This editorial will appear in tonight’s edition of The Committed Indian, which is published by Sam Fels of Second City Hockey. Help the poor guy eat and purchase a copy for $3 outside the United Center, or sign up for a subscription at SCH.
Well, I hope you enjoy tonight, because the Blackhawks won’t be skating on the United Center ice until Feb. 3.
That’s right, it’s back to the road for eight games. The Circus Trip? Peanuts compared to this. The cluster of games over the next three weeks isn’t just an early season annual trip that rears its ugly face at the same time every season. It’s a late holiday gift from the NHL schedule makers, who also penciled in the Blackhawks for a league-high 20 back-to-back game nights. Very pleasant.
I understand in an Olympic year back-to-backs, long homestands and difficult road stretches are invitable to make up for the two-week break. But for a team with the best home record in the league and coming off a drink-until-you-forget-it road loss in Minnesota, this trip isn’t exactly presenting itself at an opportune time.
Not only was the Minnesota loss a complete collapse that once again have the meatheads shouting for Cristobal Huet to be tarred and feathered and hung from the Michael Jordan statue, but it so obviously hung over the Blackhawks during Sunday’s game against Anaheim. Most everyone felt the ‘Hawks would come out with a swagger after Saturday’s loss, but it was quite different. They may have dominated the game on paper, but a hot goaltender and a lack of extremely quality chances mounted the frustration. You could see it.
It doesn’t get any easier tonight with Columbus, which took the ‘Hawks to a shootout the last time it was in town. Then, it’s to the road again.
Columbus awaits again Saturday after tonight’s tilt and a travel day, and Detroit isn’t exactly the Grand Rapids Griffins anymore, though they are struggling to even get into the playoff picture. Still, it’s Joe Louis Arena. The ‘Hawks never seem to like it there.
Calgary won’t be spotting any four-goal leads in its building, and the pending physical contest with Vancouver isn’t exactly a day at the park — especially since this will be the first time the ‘Hawks have seen the Canucks since Willie Mitchell laid out Captain Marvel at the United Center.
If you believe San Jose is going to let a repeat happen of The Day Before Thanksgiving Massacre in its tank, think again. The Sharks already got some revenge by beating the Blackhawks at the UC, but it’s not enough to them by any means. Patrick Marleau, Dany Heatley and Joe Thornton continue to rack up goals and points at a torrid pace. It’s not going to be nearly the same as it was back in November.
Ottawa, Carolina and a ‘Bulin Wall-less Edmonton are the most winnable games on the trip. Of 16 possible points on the trip, I would be happy coming home with eight or nine — these three games, plus stealing another one. With the way the ‘Hawks have played the last two games, I’m not going to be greedy and expect more.
Might I be a bit more optimistic had this past weekend played out differently? Probably, but I’m a pessimistic S.O.B when it comes to the Blackhawks. I had all last decade to practice that.
Nonetheless, this trip will end with us fans thinking one of two things. If the ‘Hawks go nuts and steal six of eight or seven of eight games on the trip, we’ll forget the Minnesota and Anaheim debacles ever happened and be back to unconditionally loving this Blackhawks team, once again discussing what Kaner will do with the Stanley Cup on his day.
If the Blackhawks come home after taking six points or less, that Minnesota game will be viewed as the turning point of a season we once felt would assuredly take us into June. We kept being told not to panic, and Mike Kiley sarcastically referred to last weekend as Armageddon. But if the ‘Hawks flop on this trip, Blackhawks fans will be doing more drinking than normal — and that’s a difficult feat to accomplish.
Despite all the Blackhawks’ success, there’s still plenty of season to be played and many tough teams to face. We may have gotten a tad too giddy seeing a franchise so dormant for so long start to play like we’ve been dying them to play. I’ve said before, I’m not panicking by any means. But my pessimism isn’t exactly unwarranted.
This road trip is a nice test for a team that hasn’t been tested much all season. We’ll see how all of us fans feel when they return.