In hockey, coaches and players often talk about playing a 60-minute game.
The Chicago Blackhawks and Vancouver Canucks, who will meet Thursday night in Chicago, aren’t quite there yet.
The Blackhawks dropped to 0-3-1 Tuesday with a 4-1 loss in their home opener against the New York Islanders.
MacKenzie Entwistle prevented the Blackhawks from being shut out by scoring in the final minute.
“We still have to, as a team, hold on to the good parts and build on it and understand that when you’re not very good for the first three games, don’t expect to just turn it on and play well and get the result and the bounces,” Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said. “It’s just never how it works. That’s what happened (Tuesday).”
The Blackhawks did show some promising signs.
After putting just 17 first-period shots on net combined through their first three games, they amassed 18 in the opening frame against the Islanders. And Chicago trailed just 1-0 through two periods before New York pulled away.
“The result is secondary to how we play,” Chicago coach Jeremy Colliton said. “I think certainly the first two periods, we played pretty good and we didn’t score. We had our chances. I thought we were pretty good defensively, managed the game well … I’m not saying we were a perfect team, but it was a much better performance and one that, if we can repeat and build on, it’ll lead to points.”
Blackhawks players tried to look on the bright side of their dark start.
“I think we competed hard tonight, but we kind of found a way to get away from our game for 15, 10 minutes and they seemed to capitalize on those opportunities,” forward Kirby Dach said. “It’s kind of the same story over and over. We’ve got to find a way to fix that and play a full 60, and I think we’ll be all right.”
Added defenseman Seth Jones: “We have to look at the positives here. We played 50-something minutes of good hockey. … We need to get in the win column here on Thursday.”
The Canucks also have struggled, their lone win in their first four games coming in a 5-4 shootout at Philadelphia on Friday.
Vancouver lost 5-2 Tuesday at Buffalo despite 38 saves by Thatcher Demko.
“We didn’t play good enough to win; that’s how I’d diagnose it,” Vancouver coach Travis Green said. “That’s a fast team over there. I thought that we struggled with their speed a little bit at times. And usually when you struggle with a team’s speed, it’s because you are not very good with the puck. I just don’t think we were good enough to win.”
Bo Horvat and Justin Dowling scored for the Canucks, who played without defenseman Quinn Hughes because of an undisclosed injury.
“I think essentially what led to the goals, us not executing, us not moving our feet,” Dowling said. “That’s not our game. Our game is what was going on in the first 10 minutes of the first period. Just a mentality, it’s a mindset. We’ve got to learn how to keep that going for 60 minutes.”