After losing just once in regulation during the preseason, the Blackhawks were victims of "stage fright" in a 4-2 defeat against the New York Rangers and blew a lead at the Washington Capitals, going on to lose another 4-2 decision.
After tallying an assist and going plus-one in his Blackhawks debut, Campbell was victimized twice by Alexander Ovechkin and generally outplayed by the Capitals forwards. It wasn't a good weekend for the Chicago's $56.8 million-dollar defenseman, or for the promising young team as a whole.
"You have to be a good road team in this league, and you don't want to start the season by going 0-2," said Campbell, whose Blackhawks are scheduled to make their home debut tonight against the Nashville Predators. "We're playing a hell of a lot better, but we're still not there."
Critics of Campbell's massive free agent contract have pointed to the fact that his defense is far too underwhelming to warrant elite status. On Ovechkin's first goal, Campbell skated over to take him one-on-one, attempting to poke check the puck away; Ovechkin didn't break stride, shot the puck through Campbell and tied the game at 2-2. Campbell couldn't help clear traffic in front of Nikolai Khabibulin on the Capitals' tie-breaking goal; later, he was victimized once more by Ovechkin for the fourth Washington tally.
A defenseman getting schooled by Alex Ovechkin is like a hitter being struck out by vintage Randy Johnson or Nolan Ryan: There's absolutely no shame in it happening, but there are adjustments that can be made to prevent it.
"You need help, you know?" said Campbell. "Especially when he cuts inside. You need back-check, and support. He's shifty. He gets his shot away quick.
"You can't defend him there with one guy. Especially when he cuts through the middle; [you have to] gap up on him. You need help from forwards."
The help didn't come defensively for Campbell; more surprising was that it hasn't been there on the power play for him, either.
If there was one facet of the Blackhawks' game that Campbell was expected to dramatically improve, it was the man advantage, which was 24th in the league last season. Yet Chicago is 0-for-8 to start the campaign, and looked baffled in going 0-for-5 against the Capitals.
"We just have to be hungrier. We're not moving our feet, supporting each other," said center Jonathan Toews.
He said the Blackhawks had plenty of success on the power-play during the preseason. But teams are challenging more, and Chicago's over-thinking things.
"It's not always going to be perfect. It's not always going to be the plays that you draw up in practice," he said.
Of course, jump-starting that power-play would seem easier with a veteran like Campbell patrolling the point. He had 33 power-play points last season between the Buffalo Sabres and the San Jose Sharks.
Against Washington, the Blackhawks would frequently shift their players with the man advantage until Campbell was alone at the top of the "umbrella." He said he's as comfortable as the lone man on the point as he is with a partner on the blue line. Campbell said it's just a matter of converting chances, which is something Chicago obviously hasn't been able to do (although a goal post did prevent a power-play goal in D.C.).
"It's not ready yet," said Campbell. "There's still stuff to be worked out. We had chances in both games, and you gotta capitalize on those."
Perhaps they'll start capitalizing tonight, as the Windy City welcomes them home.