The Chicago Blackhawks have three days off before setting out on a four-game road trip Thursday in Columbus. It couldn't come at a better time.
The 'Hawks returned to the United Center fresh from their first regulation loss in Colorado and promptly turned in their worst 20 minutes of the 2013 season. Despite showing signs of life in the final two periods, Chicago dropped a 6-5 decision to the Edmonton Oilers.
On one hand, Edmonton has a host of hard-skating youngsters who have made life tough on Chicago in previous games. On the other, this was a team that had lost five straight. The Oilers were not only at the bottom of the Western Conference—they had been shut out in each of their last two games.
The Oilers had no trouble finding twine Sunday night, burning Ray Emery and Corey Crawford for three goals apiece. Chicago surrendered three power-play goals in just four chances.
Chicago sleepwalked through the first period and may have stayed dormant if Devan Dubnyk had not chosen to venture outside of his crease by about 50 feet. The last 40 minutes were a blur of offense, though it was ultimately too little too late.
One could speculate that fatigue may have factored into a defeat like this. If so, coach Joel Quenneville may not have helped by shortening his bench, playing Jamal Mayers and Daniel Carcillo for a combined 7:15 of ice time. This comeback attempt was strictly a three-line effort.
Aside from some nifty offense from Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa, along with goals from defensemen Brent Seabrook and Sheldon Brookbank, everyone looked a step slow as Edmonton rattled off the first four goals of the contest.
If this team was so exhausted, where did it find the energy to post four goals of its own in the second period? Perhaps Pat Foley sent down some of the cupcakes he spent several minutes pining for during the broadcast.
There is no need to go around sounding alarms just yet. Teams lose. Even a lockout-shortened schedule is going to have peaks and valleys. The breaks are going to even out.
The bandwagon hoppers are going to find out that most NHL seasons are a bumpy ride. That's even before the playoffs. The expectations are now stratospheric. However, nothing is going to be decided until the playoffs begin.
After 11 wins in a row, a pair of consecutive losses is a blast of cold water in our faces. However, it isn't a reason to panic, which is why I hope Quenneville doesn't overreact and start randomly scrambling his lines.
I'm fine with a little tinkering, especially with Patrick Sharp out for the next few weeks. I wasn't thrilled to see Emery get the start Sunday, mostly because I think if Crawford, who took the loss, is your starter, you give him the chance to right the ship after a tough night on Friday.
Ultimately, Edmonton hammered both goalies. Moving forward, I'd like to see Crawford get the net for at least three of the four road games, starting Thursday with the Blue Jackets.
It sounds like Quenneville is going to take it easy on the troops on this mini-break. The fact that the players responded after digging themselves a four-goal hole is something to build on. Coming off seven games in the last 11 days, Chicago sure could use the opportunity to catch its breath.
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