Bad weekend? Holy living hell. Within 24 hours the Blackhawks dropped a heartbreaker with two seconds left in Philadelphia, squandered a three-goal, third-period lead at home and lost Brian Campbell for the rest of the regular season.
Please excuse me while I punt my cat.
Now, is it time to panic? That’s actually an interesting question.
My instinct says absolutely not. The Blackhawks have gone through a bad weekend before. They’ve blown leads and bounced back and lost a couple in a row before returning to the Blackhawks team we’ve been used to seeing the past two seasons. The goaltending of Cristobal Huet and Antti Niemi has been spotty, but they’ve managed. Injuries have hit the ‘Hawks pretty hard this season, namely playing months without Marian Hossa, Dave Bolland and Adam Burish, plus going a week without a concussed Jonathan Toews.
Despite all that, the ‘Hawks still sit in second place in the Western Conference — San Jose dropped both its games this weekend, also.
What’s the difference when all of that adversity is beginning to repeat itself now? A lot, actually.
Back in January, after blowing a four-goal, third-period lead at Minnesota and returning home to get dominated by the Anaheim Ducks, the Blackhawks had plenty of time to figure things out. Bolland was coming back to shore up a rotating second-line center position. Hossa was officially back in the groove and Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook were dominating the league defensively — along with some major offensive contributions as well.
But here we are, 14 games remaining in the regular season, and the Blackhawks have a shitload to figure out before the playoffs begin. The time just isn’t there to be having to figure out major issues, especially when the entire West will be gunning for them.
Defensive miscues by Troy Brouwer and Seabrook led to Chris Pronger’s back-breaking goal with two seconds remaining Saturday to beat the ‘Hawks. Then, with Washington playing without Alexander Ovechkin for two-plus periods, the Blackhawks once again failed to play a full 60, got out-shot 11-1 in the third period and allowed the Capitals quality scoring chances before losing in overtime.
What’s worse is fans have been clambering for goaltending to improve and blaming most of the ‘Hawks’ woes this season on Huet and Niemi. Well, the ‘Hawks wasted two great performances in net this weekend, one each from Huet and Niemi. If there was ever a time to prove to fans the goaltending isn’t the biggest problem, it was these past two games. In-zone turnovers, another 20-minute disappearing act and defensive lapses led to this weekend’s bed-shitting.
Adding injury to insult, Campbell took a nasty hit from Ovechkin which broke his collarbone and possibly some ribs and is expected to miss the rest of the regular season — maybe even the playoffs. For a defensive unit which at times has looked like they’re wearing slippers, the last thing the Blackhawks need to is lose a defenseman who has been nothing but solid this season.
I may not be panicking, but I’m sure as hell not relaxed — despite the fact the ‘Hawks were in a similar situation last season at this time and came out roaring all the way to the West Finals. Maybe I just keep telling myself not to take this weekend’s shit show too lightly, but in turn I could be overreacting.
I really think the injury to Campbell is more important than some may believe. Kim Johnsson and Niklas Hjalmarsson have 14 games to form a cohesive unit — all this with Johnsson banged up. Brent Sopel and Jordan Hendry are your third pair, with the newly acquired Nick Boynton most likely getting the call-up as the seventh D-man. With Seabrook playing blindfolded for the past month-plus, nothing I just mentioned here blows my skirt up.
In my opinion, the injury to Campbell is much more damning to the ‘Hawks chances than Hossa’s injury every was because of shear timing. Starting with this three-game West Coast swing, we’re going to see the repercussions of losing Campbell.
Hopefully it won’t be as bad as I think.