DALLAS—If there is a positive to be taken out of the carnage that was the Blackhawks' outing against the Stars on Friday night, it's that perhaps they have nowhere to go but up.
Of course, it's also entirely possible that the Hawks have found their level and will spend the remaining 68 games playing out the string.
"I'll accept responsibility because we weren't ready to play from the start," said Hawks coach Trent Yawney, once again falling on the grenade for an underachieving team.
"I could sense it from the start and I tried to get through to them, but it didn't work," Yawney said. "My job is to prepare the team and I didn't have them prepared."
The Hawks were outshot 18-6 while falling behind 4-0 in the first periodat one point being outshot 15-1which meant exit time for goalie Nikolai Khabibulin less than 15 minutes in.
The Stars were much more economical in the second, needing just nine shots to put up four more goals against Craig Anderson.
The wheels came off early.
Continuing a pattern in which he gives up a soft goal in nearly every game, Khabibulin failed to control a rebound on an innocent shot by Sammy Kapanen.
Stu Barnes beat Jaroslav Spacek to the loose puck and flipped a backhand past Khabibulin 91 seconds into the game.
It was the first of Barnes' three goals, his first hat trick since 1998.
The Hawks managed to keep the deficit at one until the 10:20 mark, when Bill Guerin redirected a shot from Phillipe Boucher past Khabibulin.
The goal came on the Stars' 15th shot of the period. The Hawks had one shot.
"The mistakes we were making early were mental mistakes," Yawney said. "That shows me it was a lack of preparation."
The Hawks' sole chance to make a game of it came while short-handed. Matthew Barnaby took a perfect feed from Matt Ellison but was beaten by Dallas goalie Marty Turco, who ran his career mark against the Hawks to 8-0-1.
Just 45 seconds after Turco's save, Jere Lehtinen was left alone in the slot for a power-play goal to make it 3-0 and keep the Hawks 'perfect' while short-handed.
They've given up at least one power-play goal in all 14 games this season.
A turnover by Kyle Calder led to Brendan Morrow being left alone in front of Khabibulin after another 45 seconds to make it 4-0 and end Khabibulin's night.
Anderson didn't fare much better.
"There are a lot of words you can choose for this one," Hawks captain Adrian Aucoin said. "That's about as bad as we can get."
With 68 games remaining, they'd better hope it was.