Blackhawks forward Tommy Wingels almost hit the nail on the head Friday after practice when he said, "At this pace, we're probably not a playoff team."
After Saturday's wretched display against the Islanders in which the Hawks allowed 4 goals and 26 shots in the first 25 minutes of an embarrassing 7-3 loss, we can safely amend Wingels' statement to:
At this pace, the Hawks are definitely not a playoff team.
Coach Joel Quenneville's team did everything wrong and then some by taking too many penalties, playing awful, careless defense in their own zone and creating far too few scoring chances against a team that has one of the worst goalies in the league.
"Time's ticking here and we know that the urgency has to be there," said Duncan Keith. "We can sit here and talk all we want and say things, but it's got to come down to us doing it in the game. I'm responsible in that too."
The Hawks (22-18-6) are now 5-5-1 since Corey Crawford went on injured reserve with an upper-body injury. New York was 3-7-0 in its last 10 games and hadn't won at the United Center in almost nine years.
"It was a game we had to win and disappointing in a lot of ways," Quenneville said.
Was it ever.
Patrick Kane opened the scoring with the first of his 2 goals just 61 seconds in, but the Islanders took advantage of a host of errors and grabbed a 4-1 lead at 1:25 of the second period with their second power-play goal.
The Hawks were within 4-2 when Erik Gustafsson scored his first NHL goal late in the second period, but a bad misplay by Anton Forsberg led to a Brock Nelson tally at 1:52 of the third. After Kane once again gave the Hawks life by scoring at 4:58, Anders Lee beat the just-inserted Jeff Glass on a breakaway to give New York a 6-3 lead and that was that.
Jan Rutta was on the ice for 6 of New York's goals and defense partner Gustav Forsling was on for 4. By far the worst gaffe came late in the first period when Forsling could have stood his ground to block a Ryan Pulock shot but inexplicably moved out of the way. He ended up screening Forsberg and the shot whistled into the net to give New York a 3-1 lead.
Said Quenneville: "They had a tough night. Both of them."
Rutta and Forsling were the Hawks' best D pair for much of the season, but both have seen their games regress of late.
"If you get scored on almost every shift, it's hard no matter what you're looking at," Rutta said. "I feel like I'm getting some unlucky bounces and it kind of shakes up your confidence a little bit. Just got to keep working hard and turn the season around."
As Keith said, though, time is ticking. While it's true Forsling, Rutta, Ryan Hartman (no goals last eight games) and Alex DeBrincat (2 goals last 17) have hit rough patches, the veterans need to show much more urgency as well.
Keith hasn't scored in 60 games if you include the postseason. Brent Seabrook has 2 goals all year. Jonathan Toews and Brandon Saad have been quiet lately. Tommy Wingels and Lance Bouma seem to have disappeared.
And the goaltending is being exposed. Badly.
Quenneville thinks the answer is to remember that this game is supposed to be fun. Go out and have some.
"Every game is a fresh game," he said. "Hey, you're playing hockey -- a game you're looking to enjoy. Play hard, play with a purpose and learn as you go along. In the position we're in right now, go and play all out and the right way. And have fun doing that."