Commentary

A fitting end

Saturday's shootout loss was some capper to the Hawks' week

Updated: March 21, 2010, 2:39 PM ET
By Melissa Isaacson | ESPNChicago.com

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- So apart from that, Mr. Quenneville, how did you enjoy your week?

Just to review: Two of your top defensemen were nearly maimed, one by a former Blackhawk. Your team's collective manhood was questioned for not retaliating, and only one of the vicious hits was appropriately penalized. One of your beleaguered goalies contracted a strange virus whose symptoms included making him feel like an 80-year-old. And you limped back home 1-3 having lost four of your past five games, two after regulation.

On the bright side, your guys did look good on "The Tonight Show."

And at least the week is over.

Saturday night was some capper, as the Blackhawks lost two two-goal leads to the blistering hot Phoenix Coyotes, the last one early in the third period, to ultimately fall 5-4 in a shootout before a sellout crowd that included Cubs manager Lou Piniella, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen and a healthy contingent of Cubs and White Sox.

[+] EnlargeChicago Blackhawks
Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesRadim Vrbata beats Antti Niemi and the Blackhawks in a shootout Saturday.

Presumably, Guillen tweeted the results and used plenty of bleeps.

Hawks coach Joel Quenneville was certainly no happier, "chewing out" his club, in the words of one player, for continued sloppiness on defense.

"We lost three frustrating games, all in a variety of ways," Quenneville said. "You win in this league by playing defense. We know we're going to score goals, we know we can play offensively, but that's a commitment."

With the way the Hawks have been giving up leads, it's surprising to discover that the Coyotes became only the third team to beat them after trailing in the third.

"It sounds like a broken record, but it's the same thing every night," Hawks winger Andrew Ladd said. "We have one good game, and I don't know if we start thinking we're a perfect team again or what, but it's the same old stuff."

The Hawks haven't been a perfect team in a while, but a 3-0 victory in L.A. on Thursday was certainly encouraging in a week that was otherwise from hell. With only 11 games remaining in the regular season, defenseman Brian Campbell out at least that long with a broken collarbone and rib (thanks to Alex Ovechkin in a loss last Sunday) and Brent Seabrook still recovering from his concussion (courtesy of "good buddy" James Wisniewski in a loss Wednesday), Hawks fans would not be unreasonable to suddenly fear the playoffs.

"It's a pretty [crappy] feeling," forward Kris Versteeg said. "It's unacceptable every time we get a lead or do something right, it seems like we come back with the wrong play soon after. I know we keep saying it, but we have to fix it quick because we're not going to survive in the playoffs making those plays.

"I think it's just a mental thing. We're doing the right things, we're working hard and we're dominating when we want to. But when we decide to do too much, sometimes it hurts us, and I think you're seeing that in the last 15 to 20 games."

Ben Eager may have been trying to do too much, but it's tough to cut him much slack after two after-the-whistle penalties for slashing and spearing. And to add injury to insult, still another Hawk, this time John Madden, lay prone on the ice after having his face smashed up against the glass by not one but two Coyotes in the second period. Less than a minute later, Phoenix scored its first goal of the night.

"Honestly, a lot of it is just being lazy," Ladd said. "We're swinging at pucks instead of stopping them. That team is kind of a model of how teams should really play; they come back hard, they stop and start, they play well defensively."

Hawks goalie Antti Niemi actually had a pretty decent week. He shut out the Kings, and the Hawks did not lose because of him Saturday, as he had 31 saves including a then-key stop of a penalty shot in overtime after Duncan Keith tripped Matthew Lombardi.

"He played very good," Quenneville said.

The Coyotes have won eight games in a row and all three meetings with the Hawks this season. Amazingly, though, Chicago still clings to the conference lead, one point ahead of San Jose and two of Phoenix.

"It's good, I guess, to go through adversity, every team has to do it, but now we have to get out of it and start playing the way we can," Versteeg said. "I think you see the way we can play, but we have to just do it and with no mental lapses like we've been having."

Melissa Isaacson is a columnist and reporter for ESPNChicago.com.

Melissa Isaacson

Columnist, ESPNChicago.com
Melissa Isaacson is a columnist for espnW.com, ESPN Chicago and ESPN.com. The award-winning writer has covered Chicago sports for most of her 31-year career, including at the Chicago Tribune before joining ESPN in 2009. Isaacson has also covered tennis since 1986.

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