Blackhawks can’t survive playing like this defensively

Blackhawks can’t survive playing like this defensively 02/05/2012 11:22 PM

Let’s get right to the point: The Blackhawks are on a road to nowhere if they don’t wake up defensively.

The Hawks are the sixth-worst defensive team in the NHL with a 2.87 goals-against average and 27th in penalty killing.

Those aren’t numbers that point to being a Stanley Cup contender.

The only teams worse than the Hawks defensively are Anaheim, Carolina, Ottawa, Columbus and Tampa Bay — five clubs about as far as you can get from being considered contenders.

The Hawks can’t survive down the stretch and into the playoffs doing what they have been doing on the defensive side of the puck.

“Obviously, the way we’ve been playing right now, I don’t think you can,” Duncan Keith admitted Sunday. “I don’t think that’s saying anything outrageous.”

The Hawks believe they have the personnel to be a good defensive team even if the numbers over the first 53 games of the season suggest otherwise.

Coach Joel Quenneville continues to preach defense, just as he has since training camp, but the message isn’t getting through for whatever reason.

“We think we have a good team, and we know when we play the right way we’re a really tough team to play against and a really tough team to score goals against,” Keith said.

“We’ve been talking about it a lot and working on it a lot throughout the year, but it doesn’t seem like we’ve been able to develop that consistency in our team defense where everybody consistently, for a good stretch of time, we’re all playing on the same page thinking check first.”

It appeared as if the Hawks stripped down their game Friday at Calgary in an attempt to simplify things defensively, and it worked for a time in a 3-1 loss.

“It’s got to be a part of our game we can rely on,” Quenneville said. “Whether we’re holding a 1-0 lead or it’s a 2-1 game or 1-1 game like in Calgary, we’ve got to find a way to get points.

“You know the games are going to be tight here, and we’ve got to be committed to playing those types of games.”

Most of Sunday’s practice was spent on defensive coverage situations, positioning and supporting.

“We can’t give up 4 or 5 goals a game and hope to win,” Patrick Kane said. “Hopefully we figure it out soon because it’s crunchtime.”

Keith says the players need to remember what they did right in December, when the Hawks went 10-2-1 and surrendered more than 2 goals only four times in those 13 games.

“In times like right now we’ve got to look at that and think what we were doing as a team,” Keith said. “We were checking well, supporting each other well, outworking teams. Right now we’re trying to get back to that, and it’s going to take work to get there.

“We’ve lost multiple games in a row before. It’s not the end of the world, but we’ve got to go into Colorado on Tuesday with the right attitude, a positive attitude, knowing we’re a good team when we think about checking first.”