Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM
ANAHEIM, Calif. — One more game tonight, and the Blackhawks are at the halfway point of their season. The best way to describe the first half would be as a rickety roller-coaster ride with — amazingly — more rises than falls.
But all the falls are hard to take.
After a 2-1 loss Sunday night against the Anaheim Ducks, the Hawks are 11th in the Western Conference with just 43 points in 40 games. The defending champions have a lot of work to do.
“There are certain points where there is a point of emphasis of where we’re at and where we need to go, whether it’s defining a little trip or it’s a stretch of games where all of a sudden you can feel it turning in a positive way,” coach Joel Quenne-ville said.
“A couple times this year, we looked like we started heading in that direction that could have been a defining moment. Then all of sudden we stub our toe.”
The Hawks must have swollen feet by now. They’ve followed up an impressive four-game winning streak — which included victories over playoff teams in the Detroit Red Wings, Los Angeles Kings and Nashville Predators — with a three-game losing streak.
“It’s tough,” defenseman Brian Campbell said. “It’s not easy to win in this league. It’s a battle. It’s frustrating not coming up with any points in the last three games.”
It was frustrating Sunday because the Hawks didn’t wake up until the third period. Jonas Hiller thwarted a furious Hawks rally, making 19 of his 39 saves in the final period. The Hawks dominated the third and had all sorts of chances to tie a 2-1 game, but they needed to play like that for the first 40 minutes.
“You play like that in the third, you get rewarded,” Quenneville said. “But that’s the way we have to start games and [how we have] to play throughout games.”
Corey Crawford (16 saves) still needed to rescue the Hawks on multiple occasions, including a stop on Teemu Selanne on his third-period penalty shot after he was tripped by Patrick Kane.
Jack Skille and Viktor Stalberg both had chances to tie it in the third, but Skille was robbed by Hiller and Stalberg’s open-net shot deflected off Dave Bolland’s stick.
They were just more signs that bounces aren’t going the Hawks’ way right now. But good teams, players often say, make the bounces go their way.
“It’s how it is right now,” Stalberg said.
“We try that a million more times, it probably goes straight in the net. It’s probably one of those plays where it’s just bad luck it doesn’t go in.”
Andreas Lilja and Corey Perry scored for the Ducks as the Hawks failed to clear pucks and didn’t look too sharp on defense in the first two periods. Without captain Jonathan Toews, they were dominated in the faceoff circle Sunday, winning a meager 36 percent of their draws.
Hawks winger Bryan Bickell was credited with his 11th goal of the season after a power play just ended, but only after Hiller stopped his initial attempt and then knocked the puck in with his stick.
The last thing the Hawks want is to fight for their playoff lives down the stretch. But they appear to be in for it now.
“It’s the point basically at the half-mile stretch,” Quenneville said. “We know it’s going to be an amazing race to the end. We don’t want to be in life and death in the last 10 games of the year. I know we’ll be fighting for something right to the end, but certainly let’s put ourselves in a different position than we’re in today.”