— The Blackhawks’ special teams have been anything but special. Quenneville said it best after Monday night’s loss to Los Angeles when it comes to the Blackhawks’ penalty-killing efforts: “We’ve had some tough games, and I think during this stretch here our penalty killing hasn’t been great. Some nights they could have won us some games with getting the job done and giving up some timely goals that got the other team going.” If the Blackhawks continue to struggle killing off penalties, and continue to put themselves in tough kill situations (leading the NHL in bench minors), the Blackhawks will have a tough uphill climb in many playoff situations.
— The Blackhawks’ blue line is still questionable, at best, sometimes. After the end of last season, the Blackhawks had many questions about the depth on the defensive side of the organization. Keith had just won the Conn Smythe after playing what seems like the equivalent of 30 playoff games’ worth of ice time. But that couldn’t continue into this season. Keith, along with Brent Seabrook and Niklas Hjalmarsson, were the only ‘sure things’ on the blue line for Chicago coming into the season. After trading Johnny Oduya, losing Michal Rozsival to injury and having Kimmo Timonen retire, the Blackhawks would turn to a host of fresh faces to try to piece together a defensive core. Trevor Daley came and went. Rob Scuderi came and went. David Rundblad came and went. So on and so forth. The Blackhawks and Quenneville have had to rely on young talent to try and hold the line on the back end of things. Erik Gustafsson, Viktor Svedberg and Trevor van Reimsdyk have had their chances to make an impact, but none have been shining stars for the Blackhawks, and if that continues, where the Blackhawks will have no choice but to rely on a three- or four-defender rotation for an extended period of time in the playoffs, a repeat will be near impossible to accomplish.
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— The new guys need time to mesh, but time is short. We praise the front office of the Blackhawks for being able to not only make trade-deadline deals to improve the quality of players on the roster nearly every season, but also to be able to do it while staying under the league salary cap. But sometimes, there can be too much of a good thing. Andrew Ladd was brought back to Chicago to solidify the top line, Dale Weise and Tomas Fleischmann were brought in to add depth and size to the forward group, and Christian Ehrhoff was added to shore up the defensive core. That is all well and good on paper, but until the Blackhawks start to play like the Cup favorites on the ice, that’s all it stands for. Since the trade deadline, the Blackhawks have lost four of six with their only wins coming against the Detroit Red Wings. That is great for bragging rights, but the Blackhawks cannot, cannot, buy into their own hype until they are lifting the Stanley Cup. If they overlook opponents or play down to competition, the panic button will be pressed down straight through the desk to the floor. (If it sits on a desk, I’m not sure.)
Let us know what you think. Is it time to panic in Chicago, or should fans trust in the organization no matter what? Let us know in the comments section below!