It took 50 games for Blackhawks coach Denis Savard to let his frustrations boil over during this roller-coaster season, but when they did he didn't hold back.
A livid Savard called out his players, vowed to hold some of them accountable for their efforts and threatened to go to management to make changes following the Hawks' 1-0 defeat to the Columbus Blue Jackets at the United Center on Thursday night. The defeat left the Hawks stumbling into the All-Star break with a two-game losing streak and a 23-23-4 record.
"Rocky [Wirtz] and John [McDonough's] and Dale [Tallon's] message is pretty clear: We're here to win the Stanley Cup. If they want to play like that we aren't going to win the Stanley Cup."
With the All-Star break beginning Friday, Savard won't be able to send his message to the players on the ice during a practice until Monday after 2 p.m.
"Last time I checked some guys got pretty nice money, nice contracts," Savard said. "This is a classy organization here and we won't accept it. It doesn't matter how skilled you are, you have to want to battle, period. You don't want to battle you won't play here."
While Savard wouldn't name specific players, Martin Havlat, Robert Lang and Tuomo Ruutu are among players who have signed large contracts but failed to produce Thursday night and would seem to fit the description.
The Hawks were stifled by Columbus goaltender Pascal Leclaire, who made 30 saves to record his eighth shutout of the season and ninth in his career before a crowd of 16,094.
Crystal Lake native Jared Boll gave Columbus all the offense it needed when he scored at the 7-minute-20-second mark of the second period. Boll redirected a shot by Ole-Kristian Tollefsen past Hawks goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin for his fifth goal of the season.
Khabibulin was starting for the first time in five games and made 26 saves but lost his eighth consecutive game. Still, Savard's post-game tirade overshadowed the events during the game.
"You have to pay a price," Savard said. "Some guys won't chip pucks in deep because they don't want to go get it. They don't want to get hit. You have to get a cut on your face to get rewarded at the end of the night. You don't want to do it, you're not going to win. You're going to win a game here and there like we're doing right now. When games like this are on the line you have to step up. If you get cut, too bad. It's the way it is. If you go into that locker room there's nobody wearing an ice pack or having stitches getting done. None of them.
"You have to want it," Savard said. "To gain an inch in this league you have to want to do it. You have to want to work. It's going to be tough, you might get a cut, you might get bruised. So what? Last time I checked they're getting pretty good money to do it. They're going to hear it when they come back."
Blue Jackets 1, Blackhawks 0