In the Blackhawks’ video review session on Thursday, coach Luke Richardson did not originally plan to include clips of two costly mistakes by Jonathan Toews that led to the Oilers’ goals on Wednesday.
But Toews reached out to Richardson and asked him to include them after all.
“The [said he] he knows, ‘I’ve got to be better than that,’” Richardson said. “'[It] It doesn’t matter if I’m tired, I have to do the right reading there. [It] perhaps it could have been a different result. So he takes charge of that and takes responsibility, and that’s a good thing for players to see and know. It’s a good message for everyone.”
In addition to taking responsibility, Toews’ decision could also help other Hawks avoid making similar mistakes in the future by learning from Thursday’s session.
The errors relate to what Richardson calls “double pinching.” When a defender has reached the offensive zone (deeper than the blue line), the Hawks need a forward (their “F3”) to stay high around the blue line to cover him. If the F3 pushes too, the Hawks have only one man back to fend off counterattacks.
On the first play, Toews won a matchup in the offensive zone, but Hawks defenseman Caleb Jones and Oilers forward Jesse Puljujarvi reached for the puck at the same time and knocked each other down over the length of the draws, with Patrick Kane by his side.
Toews should have covered Jones, but instead he took a few steps into battle. Oilers defenseman Evan Bouchard took out the puck and threw Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Mattias Janmark in a two-on-one, with only Seth Jones trailing (and no Caleb Jones or Toews present). Marked Janmark.
On the second play, Hawks defenseman Jake McCabe skated to the attacking goal line to try to catch a pass from Toews, but lost the puck to Oilers defenseman Cody Ceci.
Once Kane’s follow-up attempt to retrieve the puck failed, Toews should have pulled out to cover for McCabe. But instead he also tried to keep the puck inside, allowing Oilers forward Zach Hyman to pass the puck and giving Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl a two-on-one with Seth Jones again as the lone Hawk. back. Draisaitl scored.
“When we’re aggressive with our ‘D,’ McCabe … doesn’t dive, he’s just in a hurry,” Richardson said. “[If] we have a striker covering up, that’s a different situation. [But if] we are not playing our positions, we have to play a little more cautiously. Not necessarily backing down, but holding out until we get back to our positions instead of diving back in.”
Added defenseman Connor Murphy: “It’s a tough play because guys want to stay aggressive. They don’t want to stray too far from the blue line and the offensive zone too quickly. You can’t blame the guys for wanting to be aggressive, but sometimes we have to be calculated.”
Overall it was a poor game for Toews’ new front line of Kane and Andreas Athanasiou, although they weren’t the only ones struggling. The Oilers produced a 9-2 lead in scoring chances and outscored the Hawks 3-0 during their five-on-five ice time.
However, after reviewing the ugly videos on occasion, Richardson wanted the rest of the Hawks’ Thursday to be less miserable.
So he asked Toews (and Kane) a favor in return: to make practice fun and lively. And despite an eight game losing streak and an overwhelming streak of road games against the Rangers, Islanders and Devils, they did it.
“This is a great place to be, so why not enjoy it?” Richardson said. “We are not happy in the position we are in, but we have to get out of it, [and] there’s no way to do that if we’re grumpy.”