3 takeaways from the Chicago Blackhawks’ 5-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, including Patrick Kane ‘feeling’ his way back and whether they are pressing themselves into mistakes

As far as starts to seasons go, the Chicago Blackhawks are trending in the opposite direction of last season.

To start last season in January, they got humbled by the Tampa Bay Lightning, got trounced in the rematch and lost to the Florida Panthers but looked a little better and made the score a little more palatable.

That 0-3 beginning looks nothing like this 0-2-1 start.

If the Hawks were rattled by the Colorado Avalanche at the start of Wednesday’s season opener, it snowballed into full-on discombobulation by the finish of the first period Saturday, which ended with them down four goals to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

They talked about getting off to faster starts, but that hasn’t happened as the 1-0 deficits have been quicker and quicker.

Four minutes, 26 seconds against the Avs.

Against the New Jersey Devils? Seventeen seconds in.

The Penguins? Fifteen seconds in.

The meltdowns have the Hawks searching for answers. What’s perplexing is they bolstered the roster with talented veterans and gave their promising younger players a full training camp, but somehow as a whole, they’ve looked worse than last season’s youthful squad.

Tuesday’s home opener against the New York Islanders has more of a feel of desperation than celebration.

“It’s a long season. We have 79 left,” Patrick Kane said. “We’ve had stretches in games where we’ve been OK and we’ve dictated the pace and we’ve created some momentum, so just got to build off that.”

“I don’t think there’s any need or room to panic, especially when we haven’t even had a home game yet. We’re going to find a way to turn this around.”

Here are three takeaways from Saturday’s game — and what it could mean for the upcoming four-game homestand.

1. Can the Blackhawks be pressing too much and be too passive at the same time?

Jonathan Toews noted Friday that shiftmates are “oversupporting” at times and at other times “not supporting enough.”

The Hawks appear lost on defense sometimes and too aggressive on offense — which again puts them on their heels on defense.

Asked whether the team might be pressing, Kane replied, “Yeah, maybe.”

“Once you lose a couple — and now it’s three in a row — it’s all of a sudden like you want to get to the next game and try to make sure you get a win the next game,” he said. “I think we’ve been thinking about that the last two games as well.

“I don’t want to say the pressure’s building, but if we relax, play our game, look at the team we have in there — we have a lot better team than we’ve had in the past couple years — we should have a lot of success.”

Coach Jeremy Colliton added, “It’s been the starts that have kind of dented our swagger.”

The team was off Sunday, likely will practice Monday and will host the Islanders in the United Center opener Tuesday.

“So we’ve got a day to regroup, and then we have to prepare really well and come out with a ton of energy and make sure we’re sharp from puck drop and I think we can get some momentum going,” Colliton said.

2. The Hawks aren’t the only ones going through a slow ramp-up. Patrick Kane says he is too.

Mind you, this is the same Kane who had a goal and an assist Saturday against the Penguins and two assists against the Devils.

“I felt better as each game has (gone) on,” Kane said. “Sometimes the start of the season is a little weird. I’ve never been a great preseason or training camp player.

“For whatever reason, I kind of feel out the games. I’ve probably got to dictate it a little bit more and take over at certain times.”

He has an undisclosed injury that he has dealt with for some time.

Colliton noted after the Devils game Friday that Kane wasn’t quite himself.

“He can play better for sure, but he’s also a guy that can make a difference in the game, made some pretty nice plays at time and that’s what he gives us.”

3. In several ways, the Hawks look like a contradiction of who they’re supposed to be on paper.

The Hawks added three defensemen and were ranked fifth from the bottom in goals against per game (4.33) heading into Sunday.

It’s a more veteran team than last season, but it has been prone to mental lapses.

The team is deeper on paper, but “I’m not sure we’ve shown it quite yet,” Colliton said.

Most alarming is that the Hawks have been preaching since last season about being ready to play from the puck drop, and they’ve shown the opposite of that.

“It’s a fair question and something we have to figure out,” Kane said about the team’s readiness. “It’s almost like you get behind the eight-ball a little bit and then all of a sudden you maybe start tensing up and trying to force things because you’re playing catch-up and then things just kind of pile on and get worse.”

Here is more coverage from the 5-2 loss.

There couldn’t have been a more nightmarish homecoming for Marc-André Fleury on Saturday in a 5-2 loss to Pittsburgh Penguins if it were scripted for a Halloween horror movie.

The Chicago Blackhawks goalie gave up four goals in the first 11 minutes, 35 seconds against his former team, with whom he won three Stanley Cups, and he was pulled for Kevin Lankinen.

“Yeah, it’s not something you want to do, but as a team we’ve got to be better to protect our goalies, and ultimately we know he’s going to be a big part of ourselves,” coach Jeremy Colliton said.

Defenseman Connor Murphy said the skaters need to string together better shifts “and not leave our goalies hanging out like we did.”

“Poor Flower,” Murphy said. “The guy’s an All-Star and we just leave him two of those games with those great opportunities right off the bat. He deserves a lot better from us.”

Lankinen gave up a fifth goal and finished with 15 saves.

The Hawks have been haunted by allowing quick goals to opponents to start the game, but they outdid themselves Saturday at PPG Paints Arena.

A night after the New Jersey Devils scored on Lankinen 17 seconds into the game, the Penguins’ Teddy Blueger topped it by stunning Fleury after only 15 seconds.

Teddy Blueger or Freddy Krueger, who can tell? But the blame is not not all on the goalies.

The Hawks have a real problem on their hands with their inability to handle counterattacks. When Hawks offensive shifts don’t work out, too many of them quickly have turned into opposing odd-man rushes.

Here’s how it has broken down:

  • Game 1 at Colorado (Wednesday): Fleury allowed two goals in a 1-minute, 22-second span and three within five minutes in the first period in the season-opening 4-2 loss to the Avalanche. The first goal came about 4½ minutes into the game as a result of a coverage breakdown that left Jack Johnson wide open on his goal.

  • Game 2 at New Jersey (Friday): Jesper Bratt outworked the Hawks as they tried to get the puck out of their zone, then Pavel Zach fed Dougie Hamilton for a one-timer to beat Lankinen. The Devils won 4-3 in overtime.

  • Game 3 at Pittsburgh (Saturday): After Blueger’s goal, Drew O’Connor scored off a Hawks miscue. Fleury went behind the net to get the puck, but it was outside the trapezoid where he’s restricted. Erik Gustafsson went to the opposite side, so Fleury had to wait for it to cross into his area to play it, spelling disaster. O’Connor assisted on Brock McGinn’s goal with 9:01 left in the first, and Danton Heinen padded the lead 1:26 later. Jason Zucker scored the Pens’ fifth goal in the second, this time with Lankinen in net.

“It’s tough to generalize,” Colliton said. “Each situation was different.

“If you go through it goal by goal, it’s pretty easy to break it down. I’m not going to do that here. But it’s well within our reach to have more consistent, complete performances, and if we do that, we’ve got the quality to be a very good team.”

Murphy said the Hawks could improve in several areas but “the odd-man rushes are not good.”

“Whether it’s us making poor puck decisions or not getting on top of their players coming out of their end and them having speed and more numbers than us back or sorting issues,” he said. “So there’s different things for different plays, but it’s consistency that we need in how we know how to play.”

Patrick Kane acknowledged that from three games the Hawks have had “tough starts to the game, and it’s not easy in this league to play catch-up. It’s something we obviously have to be ready for and be better at, are the starts.“

He pointed to the season opener in Colorado on Wednesday as contributing to their problems, followed by a 1,600-mile flight from Denver to Newark, N.J., that shifted their body clocks from Mountain to Eastern time.

“That’s like, that’s a tough schedule to open the season,” Kane said. “You’re playing three home openers starting against one of the best teams in the league that’s been training at altitude for their whole training camp, you get a day off, that’s a travel day, you lose two hours. I’m not trying to make excuses. We obviously have to be better.”

The Hawks were outshot 13-3 in the first period Saturday and didn’t register their first shot on goal until almost 9½ minutes in.

Kane scored his first goal of the season, assisted by Seth Jones and Alex DeBrincat, with five minutes left in the second period.

Kirby Dach also scored for the second straight game with a backdoor shot past Tristan Jarry with 4:03 left in the game.