Actions will speak louder than words for Blackhawks
Patrick’s Kane’s body language didn’t need a translator as he stood shaken in front of his locker stall late Saturday night.
The Blackhawks forward was speaking fluent frustration while digging for answers that have eluded his team of late.
Though they should have been fresh after five days’ rest, the Hawks looked mostly stale again during their 7-3 loss to the Islanders at the United Center. It came six days after the team went into its break with a 4-0 loss against the Red Wings.
“It’s almost like maybe we’re thinking too much about it, to be honest with you,” Kane said of the standings. “If we just focus on … the next shift rather than the big picture, we’ll probably have better success.”
That’s been hard to come by on a regular basis this season for the Blackhawks, who know they need a turnaround, and quickly, to extend their streak of postseason berths to 10 seasons.
But the big picture says the Hawks are last in the Central Division. It says they’re five points out of the second wild-card spot with four teams in front of them.
It says they need to play better to be a player in the playoff race. Words, they aren’t going to help the Hawks.
“Your actions are getting it done,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “That’s the only way. We can talk all we want. That doesn’t solve anything.”
Defenseman Duncan Keith, who is 0-for-107 on shots on goal this season, who hasn’t scored since last March, read from the same script.
He said the team can’t rely on inspirational speeches or words of wisdom to get the job done. Excuses disguised as reasons won’t fly.
“Time’s ticking,” said Keith, who has 22 assists. “We know that the urgency has to be there. … We can talk all we want, but it’s got to come down to us doing it in the game. I’m responsible in that too.”
For the first time in many years, the Hawks are feeling the weight of the standings. And they’re doing it without arguably their best player, goalie Corey Crawford, who has been absent from the team since he was placed on injured reserve Dec. 27 with an upper-body injury.
They’re doing it with an unstable, always-rotating core of defensemen.
With a young roster.
With some of their top players, such as top-liners Jonathan Toews and Brandon Saad, underperforming.
The first-round exits from the playoffs the last two seasons are an afterthought now for a team just trying to get there again.
Looking back, Kane is sure, isn’t the answer.
“When we play like that, there’s a lot of frustration,” said Kane, who had two goals and an assist Friday. “Maybe if we go out there and play confident that’s probably a better recipe, rather than playing uptight and worrying about what’s going to happen next.”
Whatever the answer, the Hawks had better find it fast.
“We put ourselves in a terrible spot going into the break,” Quenneville said. “Coming out of it we know we have to have a great run. We have to move up significantly in our play.”
And in the standings. Otherwise, the Hawks will be in for another long break when the regular season ends April 7.