Chicago Blackhawks Stunned, Burried by Injury-Riddled Colorado Avalanche

Adam KoppCorrespondent IJanuary 9, 2009

So let me get this straight:  No Sakic, no Stastny, no problem?

After scoring eleven goals in the last two games, the Hawks registered just one tally against Avs' net-minder Andrew Raycroft in  heir 2-1 loss Thursday night.

Yikes.  I suppose that every team is prone to an off night here and there.  Even the mighty Sharks were downed by the Flames in a 5-2 drubbing a couple of days ago. 

Ironically enough, that was the exact score the Hawks put up against that same Calgary team on Sunday.

On the flip side, every now and then a goalie has one of those games where he's able to stop everything in sight. 

Raycroft absolutely stole this game from Chicago, making 43 saves, many of which came in situations where the Hawks seemed to be dancing around the embattled goalie, firing pucks at will.

The third refrain from any fan of a team that just lost usually involves the job done by the referees.  Now, I do have a small complaint regarding a third period face-off where the ref dropped the puck before Sharp was even near the dot. There were a few questionable calls, but to me, that stuff usually evens out by the end of the year.

So sure, the Hawks had an off night, a few calls didn't go their way and the Avs' got a tremendous performance from an otherwise average goaltender. 

It's just one game.

Still, they say that one learns more from losing than from winning.  After watching this losing effort, an effort that I have certainly seen before in the last few months, I can safely say that the Hawks' glaring weakness comes from what seems to be an energy that is exerted in spurts.

They'll have a shift or even a period where they're taking the body, racing after loose pucks, dropping the gloves, peppering the opposing goaltender with shots and simply playing with what our neighbors to the north call "jump."

Check the waning minutes of the third period after Wojtek "Pole Position" Wolski (what?  Polish Thunder was taken and I like nicknames) helped the Avs' take the lead.  The Hawks flipped the light switch and all of a sudden they had a metric ton of jump.

Then they seem to fall into a lull.  Perhaps not an "oh man, 'Steel Magnolias' is on TV again?" type of a lull.  That's more of an exhaustion brought on by the disappointment of knowing what your wife (and thus you) will be doing for the next 472 hours...Or just two hours, it's very hard to tell.

I'm still working out the calculations, but I believe it's one hour of "Steel Time" is the equivalent of feeling that 236 hours of real time have just passed.  Without sleep. 

Or something along those lines.

No, I'm speaking more to the appearance of exhaustion and complacency (as opposed to exhaustion due to resigned fate), as if the light switch can be turned on a moment's notice, so no need to keep the light on all time...

The bulb might burn out, after all.

This type of Jekyll and Hyde work ethic has shown up at various points throughout the season.  One period, the Hawks will look like a team that's bound for a long run in the playoffs, the next, you'd think that someone had filled their skates with sand and their gloves with granite during the intermission.

Until the Blackhawks can put together three solid periods on a consistent basis, this young team is going to struggle against tougher, more experienced opponents, especially come playoff time.

I'm well aware of the Hawks record in the last fifteen games.  But break down many of those periods piece by piece, shift by shift, and you'll notice several periods mixed in with those plentiful three or four goal periods where the Hawks simply let off the gas.

Against the cellar dwellers, it's somewhat understandable, but against the division leading Detroit Red Wings, the Hawks have come out strong, opening two goal leads in three of their four meetings, only to lose each and every time due to less than inspired play in the third period and over time.

I don't know if this is simply a matter of a young team getting tired and I certainly don't want to tell anyone that the sky is falling, but I'll simply say this:

Last year at this time, the Hawks were a playoff team.  They fell flat in the second half (mainly due to injuries) and never recovered.  Joel Quenneville's 08-09 roster is certainly deeper and more experienced than former head coach Denis Savard's '07-'08 lineup, and health hasn't been an issue this far.

But getting exposed by a mediocre team that's missing it's two best players?

If this young team starts to fade down the stretch, whether due to complacency, exhaustion or a combination of the two, well, watching chick flicks might not seem like such a horrible fate after all. 


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