Stanley Cup hangover? Blackhawks drop 3rd straight - FOX 10 News | fox10phoenix.com

Stanley Cup hangover? Blackhawks drop 3rd straight

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Many believed the Blackhawks would suffer from a Stanley Cup hangover at the beginning of this season. The opposite was true as the Hawks got off to a very good start, but now things have changed.

After dropping a 2-1 decision in overtime to Montreal it appears the cup hangover has finally arrived in 2014.

The Blackhawks have won only two times since defeating Colorado on December 27.

Since then they have lost five of seven games. With last night's loss they have gone down in defeat three consecutive times.

As is almost always the case when a team slumps the scoring dries up. When that happens for the high flying Blackhawks it takes them out of their comfort zone.

In the last six games the Hawks have scored 13 goals, and that includes a five goal performance versus New Jersey.

With a subdued offense the focus shifts to puck management and strong defensive play. When concentration slips and fatigue sets in those important elements also falter and then losses start to pile up.

Last night Corey Crawford couldn't have been any better. Crawford playing in his hometown of Montreal made many fine stops, two coming while not having a goal stick.

The first of those came on Brandon Prust, but the incredible save was on the rebound attempt by Lars Eller.

That stop will be shown over and over and could be nominated for play of the year.

Crawford could do no more but it is difficult to win while scoring only once. Joel Quenneville knows the same, and as usual when things go stale he changes up the lines. He did so with every unit except the top line.

Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa teamed up for the Hawks only score.

Both played a fine game and the Toews line was the only group to not over pass as they went hard to the net on many shifts.

Quenneville finally took Michal Handzus off the second line but the Hawks bench boss only dropped him down one peg. Handzus started the game as the third line center and Andrew Shaw was demoted to the fourth line. That doesn't make sense in a few ways, and it didn't take long for Shaw to rejoin Kris Versteeg and Brandon Saad on the third line. They played with some pace and had chances to score.

The Blackhawks were held to only 20 shots, which speak volumes.

Montreal should be credited as they won the board battles and used an aggressive forecheck to bother the Hawk defenders.

The offense starts with good outlet passes from defensemen and that wasn't the case very often. Carey Price was tested a few times but for the most part wasn't called upon like Crawford, who stopped 36 shots.

Lately, all Blackhawk defensemen look a step slow at times, and as a group have been making mistakes.

On the game winning goal, Patrick Kane took the puck back into his own zone trying to bide time for a player change. The puck then went to Brent Seabrook who made a turnover and resulted in Andrei Markov scoring his second goal of the game.

Kane didn't take the safe route, which would have been wise seeing every Blackhawk had been on the ice for a long time. He should have taken the puck out of the zone and not retreat back with it. The Hawks couldn't make a complete player change and Montreal took advantage of the Kane/Seabrook miscue.

That sequence depicts much of what has gone wrong with the Blackhawks in 2014. There has been sloppy play plus poor passing which slows the pace down and helps opponents. There also has been signs of physical and mental fatigue. On Saturday night it all added up to more mistakes and another overtime defeat.

Those who were sure the Hawks would start the season after winning the Stanley Cup without full focus were incorrect. But now attention to detail has been lacking. That, along with playing against clubs that are more engaged and desperate for points, has led to this slump.

The Edmonton Oilers come to town tonight and usually play Chicago tough.

The Oilers might not be the best slump breaker Quenneville could ask for and he will be on his crew to find some concentration and more energy.

After Sunday's contest the Blackhawks will face three tough foes on home ice.

Colorado comes in on Tuesday looking to avenge their recent 7-2 pounding. Then two of the best teams in the NHL will follow as Anaheim will be here on Friday followed by Boston on Sunday.

Quenneville knows tonight's the night to get the ship back on course because the next seven days will feature three stern tests.

I will be back on Monday morning and you can follow me on Twitter @AlCimaglia.

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