5 losses to re­gret for Blackhawks

Tough games that ul­ti­mately proved costly to team’s run

Chicago Tribune (Sunday) - - GOLF BLACKHAWKS - By Jimmy Green­field jgreen­[email protected]­bune.com Twit­ter @jc­greenx

Every point has the same value, whether it’s October or April. But the mag­ni­tude of los­ing points when it’s known how dam­ag­ing that is to your sea­son is height­ened in Fe­bru­ary and March.

On Feb. 20, the Blackhawks briefly moved into a play­off spot and ended the night among six teams within four points of each other in the Western Con­fer­ence stand­ings. Only two could emerge with a wild-card spot, so every game — es­pe­cially those against the other con­tenders — was cru­cial.

With the sea­son end­ing Satur­day night against the Preda­tors, let’s look at five games that cost the Hawks dearly as they failed to eke out a play­off spot.

1. Feb. 22: Avalanche 5, Hawks 3

What hap­pened: Pa­trick Kane had 13 shots on goal and the Hawks out­shot the Avs 44-31 at the United Cen­ter. The teams traded goals for the first 50 min­utes, with Alex DeBrin­cat’s power-play tally ty­ing the game with 10 min­utes left in the third pe­riod. But Hawks de­fense­man Slater Koekkoek turned the puck over in the Avs zone, lead­ing to a break­away and the win­ning goal with 5:22 left. The Avs added an empty-net­ter in the fi­nal minute. Why it hurt: Kane was a beast, and after­ward coach Jeremy Col­li­ton said the Hawks played even bet­ter than they did dur­ing two road wins over the Avs in De­cem­ber. They just hap­pened to come up against a hot goalie in Se­myon Var­lamov. The out­come es­pe­cially stung be­cause, two days ear­lier, the Hawks had de­feated the Red Wings to move into a play­off spot for about an hour. This was their first game since, and they en­tered tied with the Avs and Coy­otes with 61 points, one be­hind the Wild. The quote: “Every game we’re go­ing to lose from here on out’s go­ing to feel like (a gut punch).” — Kane

2. Feb. 24: Stars 4, Hawks 3

What hap­pened: The Hawks fell be­hind 3-0 early in the sec­ond pe­riod be­fore roar­ing back to tie it on goals by Chris Ku­nitz, Drake Cag­giula and Jonathan Toews. But just like the Avalanche did two nights ear­lier, the Stars got the fi­nal word when Ja­son Spezza scored a five-on­three power-play goal in the third pe­riod for the win­ner. Kane’s 20-game point streak ended in the loss.

Why it hurt: The Hawks had an im­me­di­ate chance to right them­selves af­ter the loss to the Avalanche with another home game against a wild-card con­tender, and they once again lost de­spite out­shoot­ing the Stars 47-29. Com­ing away with no points af­ter play­ing two su­perb games and fall­ing five points out of the fi­nal play­off spot was a crush­ing re­minder that, de­spite work­ing so hard to come back from hav­ing the league’s worst record barely a month ear­lier, there was al­most no room for er­ror if they wanted to re­main in con­tention.

The quote: “Tough one, big op­por­tu­ni­ties there to try and at least even the game up if not take over in the third. Sucks that we let that one slip.” — Toews

3. March 2: Kings 6, Hawks 3

What hap­pened: The Kings scored two power-play goals in the first five min­utes and led 3-0 be­fore the first pe­riod was over. Even though the Hawks came back to tie it, get­ting a pair of goals from Bren­dan Per­lini, the Kings scored three unan­swered to close out the vic­tory at the Sta­ples Cen­ter. The Hawks fell seven points out of the wild-card race with the loss.

Why it hurt: This should have been a gimme, a layup, a meat­ball down the mid­dle — what­ever metaphor from another sport best de­scribes how easy this game should have been for the Hawks. The Kings came in losers of 10 straight and would go on to lose six of their next seven af­ter beat­ing the Hawks with shock­ing ease. They had to­taled nine goals in their pre­vi­ous five games. They would score a to­tal of six in their next five games. Just a bru­tal ef­fort from the Hawks at the worst pos­si­ble time.

The quote: “I cer­tainly don’t think we’re in a po­si­tion where we can’t re­spect our op­po­nents.” — Dun­can Keith

4. March 18: Canucks 3, Hawks 2 (OT)

What hap­pened: Erik Gustafs­son’s shot from the blue line tied the game with 3:13 left in reg­u­la­tion, but Bo Hor­vat scored 16 sec­onds into over­time to deny the Hawks the ex­tra point. The Hawks’ aw­ful penalty-killing unit gave up a goal just four sec­onds into the Canucks’ only power play.

Why it hurt: The Hawks had won five straight and were com­ing off two im­pres­sive road wins against the Maple Leafs and Cana­di­ens. What’s more, they were rested and the Canucks had flown in hours ear­lier af­ter play­ing in Dal­las the night be­fore. The Hawks played unin­spir­ing hockey from the start and lost an op­por­tu­nity to move back within three points of the Coy­otes for the fi­nal wild-card spot with 10 games re­main­ing. The quote: “Just a bad 60 min­utes. At least we got one point. But we need two now. It’s not fun.” — Gustafs­son

5. March 23: Avalanche 4, Hawks 2

What hap­pened: Af­ter a score­less first pe­riod, the Avs and Hawks traded goals early in the sec­ond. But just as the Hawks did in their Feb. 24 loss to the Stars, they com­mit­ted a pair of penal­ties — in­clud­ing a care­less high-stick­ing dou­ble mi­nor by David Kampf — to give the Avs a five-on-three and al­low them to score the go-ahead goal. Gustafs­son’s goal pulled the Hawks within 3-2 in the third, but the Avs added an empty-net­ter. Why it hurt: Even dur­ing a mid­dling March, the Hawks were in po­si­tion to make one fi­nal play­off push. This was the first of a home-and-home se­ries, and they not only needed two points but had to keep the Avs from get­ting any. The Hawks didn’t play poorly, but Col­li­ton wasn’t happy with how lit­tle in­ter­est his play­ers showed in go­ing to the net to cre­ate of­fense. There was no des­per­a­tion, no ur­gency and, 10 days later, no play­offs.

The quote: “You’ve got to have a way to man­u­fac­ture of­fense in dif­fer­ent ways. They did it and we didn’t.” — Col­li­ton


Avalanche goal­tender Se­myon Var­lamov makes a third-pe­riod save against the Blackhawks on Feb. 22 at the United Cen­ter.

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