Turns out it wasn’t another day at the beach for the Chicago Blackhawks.
Mind you the reigning Stanley Cup champs did manage to get in a couple of those because they arrived a few days early for their game against the Florida Panthers. Kind of a reward for putting together an impressive eight-game winning streak and finally starting to look like the well-oiled machine that won the Stanley Cup last June.
But the R&R came with a price for a Chicago team that has been on fire of late. The Blackhawks took the day off after flying down from Toronto on Saturday night, had a quick practice Monday and didn’t skate on the morning of the Panthers game, then forgot to show up for the start of the game. Apparently a little too much sun and sand made it impossible to get very worked up about playing a rebuilding team that essentially dismembered itself at the trade deadline last week.
“If you’re looking for an easy game, you’re not going to find it in this league,” Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said after the Blackhawks lost 3-2 to Florida. “That might have been the case tonight.”
Naturally Chicago players denied any suggestion of taking the Panthers for granted, but they did seem somewhat baffled by Florida’s aggressive and unusually physical start to the game. And Quenneville used the word ‘lazy’ to describe his players’ efforts at the outset, which didn’t make it any easier for goalie Corey Crawford. The standout rookie was having an off night of his own before being pulled for Marty Turco, and everything combined was enough to cost Chicago two important standings points that should have been gimmes.
“The lesson is you gotta be ready to play,” Turco said.
The bright side for Chicago came from a ferocious final two periods when they overwhelmed the Panthers and outshot the home team 29-7. The Blackhawks attack has been firing on all cylinders for several weeks and it got them back into the game with quick goals by Marian Hossa and Patrick Kane in the second period.
But with Panthers goalie Tomas Vokoun playing his best game in weeks, the bombardment wasn’t enough to overcome the three-goal deficit the Blackhawks were in after 20 minutes.
“It was our worst period of the season,” said Hossa, who extended his scoring streak to eight games with a second-period goal. “We thought it was going to be easier (against Florida).
“It just goes to show we have to play 60 minutes, it doesn’t matter who we play against.”