Chicago Blackhawks’ Lack Of Speed Apparent In Latest Loss

ST. LOUIS, MO - OCTOBER 18: Nick Schmaltz
ST. LOUIS, MO - OCTOBER 18: Nick Schmaltz /

It’s easy to chalk up the Chicago Blackhawks’ brutal loss last night to the St. Louis Blues as rusty legs for a team that hadn’t played since Saturday night, but likely a more accurate interpretation is the team that started off so fast is still too slow

We all know how last year’s Chicago Blackhawks season ended, with a quick four-game sweep at the hands of the up-and-coming Nashville Predators in a series in which the ‘Hawks only managed to score three goals.

After the series the immediate question asked by everyone surrounding the ‘Hawks was, “What happened?” It was pretty obvious then and it still is now. The ‘Hawks are no longer the speedsters who make opposing teams look like a bunch of traffic cones. No, they are the traffic cones.

Yes, the Blackhawks hadn’t played since Saturday (a game in which they actually beat the Predators). Yes, Nick Schmaltz was returning from injury. But its unfair to pretend like this wasn’t apparent in Toronto, Minnesota or even Montreal. The team looked slow and leaned once again on a Patrick Kane line that did not seem to function at all without Schmaltz.

Then yesterday rolls around. Wednesday Night Rivalry, the NHL’s flagship national broadcast, with Eddie Olczyk making a wonderful return to the booth, and Schmaltz making an important return to the ice.

I had the feeling the average play that was getting the ‘Hawks by in every game post-Columbus was about to be rectified and we were going to see the zipping and zagging of the first two games that reminded me of yesteryear, when Kane and Jonathan Toews were the Auston Matthews and Mitchell Marner of today’s NHL.

Chicago Blackhawks

Instead we got a performance that coach Joel Quenneville described as “as close to brutal as you can get.” The coach is actually incorrect — yesterday’s game wasn’t close to brutal, it was brutal.

Fair or not, Coach Q has to feel like his butt is a little warm this year. He cannot afford three straight first-round exits. Not only that, but the Blackhawks are no sure thing for the playoffs this year. The NHL has a lot of good young teams, and I’m not sure the Blackhawks are one of them.

Offseason moves have thus far been a mixed bag. The thinking is Nik Hjalmarsson could (and should) still be a ‘Hawk, but management wanted to get younger and cheaper with Connor Murphy.

Which you can’t really blame them for, but to this point Murphy has been a whole lot of nothing buried behind Jan Rutta and Cody Franson. Murphy is reported to be playing timidly, afraid of making a mistake in front of Coach Q’s watchful eye.

The other major move in swapping Kane’s partner partner in crime, Artemi Panarin, for Toews’ young protege in Brandon Saad is paying dividends, however. Although the assumption that Toews needed Saad more than Kane needed Panarin is true, we should not be under the impression that that meant Kane did not need Panarin.

As well as Ryan Hartman has played on the second line thus far, my feeling is that he will not be able to sustain that level of play with Kane and Schmaltz, whereas, a Panarin-Schmaltz-Kane line would have been devastating.

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I don’t mean to say abandon ship yet, as I still have a lot of hope that these ‘Hawks can find their legs. But they have to find them soon.