Feb 22, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks left wing Brandon Saad (20) passes the puck during the third period against the Boston Bruins at the United Center. Boston won 6-2. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
2. Special Teams is taking a turn for the worse. We all know that the Chicago Blackhawks power play has struggled all season. Nothing has changed in the last two games. They were 0-for-2 on the PP against the Avs, and 1-for-4 against the Bruins.
A solid power play not only keeps a team in the game with scoring or the threat to score, but it deters the opponent from committing penalties against you. I would argue that a good power play is more of a deterrent to the opponent than enforcer players like Carcillo. Regardless, the Hawks don’t have much going on in either area right now.
Even more alarming than the power play is the recent turn of events on the penalty kill. The Chicago Blackhawks went from being the best in the league on the penalty kill 2 games ago, to being third in the league after Sunday’s game, at 86 percent.
The reason for this is that the Hawks gave up 2 power play goals (out of 3 chances) to Colorado on Friday, and another 2 (out of 4 chances) to Boston on Sunday. What used to be their strength is now, well, not.
Usually good teams excel either on the power play or the penalty kill, or both. If the Hawks are going to turn things around, rejuvenating the penalty kill would be a good place to start.
1. Where is the hunger? I would say this is the most concerning thing for me right now (hence the number 1 at the front of the question). The Hawks are 10-10-3 since the beginning of the new year. They are 2-2-3 on this most recent homestand, with one game to go against the Florida Panthers on Tuesday. This is not the record a contending Stanley Cup team is supposed to be generating.
But it’s the players and coaches attitudes about all this that is cause for alarm. They seem to be going through the motions. They don’t appear to care. Jonathan Toews seemed to be a little angry after the Colorado loss, but after the Boston loss he was like a robot, saying all the right things, but without any real emotion.
Even Coach Quenneville comes off as kind of lackadaisical. I’ve seen post-game interviews where he’s got that look of fire in his eyes, and he’s clenching and unclenching the podium. You can practically see the steam coming out of his nostrils.
In last night’s press conference, there was none of that from Coach Q. Like Toews, he said the right things, but the emotion to go with it was lacking. Do these guys know something we don’t know? Are they just putting up a good front for the media and the fans? Or have they given up?
We were visiting my brother-in- law on Friday, and he made a good point. He remembered that the Hawks did this same thing last year, where they limped into their third place spot in the playoffs. When you’re in third place in the standings, the end of the season doesn’t have to be the time to dominate. Yes, it’s a time to win some and keep your spot in the standings secure. But it’s also a time to keep everyone healthy and relatively rested up for when it really matters. And perhaps it’s a time to experiment with lines and defensive pairings as well.
There is some light at the end of the tunnel. Both St. Louis and Winnipeg lost on Saturday night. Winnipeg lost in OT, so they gained a point, but they’re still 4 points behind the Blackhawks at 71 points, and with a game in hand. Nashville got a point on Saturday and won on Sunday, but let’s face it; the Hawks aren’t going to catch them (87 points to Chicago’s 75).
The Chicago Blackhawks next match up is against the Florida Panthers on Tuesday night. This will be their last game of their homestand. They have to turn it around at some point, right? Let’s keep our fingers crossed and hope for a win!
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