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5 takeaways from the Chicago Blackhawks’ 19th straight road loss: ‘Close isn’t good enough’

EDMONTON — When you boil it down, the Chicago Blackhawks held the hottest team in the league to one even-strength goal with a goalie in net.

Viewed another way, however, the Hawks have been cooked in 19 straight road losses, the latest coming 3-0 to the Edmonton Oilers on Thursday at Rogers Place.

That mark of futility is tied for second-worst in franchise history with the 2003-04 Hawks, who went 19 games without a road win from Nov. 10, 2003-Jan. 29, 2004. The record is 22, set during the 1950-51 season.

The Hawks have been banging their heads against this particular wall since a 5-3 win Nov. 9 in Tampa, Fla.

“When you put it that way, all the way back to Tampa, that’s a long time ago,” MacKenzie Entwistle said. “It’s frustrating. The most frustrating part is we’re in these games and we just can’t find a way to finish and get the job done.

“We’ve got a big matchup in Calgary (Saturday), and we’ve played them hard before.”

Coach Luke Richardson wasn’t concerned that falling short on the road would become a habit.

“I (didn’t) really even know the number until you let me know,” he said. “It’s another number, we know.”

He’s keeping his eye on the big picture: the rebuild.

“It’s a process right now, the organization, where we’re at,” Richardson said. “The wins and losses do count. We do look at them and you don’t feel good about a loss after a game. But tomorrow’s a new day and we have to wake up and think that the next game is going to be the one that we break it.”

Part of the process is progress, and it feels as if the Hawks are regressing.

The Hawks have to be kicking themselves after a game like this — to keep a power team such as the Oilers within spitting distance and not find a way to score.

“Obviously we’ve said it a million times, the effort’s there,” Isaak Phillips said. “For us, we’re in these games and we’re one shot away, two shots away the whole time.

“We’re getting through the (neutral) zone, we’re getting in, and then it’s almost like one-and-done. We just have to find a way to sustain pressure.”

Entwistle put it simply: “Obviously we couldn’t get it done. Close isn’t good enough.”

Here are five takeaways from the loss.

1. The goal drought is disturbing.

Say what you will about the roster, but they typically have found ways to get on the scoreboard. Until recently.

The Hawks have been shut out three times in the last five games. They were shut out just three times in the previous 44.

“It’s frustrating,” Entwistle said. “I don’t even know what to say. We’re putting up a lot of shots. I guess (the solution is) getting more traffic and bearing down on our chances.

“I had a breakaway, I had a penalty shot, I had two glorious chances in front of the net and didn’t score. You put those in, it’s a different game.”

Some of the drought has to at least be attributed to the loss of Connor Bedard to a broken jaw. The Hawks put up 90 goals in 39 games with him, or 2.3 goals per game; they’ve scored 15 goals in the 10 games without him, or 1.5 per game.

Other injuries have played a role and there are newcomers such as Rem Piltlick and Zach Sanford.

The Hawks have played sound defense against the Canucks and Oilers, but it came at a cost.

“We’re trying to play above the other teams,” said Richardson, whose team held the Oilers’ Connor McDavid to a power-play goal and an empty-netter. The one five-on-five goal came from Zach Hyman.

“Sometimes when you do that, it keeps you away from the other net. So it takes a little away from the offense.”

Based on third-period adjustments, the Hawks plan to focus more on plays at the net.

“Going low to high, we had a couple of tip chances going to the net, and that seems to be some of our better chances as of late,” Richardson said. “So we’ve got to kind of keep working at that.”

2. Did Lukas Reichel show enough urgency?

Reichel said he was “fired up” before the game after enduring a pair of healthy scratches.

Other than a few shifts here and there, it was hard to tell.

Reichel looked like he was playing it safe again and not being all that aggressive, though he did manage a shot on goal in 13 minutes, 46 seconds.

“He was definitely showing some level of urgency, but some of his decision making” needs to improve, Richardson said.

“He can use his speed to go wide where he took it through the middle a few times and lost (the puck). That’s something we’re just going to continue to show him, so he can identify where that open ice is a little bit quicker and have the puck longer.”

And as Reichel has come to learn, if he can keep the puck longer, he can create more chances.

3. MacKenzie Entwistle was a bright spot, but he was dissatisfied.

Entwistle had four even-strength scoring chances (five in all-strengths), according to NaturalStatTrick.com, and he drew his first NHL penalty shot after Vincent Desharnais hooked him during a second-period breakaway.

“Four chances but zero goals,” Entwistle said. “My linemates were playing pretty well and finding spaces, but again, I’ve got to start putting the puck in the net.”

While the results weren’t there for Entwistle, Richardson was happy with the adjustments he made.

“We’ve talked to him a little bit about less stickhandling and catching and shooting pucks,” he said. “And he’s been doing that and he had a really nice one last game on a feed from (Ryan) Donato that hit the shaft of the goalie’s stick. Tonight, (it went) off the crossbar. And he drew a penalty shot.

“So he’s doing his part, it’s just not falling for him.”

4. The Hawks aren’t trippin’ about Nick Foligno’s penalty.

Foligno dove for the puck with 12 seconds left in the first period and was called for tripping Evan Bouchard. In the second period, it came back to haunt the Hawks.

McDavid swept in an easy power-play goal into a gaping net as Hawks goalie Petr Mrázek strayed too far to the other side to play against the threat of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.

“We’ve got to kill that,” Richardson said. “When it gets down to 10 seconds, we’ve got to find a way to get those pucks and get them down the ice.”

But back to Foligno.

Foligno’s palms-up plea to the refs went unanswered, his body language trying to make the case he touched the puck first and shouldn’t be called for tripping.

Deep down, the veteran probably knows the rule changed for the 2014-15 season, so perhaps there’s a bit of gamesmanship there. Or maybe in the heat of the moment he just forgot.

Richardsaid said he didn’t need an explanation from the officials.

“I know the rule,” he said. “Some of the players were still arguing. They think if you get the puck first, then that’s not a trip. That’s the old rule and that’s been changed.

“You could debate whether Nick already made the play and he fell over. But a trip is a trip when it’s not the puck-first anymore.”

5. The San Francisco 49ers may be tough, but they’re no Saskatchewan Roughriders.

Richardson, a native Canadian, might be a little biased on this one.

He was explaining how exhausting it was for Dickinson to shadow McDavid, “just like if you ask any quarterback in the CFL to try and cover the fastest, best players in the world, you’re trying to guess where they’re going.”

For you gridiron neophytes back in the States, “CFL” would be the Canadian Football League.

Someone, not saying who, asked Richardson after the postgame scrum, “Really? CFL?"

“Hey, we’re in Canada,” he said.