Throwing in the Towel: Blackhawks breakdown Week 2

Last week was an absolute nightmare, and that’s putting it lightly. The Chicago Blackhawks were supposed to be a team that showed substantial improvement from the disappointing year prior. However, after just three games into the 2021-22 season, something was clearly not clicking. The offense was struggling to maintain consistent production. The defense was consistently giving the opponents prime scoring opportunities. The goalies were being left out to dry and giving up weak goals. Week two had to be significantly better to show the hockey world that the Blackhawks should not be taken lightly. So, what happened? Well, let’s say that things are looking grim.

Chicago Blackhawks VS New York Islanders

Game #4 – October 19th, 2021

The game between the Blackhawks and the Islanders was deceivingly awful. The Hawks spent the majority of the contest running circles around their opponent. Momentum was heavily in their favor for a long time. Despite this, progress is a funny concept because it can be dismantled exceptionally quickly. No goals were scored for the entire first period, which was a blessing for a Blackhawks team that had let in goals within the first minute multiple times in one week. The second period, however, was not as fortunate.

The Islanders pulled ahead early in the second period, but the momentum for the Blackhawks did not slow down. Ilya Sorokin was dialed in big time. He was putting Barry Trotz’s squad on his back until they managed to pull their defensive game together. Marc-Andre Fleury had a decent game as well, at least up to that point in the second period. The defense even managed to support him decently for the majority of the game. However, when the third period rolled around, it was undeniable that the Blackhawks were in over their heads.

Oliver Wahlstrom decided that the Blackhawks had been too close to evening the game for too long. He almost single-handedly put the game out of reach with two third-period goals. Cal Clutterbuck decided to throw in a goal of his own as well. The Blackhawks completely reverted to last week’s awful form in a matter of minutes. Fleury struggled to make saves, the defense fell apart, and Sorokin kept the Hawks’ offense at bay. It looked like a blowout until Kirby Dach had a beautiful pass to Mackenzie Entwistle, who scored in the game’s dying seconds. Once again, Dach looked like a firecracker while the rest of the team looked like rain-soaked fireworks.

At this point, many Blackhawks fans are rightfully questioning why Dylan Strome has not been given a chance to play. While he may not be scoring at the elite offensive pace he was a few years ago; surely he has some energy in the tank that the Hawks could feed off. The high-intensity two-way game of Ryan Carpenter was sorely missed as well, who, interestingly enough, has been scratched since the game he was frustrated at Colliton for not making a line change when he should have. Perhaps a coincidence, perhaps not. Either way, the Hawks had to make a change before they faced the Vancouver Canucks. Surely they would make a change and not just repeat the same mistakes, right?

Chicago blackhawks VS Vancouver Canucks

Game #5 – October 21st, 2021

This game opened with a beautiful tribute to the legendary Patrick Kane. After reaching 1,000 games played last year, the Blackhawks finally celebrated his accomplishment with fans in the building. Kane’s whole family came to celebrate his achievement, even every Blackhawks fan-favorite baby: Patrick Kane III. The Hawks prepared an incredible video that covered all of the Kane moments fans have come to know and love over the years. He will forever be one of the best American-born players and Blackhawks of all time.

Strome and Carpenter were finally given their chance to play after the roster stayed stagnant for many games. Unfortunately, roster changes made no difference. The Blackhawks once again failed to show any fight against the Canucks. After the first few minutes of the first period neared, the Canucks managed to score. The Hawks managed to respond with DeBrincat scoring a rocket on the power play to even the game. That would be the last time the game was anywhere close to even. Kevin Lankinen played well for the most part, but the defense could not find a way to back him whatsoever. Two periods passed with more Canucks goals, and the Blackhawks went to 0-4-1 on the season.

The next game against the Detroit Red Wings was going to be extremely important to win. Up to this point, the Blackhawks had set a new record for longest drought in leads to open a season. While the Red Wings had a better start to their season, they still are in the midst of a rebuild. The jobs of Jeremy Colliton and Stan Bowman were not on the line at this point, but perhaps another loss, especially to a rebuilder, could jolt management to look for a change. Even so, there is no way the Blackhawks manage to lose this game, right?

Chicago Blackhawks VS Detroit Red Wings

Game #6 – October 24th, 2021

They lost. The Blackhawks managed to lose this game, and oh boy, did they lose it badly.

At this point, every game review is starting to blend together. There was nothing different about the way the Hawks performed. If anything, this game was monumentally worse than the others. Lucas Raymond threw up his first NHL hat trick as a 19-year-old against a future hall of fame goaltender and Olympic-selected defense. The Blackhawks were close to scoring more goals on themselves than they did against the Red Wings. The only real highlight was the first NHL goal for Henrik Borgström. Granted, Kane, Stillman, and Khaira were all in COVID-19 protocol, but that is far from an excuse for the lazy performance Blackhawks fans were forced to witness.

Unfortunately, many of the big-name players that the Blackhawks got in the offseason are not playing like they were advertised to. Fleury has struggled to maintain consistency in each game he’s played, and this game was no different. From an outsider’s perspective, it looks like his heart is just not in Chicago like it was in Vegas and Pittsburgh. Similarly, Seth Jones has been the worst defenseman on the team. Whether due to coaching error or personal error, Jones is struggling to stop pucks at all ends of the ice. His offensive capabilities are declining as well. This game truly showed the flaws in Jones’ performance.

It seems most Blackhawks fans have come to a consensus: Jeremy Colliton has to go. During the latter half of the game, Colliton gave the whiteboard to the players and let them draw up their play. Not only is this one of the most confusing decisions a coaching staff has ever made, but to many Blackhawks fans, it signaled defeat. “Fire Colliton” chants began to ring out from the stands as the score became more and more twisted in the Red Wings’ favor. Of course, Hawks fans want general manager Stan Bowman out as well, but that seems much less likely for the time being. Either way, something has to change. Fans are becoming restless.

Looking Ahead

The upcoming week is going to be brutal. There is a genuine possibility that the Blackhawks end up going 0-8-1 after the next games. Who knows if management will make any changes at this point. There seems to be a deep-rooted issue growing in the locker room, and no one can solve it. Towes has stood in full support of Colliton, which implies that they believe a coaching issue is out of the question. However, if anything, this raises more questions than answers. What is holding the team back? Who needs to go to make it better? For now, all Blackhawks fans can do is wait. Maybe next week will be better, but let’s be honest, it probably will not be.

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