Regardless of whether or not a team is rebuilding, losing streaks suck. Seven-game losing streaks especially suck, especially when they include a blown 4-1 lead in Dallas and a 7-2 loss at home to the Jets.
Whether or not Sunday’s “players-only meeting” was anything more than teammates talking it out, we’ll never know, but I went around the locker room after practice on Tuesday and asked two of the Blackhawks’ veteran defensemen, Jack Johnson and Jake McCabe, how things were going in their minds.
I asked Johnson how the team’s mood was after seven straight losses.
“Fine today. Good. Good mood, excited to work.” Johnson’s response reflected practice, which was high-intensity, loose, and full of laughs…at least as much as can be expected after seven straight losses.
I asked Johnson what he could do to help younger players get through this stretch. “You just don’t let your attitude or your mood sway. There are going to be highs and lows…you can’t get too high or too low. Stay even-keeled and enjoy coming to work every day. We have the best job in the world.”
McCabe had a slightly different take on the mood of the team.
“(The mood) definitely could be better. Nobody is happy with losing seven straight. I think today was a positive day. Guys were working hard out there. We had a day off yesterday to regroup.
“Looking back at the points we’ve given up, it’s frustrating, but you just have to put together a sixty-minute effort.”
This has been, and will continue to be, my top story of the year. How does Luke Richardson keep this team competing hard as the losses continue to mount?
Kyle Davidson went out of his way to bring in competitors and high-character players. Hopefully, they’re better equipped to handle the ups and downs of a season.
Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews Reunited
It was only a matter of time, but Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews were reunited on the Blackhawks’ top line.
Andrea Athanasiou wins the left-wing lottery and has to be excited about this development. I’m also interested in seeing how Max Domi’s game changes with him being the top offensive option on his line. With Kane, we saw Domi deferring too often. He would pass up clear shooting opportunities and opt to pass. With this new role, he will be expected to provide the most offense on his line with Taylor Raddysh and Philipp Kurashev. Let’s hope Domi starts to pull the trigger more often.
Nine of the Blackhawks’ 21 regular starters have one goal or fewer on the season. Twelve of the twenty-one have two or fewer. Patrick Kane has three.
The Week Ahead
Wednesday, November 30 vs Edmonton
8:30 pm on TNT & WGN Radio
Patrick Kane leads the Blackhawks with 16 points in 21 games. That would make him Edmonton’s fifth-leading scorer. When it’s all said and done, Connor McDavid might be on hockey’s Mt Rushmore. McDavid’s game doesn’t have a weakness. He has an explosive and accurate shot, consistently stickhandles through defenders, and is one of the fastest skaters I’ve ever seen. His ability to go from standing still to top speed is unmatched.
Stopping McDavid is only one part of the puzzle. On his left wing is German superstar Leon Draisaitl. He is also one of the league’s finest players but is constantly in McDavid’s shadow. Yes, McDavid makes him a better player, but Draisaitl would be a star in any lineup. Draisaitl has 11 goals and 14 assists in 19 career games vs. the Blackhawks. He’s been a thorn in Chicago’s side since he joined the league in 2014.
Saturday, December 3 @ New York Rangers
6:30 pm on NBC Sports Chicago & WGN Radio
If the Stanley Cup Playoffs began today, the Rangers would be on the outside looking in. They’re currently fourth in the Wild Card standings with 24 points in 23 games, but don’t expect that to last. The Rangers are loaded with talent and, despite falling short against Tampa Bay in last year’s Eastern Conference Final, showed they’re a team to be reckoned with, especially if they’re going to be as aggressive as expected at the deadline.
The Patrick Kane to the Rangers rumors started early and won’t go away. It’s an obvious connection to make with Kane’s incredible chemistry with Artemi Panarin. The Rangers are in win-now mode, and Kane might be the perfect piece for them to add at the deadline. As Greg Boysen said on Monday’s CHGO Blackhawks Podcast, the best thing that can happen for the Blackhawks is for the Eastern Conference playoff race to remain tight. The more teams are in it, the more trade partners they’ll have to work with.
Sunday, December 4 @ New York Islanders
6:30 pm on NBC Sports Chicago+ & WGN Radio
There’s no sugar-coating it … the Islanders are one of the NHL’s least exciting teams to watch. They’re just boring to play against and boring to watch. They’re sixth-best in the league with 59 goals allowed in 23 games. Their +18 goal differential is also sixth-best in the NHL. What the Isles lack in star power or household names, they make up for in depth and play style.