5 losses to regret for Blackhawks
Tough games that ultimately proved costly to team’s run
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