Maybe this is all the Blackhawks are -- a borderline playoff team and a Stanley Cup contender only in their minds.
The one thing consistent about the Hawks' season to this point is their inconsistency, that maddening trend continuing Tuesday night with a 4-2 loss to Minnesota at the United Center.
Contact information ( * required )
Tim Sassone's game trackerWild 4, Blackhawks 2
1. Niklas Backstrom, Wild: Made 31 saves in goal.
2. Jonathan Toews, Hawks: Two assists, had a goal taken away by a quick whistle, and won 16 of 25 faceoffs.
3. Antti Miettinen, Wild: Scored the game-winning goal and had 6 hits.
By the numbers: For the second game in a row the Hawks were outmuscled, outhit by the Wild 38-28. Minnesota also blocked 16 shots.
Instead of heading into their six-day all-star break on a high, the Hawks will have nearly a week to sit on a two-game losing streak.
"You definitely have something to think about," said Hawks coach Joel Quenneville, sounding more irritated than usual after a loss. "We should all come back with an attitude that we're not happy and we're sour and we have to do something about it.
"Let's make sure we come back and we're rested and we're excited and we're -- I don't want to use that term -- but we want to do something about it."
The Hawks continue to make it hard on themselves as they scramble for a playoff spot in the Western Conference. The loss was their 13th on home ice, so maybe it's good that of their final 32 games coming back from the break, only 12 of them are at the UC.
The Hawks were dominant at times in the first period, taking a 2-1 lead on goals by Patrick Sharp and Troy Brouwer, but they got nothing the rest of the way against Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom.
"It was very important we weather the storm in the first period," Minnesota's Martin Havlat said.
"I think maybe we wanted some easier goals tonight, and we weren't going to get them," Hawks captain Jonathan Toews said. "Their goaltender played well and kept them in that game, but we didn't work hard enough for it.
"It's the type of game you can't believe that you didn't come out with 2 points, but at the same time we didn't play our best hockey. We had a lot of energy and a lot of pressure in the first period, but we didn't keep that going for 60 minutes. We wanted an easy win tonight, and we weren't going to get it from that team."
Minnesota got goals from Chuck Kobasew and Antti Miettinen in the second period to take a 3-2 lead.
The Hawks had several great chances to tie in the third period, but Brouwer whiffed on a chance in tight with the net open and Duncan Keith ripped a shot off the post with about 11 minutes to play.
Pierre-Marc Bouchard scored less than two minutes after Keith's post shot.
Toews had a goal taken away with 4:33 to play on a quick whistle by referee Stephane Auger.
"Obviously we disagreed with the call," Toews said. "A big goal like that there's no telling what could happen at the end of the game with a 1-goal difference."
The Hawks simply had too many passengers on a night they really needed a victory.
"With one more game before this weeklong break, in our building, you've got to find a way to generate something," Toews said. "You can't afford to have guys who are complacent waiting for somebody else to do it."