Coach King's message before Blackhawks' win: Give the fans a good effort in these last two games

  • Chicago Blackhawks' Jonathan Toews (19) scores past Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Felix Sandstrom (32) during the first period of an NHL hockey game Monday, April 25, 2022, in Chicago.

    Chicago Blackhawks' Jonathan Toews (19) scores past Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Felix Sandstrom (32) during the first period of an NHL hockey game Monday, April 25, 2022, in Chicago. Associated Press

Updated 4/25/2022 10:44 PM

As Monday's morning skate was winding down at the United Center, Derek King gathered the Blackhawks in a semicircle on the ice and delivered a simple message.

It boiled down to this: There are only two home games left. Go give the fans a good effort. Because man do they deserve it.


"We owe it to them and I said you owe it to each other," King said before the Hawks defeated Philadelphia 3-1. "There's no reason you can't work, do all the other things structure-wise well and all the details well and have fun. ... We're just gripping the stick or trying to do too much at times and it's killing us."

The Hawks certainly listened early on, getting a pair of goals in the first 6½ minutes from Erik Gustafsson (3) and Jonathan Toews (12). There was plenty of sloppy play after that, but Kevin Lankinen (33 saves) stayed strong in net, Alex DeBrincat rifled home his 41st goal of the season at 7:45 of the third period and the Hawks (27-42-11) went on to win for just the 13th time at the UC this season.

Patrick Kane notched his 66th assist on DeBrincat's goal, tying a career high.

"Kaner should have had about another 10 assists tonight," King said. "He was feeling it. It was just good to get a win, especially at home. We talked about (finishing) right at home (and getting) the fans out of their seats."

Nobody expected the Hawks to suddenly catch fire after losing Marc-Andre Fleury and Brandon Hagel at the March 21 trade deadline. But a 3-10-2 stretch over the last 15 games? That wasn't exactly expected either.

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"Frankly, we came out of the trade deadline playing pretty well," said defenseman Jake McCabe. "We won in Anaheim, won in L.A.

"And then after that we gave up two big leads and that's when it started snowballing a little bit. Gave up a 3-goal lead in Vegas, gave up a 4-goal lead here against Buffalo. Then it started going more downhill from there."

Did it ever. That 6-5 loss to the Sabres was truly an embarrassment. Buffalo tied things up with 2:14 remaining and scored the game-winner with 12 seconds on the clock.

The Hawks haven't been the same since, losing winnable games to Arizona and Seattle at home; yielding 2 goals in 15 seconds at Los Angeles on Thursday; and showing very little in a 4-1 loss at reeling San Jose two nights later.

There are plenty of reasons for the free fall -- from roster turnover to injuries to poor goaltending, defense and passing to a maddening reluctancy to fire more pucks at the net.


The Hawks, who won Monday for the first time in regulation since March 23, have been outscored 61-37 and outshot 519-439 over the last 15 games.

When it gets this bad it can be difficult to match an opponent's intensity, especially when they are fighting tooth and nail to qualify for the playoffs.

"(We're) just not sustaining a full 60-minute effort most nights, frankly," McCabe said. "That goes for home and road games both, but home especially you've got to have pride in this building, pride in wearing this sweater."

Strome a Masterton candidate:

The Chicago chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association named Dylan Strome as its Masterton Memorial Trophy nominee. The trophy is awarded to the player who "best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to the game."

Strome was a healthy scratch 13 times in the first half of the season, but stayed positive and has set a career high in goals with 21.

"Early in the year it was a tough time and he was still positive in the locker room, being a good teammate and that goes a long way," said good friend Alex DeBrincat. "It's nice to see him get some recognition. Obviously he's had a pretty good year and hopefully he can build on that and keep it going for next year."

Former Hawks Andrew Ladd (Arizona), Antti Raanta (Carolina) and Anton Forsberg (Ottawa) are also on the ballot. The winner will be announced between Games 3 and 4 of the Stanley Cup Final.

Slap shot:

Defensemen Calvin de Haan and Connor Murphy, and forwards Kirby Dach and MacKenzie Entwistle did not play Monday and will not play in Wednesday's finale. All four are recovering from various injuries. Dach finishes with 9 goals and 17 assists in 70 games. De Haan had 4 goals in 69 games, his highest total since the 2016-17 season. His minus-21 rating was a career worst.

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