It was two steps forward, one step back for the Blackhawks last night.
After encouraging games against Los Angeles and Anaheim, the Hawks would display the same woes that have dogged them all year. With an ineffective power play and a complete inability to dump and chase, the Hawks were dominated in an ugly fashion that has felt all too familiar this season.
“We came in here against a team that plays well at home, and they seemed desperate for a win just as we were,” Jonathan Toews said. “But we got timid again, we showed flashes of what we can do. If everything goes our way, we seem to have all the confidence in the world. But if it starts off wrong, then we seem to fall a step behind. It just seems like you are skating uphill the whole game.”
Brandon Saad and Duncan Keith made it interesting with two minutes left in the third by cutting the deficit 3-2, only for Timo Meier to ice the game for San Jose with an empty-net goal soon after. The Sharks ended a 5-game losing streak with the win.
“They got that empty net right away without us getting a chance to tie it up,” Chicago forward Patrick Kane said. “This is how it’s been going for us all year.”
Patrick Marleau — who has scored all 3 of his goals against the Blackhawks this year — continued to be red hot against Chicago. He would open the scoring after a turnover by Brent Seabrook, who had recently been a healthy scratch before drawing back into the lineup against LA on Saturday.
In addition to Seabrook, Hawks rookie Adam Boqvist exhibited some growing pains in his 3rd NHL game. On a Hawks power play, Boqvist failed to keep the puck in the attack zone, resulting in a short-handed breakaway goal for Evander Kane.
Boqvist would also lose a net-front battle with Timo Meier, who easily pounced on the rebound to give the Sharks a 3-0 lead. In fairness to Boqvist, clearing the crease has been a major issue for all Blackhawk defensemen this year.
Goaltender Robin Lehner kept the Blackhawks in the game with his consistently solid play. Of all the Sharks goals, none could be blamed on Lehner: two were breakdowns defensively and one was a breakaway. With all the questions that still surround this fragile Hawks team, the one conclusion is that Robin Lehner has earned the starting goalie role for the foreseeable future.
The Blackhawks finish their 4-game road trip with a 1-2-1 record, gaining just 3 out of a possible 8 points. They return this Thursday against the Vancouver Canucks, who are off to a strong start with a 9-3-3 record overall.