Well, the Chicago Blackhawks have dropped two in a row. They were shut out 2-0 by the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday. Then on Thursday, they fell to the Dallas Stars 4-2 after allowing four goals in the first period. And to add insult to injury, both of these losses were on home ice.
While it may be easy to hit the panic button, the Hawks continue to exude confidence, and rightfully so. After all, it’s a long season. It’s February, and the Chicago Blackhawks have a record of 36-18-4. Their 76 points are second in the entire league, and they currently sit in first place in the Central Division.
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Yes, this last loss was especially tough, because it was a defeat handed down by the second place Dallas Stars, who also have three games in hand. This particular matchup constituted a four-point swing between the two teams.
But the Chicago Blackhawks know how to be even keel about these things. They don’t get too high when they win, nor too low when they lose. If we take a look at these last two games, there are many reasons not to worry.
First off, in the game against San Jose, things were completely thrown off kilter by Brandon Mashinter’s disallowed goal. It was the second goalie interference coach’s challenge that went against the Hawks in three games. It was simply very bad timing. Whether or not it should have been a goal will always be up for debate, but it was a tough pill to swallow, and it definitely gave the Sharks the momentum.
After that, all the San Jose needed to do was take advantage of their third best power play in the league for a score. Then goaltender Martin Jones was able to stand strong, and an empty net goal by the Sharks clinched it in the end.
Even so, the Hawks “won” a few aspects of the game. They outshot San Jose 33 to 27. They dominated the faceoff circle 61% to 39%. Yes, according to the high standards we fans hold the Chicago Blackhawks to, they looked sluggish and slow. But you also have to remember they were without a key player in Artemi Panarin, who has been out sick.
Speaking of which, it’s exciting and also little disconcerting to see how important Panarin is in the lineup. You don’t know what you have until it’s gone. Patrick Kane and Panarin have incredible chemistry. Nobody else seems to be able to match that.
Teuvo Teravainen filled in for Panarin on the left wing of the second line for much of the Sharks matchup. There were many times when Kane passed to him, and it was obvious he just simply wasn’t where Kane thought he would be. Or in other words, he wasn’t where Panarin would be. I’m sure this affected Teuvo’s confidence, as he looked unsure of himself for most of the game. He didn’t have any spark or energy.
Richard Panik was given a trial run at that spot for some of the Sharks game and most of the Stars game. But he didn’t fare much better. It wasn’t until Kane and Jonathan Toews were put on the same line in the third period of the Stars tilt that things started to swing the right way for the Chicago Blackhawks.
The good news is that this was only two games, and the Hawks are usually able to adjust offensively when they lose a member of the lineup. The better news is that Panarin is sick, not injured, and he should be back playing very soon.
Another thing that rubbed me the wrong way is the fact that Rob Scuderi suited up for last night’s game. Michal Rozsival was coming off of two very strong games in a row. Why not ride the hot hand? I understand that Rozy is older and needs his maintenance time. But to put Scuderi in against the speedy Stars? Ugh!
The Dallas Stars were hungry after they were defeated 5-1 in their own building last Saturday by the Chicago Blackhawks. They came out of the gates ready to go last night, and scored four unanswered goals in the first period. Quite frankly, the Hawks weren’t prepared.
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Hey, at least Corey Crawford got the second and third period off. Meanwhile, Scott Darling picked up some quality time, and gained confidence by not allowing a goal for the rest of the game. It was pretty amazing to see the push that the Hawks put forward in the third. They scored twice, and generated 21 shots on goal to the Stars 2. If one or two more of those chances went in, it could have been quite the comeback.
But that didn’t happen. And what does that mean? Two losses in a row, in a very long season. Let’s put it all in perspective folks.
When a reporter asked Kane why the team seems to either be really on fire or simply struggling this year, he got a tad bit defensive.
“I don’t know; we’ve had a pretty good season. There’s not too much to complain about right now. There’s going to ups and downs throughout the season…in the last two we’ve been in a little bit of a funk, but we’ll work ourselves out of it just like we always do, and come back ready to play Saturday.”
So there you have it. Onwards and hopefully upwards! The Chicago Blackhawks take on the Anaheim Ducks this Saturday, and I can guarantee you they will be focusing on that game, not these last two. So perhaps we should all do the same.
Is it Saturday yet?!
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