victory. But in the end, that wasn’t enough. Kane’s had a few moments where he’s looked prepared to do the same, but that didn’t suffice, either. Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook probably don’t have that fastball in the arsenal anymore. Crawford might, but even he hasn’t been able to find it during the last six weeks. None of the usual fixes are there anymore. And that’s what is so terrifying about this slide: there’s no way of knowing how or when it’s going to end.
Taking a step back to examine the bigger picture: yes, the Blackhawks have some incredibly talented defensemen working their way up the organization right now. But are you convinced that they’re going to fix everything? Can they really turn all of this around? Can you really be confident that Chicago is going to draft, develop and promote NHL-worthy defensemen when it hasn’t done that since Niklas Hjalmarsson’s debut nearly a decade ago?
That’s the biggest question mark right now. Forget about this season, it’s probably over already. Three wins in 20 games will do that. But what do the next few seasons look like? Can the Blackhawks really turn around something that’s broken this bad with a rookie head coach and a bunch of talented but also youthful defensemen leading the way? Can they mesh with what’ll likely be a veteran group of forwards to form a team that can make a run at the Cup again?
Every time this Blackhawks group loses like this — because much of this group is expected to be around for the next few seasons — my doubts continue to grow.
- Reilly Smith (VGK) — 1 goal, 2 assists
- Jonathan Marchessault (VGK) — 1 goal, 1 assist
- Jonathan Toews (CHI) — 1 goal