After taking only three of a possible eight points leading up to the All Star break, the ‘Hawks continued their death spiral on Saturday evening in Montreal. Blackhawks Brian Campbell, Patrick Kane and Jonathon Toews failed to win the fastest skater, breakaway challenge and shooting accuracy competitions, respectively, and each failed to score in the new shootout competition. During the Skills Competition break, Blackhawk Dave Bolland and his sophomore counterparts took one on the chin against a team of rookies.
“It’s tough,” said Blackhawk captain, Jonathon Toews. “After letting St. Louis trounce us on Wednesday and then watching Soupy (Campbell) and Kaner (Kane) fail in their events tonight, it just feels like the whole NHL’s against us. I just knew I would lose in my event, but I guess this is what happens when NHL teams meet adversity.”
The first event of the evening was the fastest skater competition, which was changed back to the old format for this season’s Skills Competition. Last season in Atlanta, the competition consisted of a straight-ahead sprint when past competitions involved skating a full revolution around the ice, including behind the nets. Proving, once again, that hockey doesn’t belong in Atlanta, event organizers chose to go back to the proper speed competition. This didn’t bode well for Campbell, who won last year’s straight-ahead event, but didn’t finish near the lead this time around.
“Things just aren’t going well right now,” said Campbell. “I know everyone in Chicago was hoping we could bring an end to the losing streak, but we couldn’t do it tonight. Then, when I found out the fastest skater competition went back to the old around-the-ice format, I knew everything would go against us tonight. We’re just not getting the bounces, and we need to work harder. The worst part? My ‘One Goal’ is shot; I guess I’m not the fastest defenseman in the league,” said Campbell. “I can only hope now that Kaner inspires future ‘Hawk players or that (Adam) Burish sticks up for his teammates and earns every penalty minute. I’ll give Toezer the benefit of the doubt, and say he ‘(topped) that one’ in Detroit.”
Patrick Kane didn’t fair any better in the breakaway competition, where Alexander Ovechkin won the popularity contest – er, competition settled by fan voting. Ovechkin’s winning shot involved putting on a goofy hat and sunglasses, skating into the offensive zone with both a right-handed and a left-handed stick, and ditching his own stick to take a shot with the left-handed stick. (Brilliant!) He put it in on the rebound – a no-no in shootout competitions. Though lesser stars Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos put on impressive shows, the fans showed their voting stupidity might once again, and awarded the trophy to Ovechkin. Patrick Kane finished fifth out of six.
“I don’t know what I have to do. We’re just struggling right now – and I’m much more hurt than I’ve let on. I can barely stand, to be honest. And, tonight the winner didn’t even do anything to win; the guy flat-out wasted 45 seconds, so he could put on a hat and sunglasses and take a normal shot, which didn’t even go in. I guess these are the breaks when you’re struggling in this league,” said Kane.
Jonathon Toews was the final ‘Hawk to crash and burn in the competition when it took him eight shots to hit the four targets. “That Malkin can shoot,” Toews Said. “I can’t. I’m struggling. I’m not sure I belong in this league right now, much less as the Captain of an Original Six franchise or an All Star. Maybe I should get into the AHL accuracy shooting competition just to get my confidence back.”
In other events, Zdeno Chara broke Al “Where’d My Hair Go?” Iafrate’s all-time record, shooting an unprecedented 105.4 mph. Iafrate’s record stood for sixteen straight years, and Chara’s shot likely puts an end to the annual Iafrate All Star highlight reel, which included video of his early ’90s mullet: business in the front; party in the back; chimpanzee’s ass on top. The last event of the evening, the new shootout competition, pitted skaters against goalies in a battle to see which skater could net the most shootout attempts. Though it cost the Blackhawks zero points in the standings, each ‘Hawk missed his first opportunity to prolong his evening. Colorado’s Milan Hejduk took the cake (OK, it was Shane Doan of the Coyotes, but who cares?), though the story may have been the collaboration between Boston Bruins Marc Savard and goalie Tim Thomas. Savard shot against his own goalie in the second-to-last round of the competition – another competition no-no. Following Savard’s goal, he and Thomas high-fived each other. Rather than disqualifying, fining and suspending both competitors, Gary Bettman allowed the competition to continue, and Hejduk saved the hockey world by winning it.
This loss extends the ‘Hawk losing streak to two, and rumors are beginning to swirl about Joel Quennville’s job security. Quennville had this to say following the performance: “It’s hard to coach these guys when I’m not even at the rink,” he said from his home in Colorado. “But, it was embarrassing, to be sure. I told Toews to make sure the toe of his blade pointed towards the target on the follow through; I told Campbell to skate faster; and I told Kaner not to embarrass himself. I’m losing these kids … and our penalty kill is terrible.”
Where the ‘Hawks will go from here is anyone’s guess, but the All Star break, which was supposed to bring stability to the hockey world in Chicago, has not helped. “The slide continues,” said Dave Bolland. “Things just don’t feel right out there. During the always important 3-on-3 rookies versus sophomores game, I didn’t win one face-off. Yeah, I know there were no face-offs in the game, but I didn’t win any.
“I don’t know. We’ll climb back into this thing.”