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Without consistent effort, Hawks aren't a very good team 

Jonathan Toews Blackhawks didn't exactly take their game against Coyotes lying down but there were times it seemed like it.

Jonathan Toews and the Blackhawks didn't exactly take their game against the Coyotes lying down, but there were times it seemed like it. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: May 9, 2012 10:04AM



A letdown after a long road trip?

Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp and Duncan Keith weren’t buying it when they met the media after getting handled by the Phoenix Coyotes.

Sure, it’s tough to feel ready after being gone for so long. But the Hawks are 6-1 in their first game back at the United Center after the circus trip since the lockout. The Hawks also are a solid 4-1-1 in the first home game after the ice-show trip in February.

It’s about focus and effort — or a lack thereof Tuesday in the 4-1 loss against the Coyotes. The fast and star-studded Hawks are one of the best teams in the league when they bring it. Even when they’re not playing their best, as Jonathan Toews often says, when they work hard, good bounces come their way.

The Hawks talked the other day about still being a team in search of an identity. What’s wrong with being a hard-working team every night? Wasn’t that their mantra the season they won the Stanley Cup? It seems to work for starless teams such as the Coyotes.

Instead, the Hawks have retained some bad habits from last season, where inconsistency reigned. They’re an uninspiring 6-6 in their last 12 games.

Tuesday’s loss was another bad regulation defeat for the Hawks in what continues to be a disheartening trend.

In their eight regulation defeats, the Hawks have been outscored 33-8. Their season-opening 2-1 defeat against the Dallas Stars and their 1-0 loss to the San Jose Sharks during the circus trip are the “bright spots.”

“We were playing well there at the end of the California trip, and obviously didn’t carry it over to home ice,” Sharp said. “We’ve got to be way more consistent and put a better effort on home ice than that. I think [the first game back after a long road trip is] an excuse, an easy way out.”

The Hawks didn’t get a power-play opportunity until the final minutes of the third period against the Coyotes.

“You generate power-play opportunities based on offensive-zone time, puck possession, speed, quickness, advantages,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “There were few [examples].”

Fans calling for some sort of bag skate to spur the Hawks will have to wait. They were given the day off Wednesday as Quenneville continues to stick to the team’s schedule. He also prefers to put the Hawks through various battle drills after such losses.

The Hawks do have some positives to lean on. Their power play has converted in seven of the last 10 games. Their penalty-kill ranking is awful, but they’re also one of the least penalized teams. They’re among the top five in shots per game, averaging more than 33.

But there also are such negatives as their pedestrian plus-2 goal differential. Their high position in the Western Conference also is based more on the fact that they’ve played more than any team in the West going into Wednesday.

In a day or two, the Hawks could be lumped among the pack.

“You say we’re at the top, but there are so many teams all within one, two or three points,” Quenneville said. “It’s already looking like it’s going to be a tight race.”



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