Want me to spare you the details? OK, how about I just make it quick and to the point. The Blackhawks are playing like they replaced their skate blades with Bic one-use razors and their hearts with well-packed snowballs, a la Franklin Delano Romanowksi. They look like Kramer begging for 100 percent anti-drop dead protection, and I’m not ready to grant it.
I’ve refused to let panic set in, but the eternal optimism around Chicago is nearly mind-boggling and bordering on the ridiculous. The constant comparisons to last season’s Blackhawks are starting to get insanely annoying. We’re watching a different Blackhawks team with higher expectations and new problems at positions which feature different players. Part of me loves the optimism, but most of me would rather see realism.
What’s real? The Blackhawks need to start playing better — fast. Jonathan Toews needs to flash that ‘C’ on his chest more than ever in the face of a slump which has seen the Blackhawks lose six of eight games — including back-to-back debacles against the lowly Columbus Blue Jackets.
We’ve heard about a players-only meeting which seemed to accomplish about as much as what my cat leaves in the litter box. We’ve read all the PR-savvy quotes from the ‘Hawks regarding their recent sub-par play and how it needs to improve and how they’re going to turn it around and get it right before the playoffs.
Frankly, I’m tired of it. I want to see results. I can tell you up and down all day long that I’m an astronaut, but I’ll bet you’ll want to see me in a space suit counting back from 10 before you believe me. And the way things have been going lately, I would believe the Blackhawks are more qualified for space travel than they are for one of the top two seeds in the West.
So, what does Coach Q-Stache do before the ‘Hawks embark on a three-game road trip? He shuffles the lines — again. This is now Q-Stache’s most annoying trend as a coach. Us fans continue to be told not to panic over a late-season slump. Now, you tell me how that’s possible when the coach — with a history of great regular-season teams and playoff pretenders — seems to be panicking the most. The constant line jumbling provides nothing but confusion and a lack of cohesiveness, and what’s more is that it shows on the ice.
Tell me, what in the name of all that is holy is Kris Versteeg going to do at center between Dustin Byfuglien and Patrick Kane? Kane needs the puck, Versteeg never gives it up. How is this conducive to winning hockey games? Not only that, Byfuglien has been playing D with Kim Johnsson being scratched for what I can only deem to be “lack of breathing,” because the Blackhawks haven’t said a damn thing about him. So, let’s put our top scorer on a line with a basket case who refuses to pass the puck to anyone but himself and a forward who hasn’t done much of anything offensively of late. I don’t see the logic.
Great teams play through slumps with the mentality of restoring the effort which made them great in the first place. Furthermore, a great coach has the confidence in his team to let his players find their way back without making drastic changes with eight games left in the regular season. I don’t see any semblance of either fact coming to fruition.
Meanwhile, the Blues are salivating over a depleted Blackhawks team with a flustered coach coming to town. Throw out the records and playoff seeding and whatever other intangible you can think of — the rivalry takes precedence. If anyone believes the ‘Hawks won’t get St. Louis’ best effort tonight, then you can join the rest of the optimistic ‘Hawks fans in Never-Never Land. Tonight will be a rough, physical battle much like the previous games between these two teams. But now, the ‘Hawks are short-handed and the Blues will take full advantage.
Tonight begins a three-game stretch in which the ‘Hawks need to get off on the right foot toward restoring the mid-season form which had Chicago wanting to take an early sip from the Stanley Cup.
I’m not panicking. Hopefully Q-Stache isn’t either.