DETROIT -- It was a busy day in the Motor City for Nashville Predators coach Barry Trotz on Friday.
Before his Predators completed a trade to bring in Hal Gill from the Montreal Canadiens in the afternoon, Trotz spent almost 20 minutes chatting with reporters following his team's morning skate at Joe Louis Arena. Among the various topics discussed was his opinion of what happened to their Central Division rival Chicago Blackhawks, who snapped a nine-game winless skid Thursday at Madison Square Garden with a 4-2 win against the New York Rangers.
Trotz said he believed the losing streak had made the Blackhawks "fragile," and then explained that he saw the Hawks start doing things that were uncharacteristic of them when they were winning and topped the League's standings as recently as late January.
"They're still a good team," Trotz said. “They’re still dangerous … a little bit fragile. What happens when you're struggling is you're fragile and you doubt and you also cheat all over the ice."
That "cheating" -- done by forwards looking to create good offensive chances by slipping behind an opposing defenseman unnoticed -- created too many situations where the Hawks' defense was left vulnerable without enough help from backchecking forwards.
"A lot of times offensive players will say, 'You know, if I just hang out here, a little higher, I'm going to get an offensive chance,'" Trotz said. "But what happens is you don't get an offensive chance because you wind up standing by the defensemen … where if you come back it will be deeper and you come back and help out, you get the puck and you create a little bit of that gap."
That gap largely has been missing for the Hawks when they had the puck the past couple of weeks, which is one of those little details that often goes unnoticed by the casual fan but can decide a game one way or the other.
"If you have no gap, then you have no speed and you're just sort of killing your own skills," Trotz said. "That's why I think Detroit does such a great job. The (Red Wings) play a 200-foot game and they force you to get up and gap up and force you to do all those detail things. Detail things are hard things that you have to do before you have a chance to win. If you're not doing them, then you're really limiting your chances."
Trotz said a number of Chicago's forwards, including Patrick Kane, simply weren't generating enough speed when skating with the puck, largely because they were "cheating" too much looking for breakaways and odd-man rushes.
Trotz's Predators were the team that extended Chicago's winless skid to nine games with a 3-2 victory in Nashville on Tuesday. The Hawks played better than they had in the previous six games of the current nine-game road swing they're finishing, but still showed some of the things Trotz mentioned Saturday.
"Kane had no speed, and thank God because when he gets rolling he's hard to stop," Trotz said. "I was actually happy that he was cheating. (Marian) Hossa was the one guy who was sort of playing a complete game and he ended up being the most dangerous guy all night … and (Jonathan) Toews was the real deal. He was really trying to will that team that night. Some of the other guys were cheating too much -- trying to do the right thing, but doing the wrong thing, if you know what I mean."
However, Trotz said he had a gut feeling things would turn around for the Hawks when they arrived in New York.
"I think they sort of hit rock bottom," Trotz said. "When you hit rock bottom, which I thought they did maybe the game before (ours), the hockey gods sort of test you -- and they give you maybe one more slap in the face, like, ‘Now do you get it?’ You know? So I thought the New York game would be sort of a breakout game. Maybe I should have bought some lottery tickets."
Trotz also said he thinks coach Joel Quenneville and his staff will get things corrected in short order and Chicago once again become one of the top teams in the division and Western Conference.
"They will be better off for having gone through it," Trotz said. "They've got a lot of good pieces. The defense is pretty good once you get (Niklas Hjalmarsson) back. They maybe want to get a little deeper (through trades). They've still got dynamic forwards and they've got good team speed and some good size. They've got a lot of the elements. Their goaltending seems to be a little bit of a bugaboo for them right now, but hopefully those guys get back on track."