RALEIGH, N.C. — The Blackhawks gave up the second-most goals in the NHL last season and ranked 31st in penalty kill percentage. They spent all offseason and training camp working to shore things up in the defensive zone.
But right now, it’s what they’re not doing in the offensive zone that’s letting them down and it’s surprising because that’s the one part of their game that they were actually able to hang their hat on.
After getting shut out in Carolina, the Blackhawks have now scored only two goals in their last 195 minutes of hockey and have fallen to 0-for-16 on the power play in their last four games. They’ve also slipped to 29th with a goals-per-game average of 2.22. Something’s clearly off.
“It’s not fun, that’s for sure,” Patrick Kane said following a 4-0 loss to the Hurricanes on Saturday. “I thought we did a good job of coming in, being excited to play and having a good attitude and we just couldn’t find a way to score a goal. It obviously hurts. We need to produce offense in this league and you need to score goals to win games.”
Head coach Jeremy Colliton tried shaking up the combinations to get some new energy, and it worked. Every line had positive possession numbers against the Hurricanes.
But for whatever reason, the Blackhawks couldn’t find the back of the net and they’re trying to break out of an ugly scoring slump without taking away from the steady improvements they’ve made on defense.
“It’s tough,” Alex DeBrincat said. “It’s been a few games here and we just got to figure out a way to turn it on and still be able to play D zone. Just not getting many chances, not putting them in the net when we do get the chances and we’re losing games because of it.”
The Blackhawks are getting their fair share of opportunities. Over the last four games, they’ve generated 117 scoring chances and 50 high-danger chances, according to Natural Stat Trick. They just haven’t been able to capitalize.
“It’s just a struggle right now to produce offense,” Kane said. “Hopefully it’s one of those things we start putting them in and it opens the floodgates.”
While there were positives to take away from the game, a deflated Kane admitted that it’s hard to look at them because the results haven’t been there. It’s a real challenge to score just one goal, but the general message hasn’t changed. If they keep pushing, at some point they’re going to break through.
And when they do, the Blackhawks have to feed off that momentum and run with it.
“Hockey just seems to be tough right now,” Kane said. “A lot of hard work, a lot of 50-50 battles we’re trying to win and it doesn’t seem like anything’s coming from it. That’s the message in here: Stay with it, hopefully sooner or later those things are going to break and that work you do is going to become easier and get rewarded for it.”