No blame game for Chicago Blackhawks' woes
Plain and simple, that was the message coming from the Chicago Blackhawks one day after their gut-wrenching 3-2 loss to the Calgary Flames on Tuesday.
Gut-wrenching because the Hawks were less than four minutes from overtime and earning at least 1 point in the standings.
Gut-wrenching because every team the Hawks are chasing -- Minnesota, Colorado and Anaheim -- also won.
And especially gut-wrenching because two critical replay reviews went against the Hawks.
But coach Joel Quenneville, Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and the rest of the team refused to blame the men wearing striped shirts for their fate against the Flames.
"We don't complain about officiating," Quenneville said during a longer-than-normal Q&A with reporters after Wednesday's practice. "We don't complain about those calls. Obviously you're disappointed. …
"But moving forward, you control what you can control. You've got to be playing better."
And it starts at the top.
• Jonathan Toews and Brandon Saad have completely disappeared, suffering through 11- and 12-game goal-scoring droughts.
• Artem Anisimov hasn't scored since Dec. 10 and has managed just 6 shots on goal in the last seven games.
• Duncan Keith doesn't have a goal despite firing 124 shots on net.
• Brent Seabrook is having a tough time against the league's fastest and most skilled forwards.
• Connor Murphy has been scratched three times in the last 13 games.
Of the big-money players, only Patrick Kane (21G, 32A) and Corey Crawford (when healthy) are performing to a level coaches expect.
"I don't think anybody's exceeded expectations or come close to it, especially the top guys," Quenneville said. "But that's across the board this year. I don't think anybody should be satisfied with where they're at in their play."
That's not totally true because guys such as Alex DeBrincat (19 goals), Nick Schmaltz (15G, 24A), Vinnie Hinostroza (6 goals in 23 games) and defenseman Jordan Oesterle have met or far exceeded expectations.
But those four make a combined $3.07 million a year, or an average of just more than $767,000.
The Hawks keep talking about going on a run, but they probably will have to go something like 20-9-0 to have a shot at the postseason.
Time is clearly running out and the pressure of trying to extend the franchise's postseason streak to 10 has been wearing on some of the veterans. Most have done a good job of hiding it in front of the media, but there have been subtle signs of distress behind the scenes.
Really, that shouldn't be all that surprising when you consider Toews, Kane, Keith and Seabrook expect nothing less than a playoff berth every season.
Asked if he can see the pressure is wearing on his captains, Quenneville said: "It's human nature that, hey, we're a proud organization, proud players. They're accustomed to winning because they do everything they can to win.
"Now all of a sudden we're not winning at that pace. Whether their own play isn't as good as they'd like or the team's performance isn't (as good), they take pride in that.
"We want to make sure that we all absorb some of that responsibility. Find a way that (we all) add to our performance and that could help the results."
Quenneville threw himself and his staff into the equation as well, saying coaches have a responsibility to make sure everybody's playing at their absolute best.
Even if that happens over the next two months, though, you have to wonder if it's enough. Or if this team is good enough to compete with the best teams in the Western Conference. Or if this season -- for all intents and purposes -- is all but over.
Said Quenneville: "Our team has another level across the board that we've got to find. I think it's there."
Then it had better show up.
Thursday against Dallas. Saturday in Minnesota, Next week against Arizona, Las Vegas, Anaheim and Washington.
And every day for the rest of the season.
• Follow John on Twitter @johndietzdh