If it wasn’t already obvious before we can probably now definitively say the problem with the Chicago Blackhawks was not the head coach.
Their 8-3 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights on Tuesday night dropped them to 3-5-2 under new coach Jeremy Colliton, and this game was a complete disaster from the start as they gave up three goals in the first 16 minutes.
It was the fourth game in a row they gave up the first two goals of the game, and the third time over that stretch they surrendered the first three. That is obviously a pretty poor recipe for success, and unlike their come-from-behind win against Florida on Saturday night they were never able to get close in this one.
What is perhaps most disturbing about this game for Chicago is there was almost no push-back at any point, and you don’t need to look any further than the fact they were outshot by a 34-11 over the second and third periods, including a 13-4 margin in the third period alone.
Given the score you might expect the team that is ahead to maybe sit back a little bit, while the team that is losing, and in this case probably already fighting for its playoff lives, to maybe pick up the pace.
But if there is one thing that stood about the Golden Knights a year ago it is that they kept pushing the pace no matter what the score was. They did that on Tuesday.
As for the Blackhawks? There was just … nothing. The result was the lopsided score we ended up getting on the scoreboard.
But let’s focus on Vegas for a bit because it is a machine that is now starting to click on all cylinders.
After a disappointing start to the season the Golden Knights have now won four games in a row and are 6-2-0 in their past eight games.
Even when they were struggling early in the year there were signs the team was playing better than its record might have indicated. Injuries — as well as a suspension to defenseman Nate Schmidt — robbed them of a lot of their depth, they weren’t getting any luck offensively and were getting crushed by a terribly low shooting percentage, and Marc-Andre Fleury was really struggling.
Pretty much all of that has changed over the past couple of weeks.
Fleury is back to playing like he did for much of last season, Schmidt is back in the lineup and giving them more than 23 minutes per night, and they have scored 33 goals over the past eight games. Put it all together and they are now just two points back of the Calgary Flames and San Jose Sharks for the top spot in the Pacific Division.
Given the way the Golden Knights are playing right now — with some of those percentages starting to swing back in their favor — combined with the fact the rest of the division around them has been kind of lousy this season they still might be the favorites to win it. It should not be a surprise if they do.