CHICAGO — Puck luck works both ways.
They built a three-goal lead in the third period of a road game against the Dallas Stars on Wednesday, then collapsed in epic fashion, giving up five unanswered goals in the final 10 minutes.
“We don’t like losing, like anybody,” Hawks coach Luke Richardson said. “But we find a lot of good things in our game the last three games.”
No one expected the Hawks to be a contender — the roster isn’t constructed to be one — but they did have a four-game winning streak early this season. They’re 2-8-4 since.
They’ve gone from a scrappy, ragtag bunch that could mount a rally to giving up rallies with increasing frequency. Earlier, even the losses looked like possible wins if a puck or two flipped in their favor.
Now it seems they periodically lose that punch, or if they do have a win in hand, it’s only a matter of time before they lose their grip.
“Last game, we just didn’t have energy the whole game,” Richardson said. “Every once in a while, it catches up to you in the season, and we found a way to play the system, play smart and grind out to get to overtime.”
Echoing a refrain all season, he said the team focuses on the positives and not the outcome.
“Beginning of the season, we had a little bit of puck luck,” Richardson said. “Guys were feeling good about themselves offensively, and at times in this stretch, there are guys who maybe have missed chances, hit the post or goalies have made a nice save.
“Then you start looking for a chance that’s not there instead of taking the ones that are, and that goes through everybody, through their career, offensive droughts. I think it’s gone through our team a little bit. It’s kind of moved around, and that’s normal.”
Even the wins have been marked by the unexpected, to put it kindly.
Sam Lafferty scored two short-handed goals against the San Jose Sharks on Nov. 15. Jason Dickinson scored against the Sharks in his first game as a Hawk, then scored the clincher against the Seattle Kraken on Nov. 23.
Jonathan Toews leads the Hawks with eight goals, a development no one saw coming.
“Early in the season it was different parts of the lineup picking up that slack,” Richardson said, “so Dickinson and Lafferty the first few games we got on the winning streak, then it moved around. (Patrick) Kane finally broke free and Toews was on a hot streak.
“Now we have to find a way that everybody contributes. … By this time of year, we should start hammering down the areas we really need to focus, but it’s hard to hammer it down when every night it’s a different thing.”
One thing to hammer down is where the offense comes from night in and night out.
Domi said his line has had “so many chances, and we’re right there and on the cusp of breaking out.”
“There’s just so much there to capitalize on,” he said. “Whether it’s (hitting) a post or fan on a shot here or miss a breakaway here, our line has been all over it.”
Overall, the Hawks problems “should be an easy fix,” Domi said.
“(It’s) just tiny little mistakes, but that’s what costs you,” he said. “I mean, it’s not always a lack of trying. It’s just, ‘Hey, what were we thinking there or there?’ … It’s not reinventing the wheel at all.”
Domi doesn’t worry about the team internalizing the losses.
“Everyone knows what’s going on and we all don’t want to lose,” he said. “No one wants to lose hockey games. It’s not fun. … If (a teammate is) not on board for whatever reason or makes a mistake and is down on himself, that’s on us with this group in the room. We’re not getting help from anywhere else.”
Richardson expressed similar sentiments.
“The coaching staff’s going to keep focusing on the style of play we think will help this team have success,” he said. “We’re not going to let someone stray out of that area just because they feel they have to press in a different area. We haven’t had that problem yet.
“I’m not sure what was here in the past, but right now it looks like a good, collective group and it’s easy to work with from a coaching standpoint. Until that changes, I don’t have any worry or any concern with this group moving forward.
“Winning or losing, I think we’re going to play the right way every night.”