With derision the Blackhawks deserved after sleepwalking through the first two periods of Sunday's 6-2 loss to the Bruins, the United Center crowd of 22,104 booed perhaps the worst performance witnessed all winter in this building.
And that's saying something considering the clunkers the Bulls have produced at home.
"Pretty embarrassing," Hawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson said.
No argument here. Two days after goalie Corey Crawford gave up his softest goal in memory against the Avalanche, the Hawks produced their most pathetic effort of the season against a Bruins team that wanted it more. Exactly 35 years after the Miracle on Ice, the Hawks delivered a hockey debacle all their own.
"Everything that could go wrong did," captain Jonathan Toews said after a longer-than-usual postgame meeting.
The marquee at 1901 W. Madison should have read: "The Blackhawks slept here." A national television audience watched the Hawks take a Sunday afternoon nap as the Bruins looked nothing like a team supposedly struggling. They chased Crawford in the second after taking a 4-1 lead, an understandable move by coach Joel Quenneville even if it created irrational reactions all over Chicago.
Before anybody pops a hamstring jumping to conclusions, the Hawks do not have a goaltender controversy. They won't spend the next month auditioning Crawford replacements, nor should they. If the Hawks win a Stanley Cup in June, still a realistic goal despite two straight ugly home losses, it will be with Crawford in net and not Antti Raanta, Scott Darling or a hero to be named later.
"I don't think I was happy with anybody today," Quenneville said.
Days earlier, Quenneville stood in the same spot and complimented Crawford for regaining the form he flashed before injuring himself in December and missing eight games. Quenneville called Crawford one of the NHL's top goalies. He didn't become one of the worst in a week.
Assigning too much blame on Crawford overlooks how anemic the defense has been in front of him. This is the five-alarm fire the Hawks should address — not the goalie. The Hawks need to toughen up defensively and strengthen the blue line as badly as they need the playoffs to arrive to sharpen their focus. Let Quenneville worry about focus; it's general manager Stan Bowman's job to provide a jolt that might help avoid this becoming a trend.
"We're not going to let these two games snowball for us," Toews vowed.
Along those lines, the Tribune report Saturday that the Hawks have interest in Hurricanes veteran defenseman Andrej Sekera makes more sense than other rumors for offense such as Flames forward Curtis Glencross, a lower priority. The shaky depth behind Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Hjalmarsson gives Bowman every reason to be aggressive before the March 2 trade deadline.
Johnny Oduya has not responded to his contract year. David Rundblad plays well in spurts but lacks playoff experience. Michal Rozsival possesses experience but endures too many flat-footed moments like Sunday's when he failed to stop Patrice Bergeron from scoring the Bruins' first goal.
The excitement that surrounds the pending return of rookie defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk resembles the buzz that surrounded injured Bears wide receiver Marquess Wilson, whose absence always was overstated. Can a team miss what it never had?
The scramble to solve the defensive issues inevitably will turn attention to Nick Leddy, the 23-year-old the Hawks traded to the Islanders last summer for prospects and free passes to the Statue of Liberty. The more Leddy thrives for the Islanders, a force in the Eastern Conference, the more you wonder if Bowman got rid of the wrong defenseman.
Sunday's embarrassment peaked when Hawks forward Daniel Carcillo and Bruins defenseman Adam McQuaid dropped the gloves and spent two awkward minutes trying to punch each other in the head with the NHL's blessing.
The only highlight for the Hawks came when Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara uncorked a slap shot once clocked at 108 mph and Hjalmarsson braced himself to block it. Hjalmarsson stood straight up, and when his right abdominal region absorbed Chara's shot, he went down as if hit by a bullet instead of a puck.
"I got lucky there," Hjalmarsson said. "A couple inches to the left and it could've been pretty bad."
He returned to the ice less than a minute later. As one of the NHL's toughest players proved yet again, it only hurts for a little bit. Sometimes things look worse than they are.
It's a message worth remembering about the Hawks as a whole with 22 regular-season games until the playoffs. This weekend was the equivalent of a Chara slap shot to the gut, but the agony figures not to linger, so accept it with a wince and work through the pain until it passes.
History says eventually it will.