The Blackhawks spent the two days leading up to Thursday’s rematch against the Hurricanes focusing on having a better start.
“For the most part, it’s mental,” coach Jeremy Colliton said Thursday morning. “We do absolutely talk a lot about preparation and getting yourself ready, getting your teammates ready.”
“[We need to] hang on to the puck a little bit more, and keep it away from them, and just be ready to have a better start,” Patrick Kane added. “Our last three starts haven’t been that great.”
But after all that, the Hawks’ first period Thursday was more of the same, putting them behind the eight-ball for good in an eventual 4-3 loss.
The Hurricanes entered the first intermission leading 1-0 and holding a 12-2 scoring-chance advantage. The Hawks have now conceded 47 scoring chances while producing just 16 in their last four first periods combined (per Natural Stat Trick).
The Hawks played some of their best hockey in weeks the rest of the game, however. Scoring chances were 17-13 in their favor during the second and third periods.
Brandon Hagel tied the game 2-2 early in the third period, then Dylan Strome tipped in a Connor Murphy shot to re-tie the game 3-3 later.
But they were never able to grab the lead, never able convert a hefty dose of momentum into a winning goal, before Jesper Fast gave the Canes a winner of their own with 29 seconds left.
Olympic talk for Kane, too
In addition to the Hart Trophy race, Kane also discussed the possibility of playing on the U.S. men’s hockey team in the 2022 Winter Olympics on Thursday — one day after Hawks general manager Stan Bowman was named GM of the Olympic team.
It would be a great honor and a great opportunity to play for your country,” Kane said. “We could put a pretty good team together to compete with some of the ‘better’ countries.”
A member of both the 2010 and 2014 teams that fell short, Kane seems to be an extremely likely candidate for selection again this time.
Although he hasn’t talked about it with Bowman yet, he sounded motivated to participate and try to end the U.S.’s lengthy men’s hockey gold medal drought.
“There’s a lot of talk about the 1960 and 1980 teams, and here we are 40-plus years later and we’re still talking about those teams,” Kane said. “The legend lives on if you win. So it would be nice to be able to do that for the country and USA Hockey.”
Kalynuk seeking stability
Defenseman Wyatt Kalynuk played both games against the Hurricanes this week.
The 23-year-old rookie out of Wisconsin has bounced on a weekly (sometimes daily) basis between the Hawks’ active roster, taxi squad and AHL affiliate in Rockford this season. He’d previously made only one NHL appearance: March 7 vs. the Lightning.
“Every day, you might not know where you’re going to be,” Kalynuk said Wednesday. “As the season goes on, there might be a little more stability here. But it’s been a wild, crazy year.”
On the other hand, Ian Mitchell has now been out of the lineup for four consecutive games. Colliton said he wants Mitchell to “keep doing what he’s doing” and he’ll get another chance eventually.
“The guys who aren’t in, they have to have an urgency to keep improving and do everything they can to prepare for the next opportunity,” Colliton said. “That’s what’s going to get them ready to succeed.”