Colliton puts winless Blackhawks through tough practice

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Chicago Blackhawks head coach Jeremy Colliton, top center, talks to his team during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the Detroit Red Wings in Chicago, Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021.

    Chicago Blackhawks head coach Jeremy Colliton, top center, talks to his team during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the Detroit Red Wings in Chicago, Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021.

 
 
Updated 10/25/2021 6:00 PM

There's an old saying that bad beginnings often have good endings.

But they also have tough consequences.

 

Whether or not the Blackhawks rise from the ashes of a winless start over the next six months remains to be seen, but Jeremy Colliton made it clear Monday that there's a lot work to be done if they hope to achieve their goals.

The fourth-year coach sent a strong message at the end of practice by bag skating his players at Fifth Third Arena in three groups.

Up and down the ice they went, hunching over after each sprint. Alex DeBrincat, one of the team's fastest players, was dead last on the second-to-last rush.

"We'll see if we get the desired response on Wednesday (against Toronto)," said Colliton, whose 0-5-1 team lost 6-3 to Detroit on Sunday. "(We) covered a lot of ground in the last week. ... talked about a lot of things. Had some response, but it has to be consistent, has to be there every shift.

"If we do that, we give ourselves a chance."

That's hardly been the case thus far as the Hawks have yet to hold a lead this season. The 360-minute, 57-second (and counting) stretch is an NHL record.

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The loss to the Red Wings was awfully tough for fans to watch, especially after the Hawks managed to tie the game at 1-1 after Tyler Johnson scored midway through the first period.

Detroit, which lost 6-1 Saturday to previously winless Montreal, proceeded to score 3 straight second-period goals in less than five minutes to grab a 4-1 lead.

The Hawks, who remain without Patrick Kane (COVID protocol), did plenty of soul searching afterward during a lengthy team meeting.

"It's good when the guys come together and voice opinions on things," defenseman Calvin de Haan said. "It's never to bully or beat up on anyone. It's always critical criticism and positive reinforcement. ...

"The right things were said. I'm not going to spill any beans. That's between the players."

Aside from the obvious problems -- poor passing and goaltending, untimely penalties and a lack of even-strength production -- one serious issue is how the Hawks respond to adversity.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Their energy and compete level sags when they allow a goal, feel wronged by an official, see an amazing save made by the opposing goaltender or are the victims of a bad bounce.

It's reminiscent of Colliton's early days with the Hawks. That team turned things around. The question is, will this one?

"When the bounces are going against us, we're letting it affect us a little bit too much," Toews said. "You get that sinking feeling in your stomach and your confidence gets chipped away a little bit.

"We just have to be mentally tougher and not get fazed. ... You're not going to control every aspect of the game. There's a lot of unpredictability out there. We have to make a decision as a group to be collectively stronger."

De Haan pointed out that everyone has gone through rough patches before, whether in junior hockey, college, the minors or the pros. There are plenty of examples of teams overcoming rough starts, with a great example being St. Louis in 2018-19. The Blues were in dead last in the Central Division in December, then went on to win the Stanley Cup.

Of course, let's not forget that a coaching change was made in November when the Blues were 7-9-3.

Another good example is the 2015-16 Anaheim Ducks, who started 1-7-2 then went on to win the Pacific Division at 46-25-11.

"When I was in Carolina (in 2018-19), we were one of the last-place teams at Christmas and ended up squeaking into the playoffs and making the conference finals," de Haan said. "The sun's going to rise tomorrow. We have to come to the rink with a positive attitude.

"We're fortunate to be where we are. This isn't going to kill us. Let's revisit in a few months and see where we are in the standings. Don't hit the panic button now."

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