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Chicago Blackhawks: 3 Ways To Snap Cold Streak

By Tim Lively
Mar 20, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane (88) reacts after colliding with Minnesota Wild defenseman Matt Dumba (not pictured) during the third period at the United Center. Minnesota won 3-2 in a shoot out. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 20, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane (88) reacts after colliding with Minnesota Wild defenseman Matt Dumba (not pictured) during the third period at the United Center. Minnesota won 3-2 in a shoot out. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports /
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It’s no secret right now that the Chicago Blackhawks are in a bit of a funk. Since the calendar month began, the Blackhawks have compiled a 3-4-2 record while facing a bevy of playoff teams and contenders. The Blackhawks typically go through a March slump, but this one seems a little extra concerning.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at three ways Joel Quenneville‘s group can bust the slump, to finish out the regular season and head into the playoffs on a higher note.

chicago blackhawks
Mar 2, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Christian Ehrhoff (55) checks Detroit Red Wings center Dylan Larkin (71) in the first period at Joe Louis Arena. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports /

No. 3 – Give Christian Ehrhoff a Longer Look

To the chagrin of many Blackhawks’ fans, GM Stan Bowman opted not to place his chips on grabbing a defensemen at the trade deadline and instead doubled down on the ‘Hawks’ offense. While Bowman probably made the more prudent move given the trade landscape, the Blackhawks’ defense is still left largely suspect.

However, there was one addition to the ‘Hawks’ blue line that could potentially be more than meets the eye in terms of value: Christian Ehrhoff. The 33-year-old NHL journeyman was traded to the ‘Hawks by the Los Angeles Kings straight up for 37-year-old Rob Scuderi. Needless to say, this wasn’t what one would call a blockbuster trade.

Yet, Ehrhoff has one attribute that could potentially make him a more vital asset than we give him credit, and that is his age. Yes, 33 may not be that young, but he’ll have an easier time keeping up with the likes of Erik Gustafsson or Trevor van Riemsdyk than a 37-year-old Michal Rozsival who isn’t even a year away from nearly skating his own foot off.

While Rozsival may not be going anywhere, there is case to be made for giving Ehrhoff more playing time during the last stretch of regular season games. Giving Ehrhoff more starts would help speed up his assimilation to his new team. It would also keep Rozsival fresher for choice applications, as well as provide a more steadying presence to help Gustafsson and/or van Riemsdyk keep their play level constant. This, in other words, would help the Blackhawks make the most out of what they have at the blue line.

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Nov 28, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Chicago Blackhawks center Marcus Kruger (16) loses his helmet in the third period of the game against the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center. Kings won 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports /

No. 2 – Get Marcus Kruger Back on the Ice

It should go without saying Marcus Kruger is not the piece the ‘Hawks have been “missing” during their recent bout of bad games. Still, Kruger is a large, often unsung, component of the ‘Hawks, especially in terms of providing lower-line stability and leadership.

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Yes, Richard Panik has been playing admirably in Kruger’s place while the latter has been recovering from injury, but Kruger has helped the Blackhawks raise the Stanley Cup twice, and the type of character that builds in a player makes him a formidable component of their team.

Case in point: During the first round of the 2011 playoffs, the ‘Hawks were playing without Dave Bolland against the Vancouver Canucks, and poor play put them in an early multi-game hole. Then, once Bolland returned to the lineup, the ‘Hawks rallied and nearly stole the series from the heavily favored Canucks.

Bolland was a niche, role-playing forward, just like Kruger. Thus, it should never be underestimated how much of an impact this type of player’s return after a period of absence can have on a team’s chemistry.

While how much of a boost Kruger brings to the team’s morale behind closed doors is up for debate, consider the fact that Kruger gave his number to newcomer Andrew Ladd, even though Krugs won two Stanley Cups wearing No. 16 with the Blackhawks as opposed to Ladd’s one. This was a gesture from a solid teammate — a teammate who can help his team regroup and revitalize for the playoffs.

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Mar 20, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane (88) returns to the bench after colliding with Minnesota Wild defenseman Matt Dumba (not pictured) during the third period at the United Center. Minnesota won 3-2 in a shoot out. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports /

No. 1 – Let the Team Chemistry Reformulate

Speaking of team chemistry, while there are many possible reasons the ‘Hawks seem to always go through a funk in March, I firmly believe it predominantly stems from the new faces that are added to the roster after the trade deadline.

Obviously, it’s always a great thing that Bowman tries to patch problems on the ‘Hawks’ roster via trade deadline transactions, but bringing in new players of any kind is liable to mix up the current synergy a locker room possesses.

We’ve said it countless times: Chemistry is everything in hockey, so when you’re a Blackhawk like Teuvo Teravainen who has played with familiar faces all season long is all of the sudden flanked by two wingers who are complete strangers, there’s going to need to be some time for everyone to adjust. Even former ‘Hawk Ladd is going through some growing pains with his former squad, despite being branded as “familiar” with their system.

The problem is that the ‘Hawks are a bit pressed for time in terms of games left to reformulate a potent team chemistry; pressed for time, but not out of time.

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The Blackhawks can get back to their winning ways, but that’s only if they get their priorities straight, and that, believe it or not, is not regaining the number one spot in the Central Division (though that would certainly be nice as well).

Rather, the ‘Hawks should focus on bonding with their new linesmates; understanding their strengths, weaknesses and tendencies in order to best anticipate one another. Once this is accomplished, what will follow is the key component for any team heading into the playoffs: momentum.

As long as the Blackhawks can create the potent synchronicity we know they can in the remainder of the regular season, we know where they finish in the standings will largely be irrelevant, so here’s hoping.

FOR THE DAGGER!

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