Many people foresaw this season where the Blackhawks dynasty ended. No one thought it would happen this way. Now, 57 games into the season, the Hawks are closer to the bottom than the top of their conference and still free-falling in the standings. Things have not gone as expected, especially for a team with Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Brandon Saad, Duncan Keith, and Brent Seabrook.
Even Joel Quenneville admitted himself, “This is probably as tough as I’ve seen, yes,” he said. “It’s not fun… Every day we’re trying to find a way to get the team enthused. It’s not easy coming in and thinking it’s hard to be positive… It’s almost (as if) we can’t accept that this is the way it is. Efforts need to change that.”
He’s totally right. At times, his team has looked old, lacked energy, and flat-out given up. To input a burst of energy in the lineup, he should play those who have played the hardest (and best) the most.
Today, he did exactly that. Tommy Wingels, a player who has noticeably put in extra work in games and practices was placed on the top line along with Jonathan Toews and Brandon Saad. And he was the sole bright spot for the Blackhawks today.
On Tuesday, the Blackhawks actually started a game strong. On the power play, top line newcomer Tommy Wingels deflected a shot by Erik Gustaffson to open the scoring for the Blackhawks. The key to the goal was two screens in front of the Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury.
Against one of the top teams in the league, this was very important for the Hawks. Unfortunately, they wasted opportunities to expand their lead. Instead, Ryan Carpenter from the Golden Knights stuffed a puck past Blackhawks goaltender Jeff Glass from a sharp angle to tie the game at one apiece.
The Blackhawks offense recovered to its early-game form with some continued offensive possessions in Vegas’s zone. Patrick Sharp received one of the best chances of the game after he was rewarded a penalty shot for tripping over the thrown stick of a Golden Knights player. Yet he wasn’t able to convert the goal-scoring chance.
Alex DeBrincat broke the tie with a second-chance shot which he pushed past Fleury for his 21st goal this season. In a season marked by lethargy from the veterans, DeBrincat has been the lone glimmer of hope in this long-lost season.
The end of the second period also marked the end of all visible signs of energy for the Blackhawks.
The Hawks quickly put themselves in a deficit in the third period and ultimately gave up for the rest of the game. On the first three shots of the closing frame, Jeff Glass let up three soft goals to allow the Golden Knights to go up 4-2.
The Vegas Knights added an empty net goal late in the contest to put the game beyond all doubts, dominating the Blackhawks 5-2.
Even after a solid outing, Wingles was disappointed with his team’s loss.
“Certainly frustrating for us, frustrating for you guys following it, frustrating for everyone watching.”
One of the things that makes this seven-game losing streak so frustrating is it’s not just one player. Everyone has had their moments and Toews acknowledged that.
“Everyone’s gotta take responsibility, everyone’s gotta be accountable, and everyone’s gotta be better in those situations.”
The captain wasn’t done there.
“I have a ton of belief in this team, the potential of what each individual can bring. … We’ve got to know what we actually have and seize it and not squander the opportunity. You can’t just keep looking, oh, better luck next time or better luck next year.”
Next year may be all the Hawks have at this point.