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Blackhawks' effort ‘wasn't good enough at all' in loss to Wild

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Going into Friday, the Blackhawks sat eight points out of the final wildcard spot in the Western Conference with six teams to jump. Their playoff odds were in the low single digits, but you didn't have to tell them that.

"We're pretty well aware where we are in the standings," Jonathan Toews said before the game. "Every game has been pretty tough this year and I think it's only going to get harder. We've got to keep raising our game."

Yes, they do, because they're beginning an important stretch with seven games in 13 days leading into the NHL All-Star break. Five of those games are against Central Division opponents and six against teams in the West.

Well, the Blackhawks didn't get off to a good start on Friday after being routed 5-1 by the Minnesota Wild at the United Center. Chicago-area native and former Blackhawks forward Ryan Hartman led the way by scoring twice in the first period.

"We try to forget about each goal as the game goes on and we didn’t do a very good job of turning the page after a little bit of a slow start," Connor Murphy said. "It didn’t seem like we were ready to compete at the same level they were."

It's a frustrating effort and result for the Blackhawks, who stole a point in Seattle on Monday thanks to another terrific performance by Marc-Andre Fleury. The team chalked up that loss to COVID absences and travel, which may have been a valid excuse, but they didn't have one on Friday.

The last time the Blackhawks had two consecutive off days to rest and recharge, they answered with a 4-2 win in Columbus without Seth Jones and Jake McCabe. This time around, they were at full strength with Kirby Dach and Dylan Strome also returning from COVID-19 protocol but didn't respond accordingly.

"Anytime you lose like that at home it’s tough," Murphy echoed. "Doesn’t matter what time it is. We had a few days to regroup, a couple of days off to get our energy going and guys to get healthy. That’s on us players to make sure that we’re good pros and be able to have a few days and be able to come back even harder and hungrier right from the start of the game."

"I didn't expect that," echoed interim head coach Derek King. "I thought we'd come out jumping. We knew we were playing against a very good hockey team, and I thought we were up for the challenge. We had plenty of rest where we could practice. The puck dropped and that's why they're one of the best teams in the league. They come hard, win puck battles, and they're ready to play."

While it wasn't ideal that the Blackhawks gave up four goals on their first 13 shots — which led to Kevin Lankinen relieving Fleury in the second period — the offense remains an issue.

The Blackhawks recorded 36 shots on goal but generated just three total high-danger chances, according to Natural Stat Trick. That tied a season-low in a game this season.

The good news is, the Blackhawks will have a chance to respond with a better effort in less than 24 hours. The bad news is, it's against this same Wild team who are 12-3-1 at home.

"We've got to find it tomorrow and be ready to play," Dach said. "We just need a better effort from everybody. It wasn't good enough at all.

"Be ready at the start of puck drop. We were behind the eight-ball pretty quick. Playing a team like that, it's hard to find a way back when they shut it down defensively. Just got to be better."

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