Chicago Blackhawks' Bryan Bickell (29) gets tied up between Carolina Hurricanes' Jamie McBain (4) and Cam Ward (30) with Hurricanes' Jussi Jokinen (36) nearby during the third period.
Before every season, every fan knows that there will be games that their favorite team is just off. There are just nights where the Hawks can't get anything going, where every pass is off by a couple inches (if not feet). There are nights where they and we just shouldn't have bothered with the game at all, and it would have ended up the same. Eighty-two games is far too many to get every one right.
Now, the Hawks can check the first one off the list in 2011-2012. They fell 0-3 against the Carolina Hurricanes Friday night.
Against a pretty spirited opponent itching to make a statement at home, the Hawks were bumbling, stumbling, off-color, out of rhythm, and every other term you might use for a team that just couldn't get right on a certain night. Passes didn't hit, the Hawks coudln't get their legs moving, a forecheck was off drinking with Harvey the Rabbit, and when even that wasn't enough to see the Hawks completely out of the game, luck wasn't with them either.
Which makes it all that much of a weirder game. If not for a bad bounce of Nick Leddy's stick and a puck arriving in the only spot it could to reach Brandon Sutter exiting the penalty box at the exact right time, the Hawks would have been tied. Not that it mattered, as the Hawks never looked much like scoring.
The frustrating part was this was one of those games where the slick movement the Hawks have favored this year was malfunctioning, and they needed to dumb it down. They needed to chip the puck behind the Canes defense and go get it and work hard to make chances out of that. They didn't, or wouldn't, or couldn't, or whatever. Something to work on.
On nights like this when the Hawks look like they're skating through marbles, you get jumps from a couple places. One is the fourth line. But with the fourth line currently comprised of Marcus Kruger, Viktor Stalberg, and Jamal Mayers, that's 2/3rds of a unit that's supposed to get the electricity flowing through hitting people that can't hit people. So that won't work. The other is having the defense get real active and drive the play. But both Hawks d-men who can do that, Nick Leddy and Duncan Keith, are playing together and nullifying that. In the past, Brian Campbell would have used his wheels to get through the neutral zone, or made a crisp first pass with the room that was created by teams compensating for his speed, or at least gotten puck deep in the attacking zone. The Hawks had no one to do that. Yet another reason to split Keith and Leddy up.
But in the end, it's nothing major. Just one loss. The Hawks get the chance to correct it all tomorrow night against the struggling Blue Jackets. That's the good thing about the season sometimes, is that you get to feel good so soon after feeling bad.
Sam Fels is the proprietor of The Committed Indian, an unofficial program for the Blackhawks. You may have seen him hocking the magazine outside the United Center at Gate 3. The program is also available for purchase online. Fels is a lifelong 'Hawks fan and he also writes for Second City Hockey .