Blackhawks coach Luke Richardson hasn’t seemed too concerned about it, but the Hawks’ preseason results were undeniably ugly.
A 6-0 blowout loss Saturday to the Blues concluded a six-game slate during which the Hawks won just once, and that was in Detroit with a lineup composed of mostly prospects and fringe players.
Very few of the players the Hawks will count on to be top contributors this season showed semblances of life. Jonathan Toews’ effort seemed low on several uncharacteristic opponent goals after he committed defensive-zone turnovers. Patrick Kane couldn’t find much chemistry with anyone who rotated through the first line, including new additions Andreas Athanasiou and Max Domi. The Hawks were cumulatively outscored 22-6.
Richardson said Friday, after a 4-1 loss Thursday against the Wild but before Saturday’s massacre, he believed a few critical breakdowns were marring otherwise respectable performances.
“We’ve been happy with the execution and effort,” he said. “It’s just [that] the big opportunities [our opponents] get are really big. They’re bad.
“The mistakes are just too big. We have to start cleaning those up. Hockey’s never going to be perfect, because it’s too fast a game and there are 10 guys moving at 30 miles per hour out there. It’s tough to be perfect. But we have to just be solid and we have a ways to go.”
The Hawks will hope for better results when the regular season starts and the games actually start counting, although that optimism might be misplaced given the roster construction. They’ll travel to Denver on Monday for two high-altitude practices before the season opener Wednesday against the Avalanche.
Roos contract complexity
When the Hawks signed defenseman Filip Roos in May as a European free agent, Roos’ Swedish team —Skelleftea AIK —technically retained his rights.
If the Hawks try to send Roos down to the AHL, Skelleftea will have the option to bring him back to Sweden rather than let him go to Rockford, Roos said Friday—even though he personally would prefer to stay in America and keep fighting for an NHL opportunity.
“It’s up to them,” Roos said. “I’m just trying to stay focused on this and do my best here, so hopefully it goes well. If that comes up, we’ll take it from there.”
That contract complication could influence how the Hawks manage their defensive roster decisions, with Roos currently sitting on the bubble.
“He’s calm and he moves the puck well on the power play,” Richardson said Friday. “I’ve seen some progress. Also in his first time in North America on the smaller rink, he’s adjusting fast, which is a good sign.”
Lafferty adjusting to center
Sam Lafferty has spent much of camp transitioning from wing to center.
It’s not a drastic change for him—Lafferty played some center while coming up with the Penguins’ AHL affiliate in 2018-19—but has required some adjustments, particularly when it comes to making reads in the defensive zone.
He centered Athanasiou and Jujhar Khaira on Saturday. Richardson likes the idea of Lafferty and Athanasiou, the Hawks’ two fastest skaters, playing together, and also thinks Lafferty’s speed will help him at center.
“He’s bright, and even if he’s off-key a little bit on positioning out there, he has the ability to react quick and get back into position,” Richardson said. “Center ice is a great fit for him.”