‘Don’t hit the panic button now’: Chicago Blackhawks players say the season isn’t slipping away despite an 0-5-1 record — the worst start in the NHL
Kirby Dach holds on to the 2018-19 St. Louis Blues for inspiration as the Chicago Blackhawks try to keep pressing on after an 0-5-1 start.
The Blues started 7-10-3 that season, losing five of six games during one stretch in November. They went on an 11-game winning streak in February, finished third in the Central Division to qualify for the playoffs and won the franchise’s first Stanley Cup.
“I don’t think the season’s ever slipping away,” Dach said Monday after practice. “You can look at St. Louis in 2019, dead last and ended up winning the Cup. It’s a long year, and the quicker we can turn it around the better.
“We have faith, and the solution’s going to come from that dressing room and that dressing room only.”
Calvin de Haan also thought back to 2018-19, his last season with the Carolina Hurricanes.
“We were one of the last-place teams at Christmas, ended up squeaking into the playoffs and making the conference finals,” he said.
“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.”
The caveat in both cases: The Blues fired coach Mike Yeo after a 7-9-3 start and replaced him with Craig Berube, while the Hurricanes started the season with new coach Rod Brind’Amour.
Jeremy Colliton has so far survived his struggles as Hawks coach.
A couple of players vouched for Colliton after Sunday night’s 6-3 loss to the Detroit Red Wings, and after a hard practice Monday, players pointed to themselves as the cause of the NHL’s worst record.
“Doesn’t help if you get negative about it and start pointing fingers,” Dach said. “I think we’re going to turn this thing around. Today was a good step and we have to take it day by day and not focus on the big picture.”
The Hawks’ minus-15 goal differential is better than only the Arizona Coyotes’ minus-17. The Hawks are minus-7 in each of the first two periods, indicating teams are either jumping on them early or waiting for an eventual Hawks meltdown.
In the big picture, it’s not about the numbers but the mindset.
Captain Jonathan Toews said Sunday night the team has to be mentally tougher and not get fazed by an early goal or a penalty that goes against it.
“That’s pretty accurate,” de Haan said. “Things aren’t going our way. The sun’s going to rise tomorrow and we have to come to the rink with a positive attitude.
“You have to have a short memory in this league. So many games, so many things happen in the season, good or bad. ... Just have to worry about your next shift and be the best player you can be to help the team win.”
Dach said he doesn’t think the team is overthinking, but “you go on a streak like this, you grip your stick tight and things get tense that way,” he said.
Colliton acknowledged “probably there is” tension in his players’ games.
“It’s part of a situation you’re in. It’s unavoidable,” he said. However, “your habits protect you and the details protect you. It allows you to be in good positions to have success.
“So, yep, there’s pressure and no doubt we want it. But if we’re better in those little things, it will break through.”