Blackhawks News

Chicago Blackhawks Fans Have Plenty To Worry About

By Mike Brennan
Feb 13, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks right wing Richard Panik (center) is checked into Anaheim Ducks goalie John Gibson (left) by defenseman Simon Despres (right) defending during the first period at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 13, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks right wing Richard Panik (center) is checked into Anaheim Ducks goalie John Gibson (left) by defenseman Simon Despres (right) defending during the first period at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports /
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With only eight games remaining on the Chicago Blackhawks’ schedule for the regular season, the ‘Hawks may not be in as great of a position as fans thought a couple weeks ago. They currently hold the third spot in the Central Division with 91 points, but with the pesky Nashville Predators at their heels with 87 points and a game in hand. In their past seven games they are 1-4-2, and 3-5-2 in their last 10. Throughout this stretch, the ‘Hawks have looked as if they have forgotten how to play hockey. Is this just a slump, or should Blackhawks fans be very worried about this team heading into the postseason?

No matter what the sport is, it is always extremely difficult to tell whether a slump is just a slump, or whether it is saying something more about a team. This latest slump may only be a slump toward the end of an extremely grueling season, but it is a terrifying slump at the very least. If this type of play continues, it is not completely out of the realm of possibility that the ‘Hawks would be heading out West to play the Los Angeles Kings or Anaheim Ducks. That is an option that just screams first-round exit. Even if they do survive that series, the ‘Hawks will be burned out even more than they are now.

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Since the beginning of the 2008-09 season, the Blackhawks have played 730 total games. That amount of games is the most played during an eight-season span in league history. Once you add all the Olympic games and preseason games, you start to realize that this core players for the ‘Hawks have played an absurd amount of hockey during their careers. That much hockey takes its toll on players, and obviously causes players like Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Marian Hossa, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane to be worn out. Repeating as Stanley Cup champions is extremely difficult nowadays, and this amount of games certainly does not help and should really make ‘Hawks fans panic about the future.

Another reason why Blackhawks fans should be worried would be that the ‘Hawks are 2-9-3 in their past 14 contests with playoff teams. While one could make the argument that these are really good teams they have been playing, one could easily go the other way and say that the ‘Hawks will need to eventually beat them in the playoffs. I personally think that this record is scary because the ‘Hawks are supposed to be one of the best teams in the league, so this record should at least be near .500.

I have been saying it all year, but this defense that the Blackhawks are rolling with is not a Stanley Cup-caliber defense. It’s not even a playoff-caliber defense, but the offense has picked up tons of slack this season. The main problem with them has pretty much been everyone except for Niklas Hjalmarsson — who has been the MVP of this defense. Players like Michal Rozsival, Trevor van Riemsdyk (puking sound), Duncan Keith and even Brent Seabrook at times, have not been able to dictate anything at all in their own zone.

The defense has not been able to clear anyone out from in front of the net, and once opposing forwards get deep in the zone, they have been able to do anything at will. Their passing lanes are open and they are not being taken off the puck whatsoever. Even worse, sometimes the Blackhawks defensemen will make a terrible switch deep in the zone, leaving forwards wide open in front of the net.

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Alright, now I will take off my pessimistic Blackhawks hat to take a different look at this. This Blackhawks’ meltdown seems to happen every March and early April before the playoffs. For example, last year before their first-round series with the Predators, the Blackhawks went 2-4 in their last six games. What did they do afterward? They won the Stanley Cup. In 2014, the Blackhawks closed their regular season going 4-5 in their last nine, and losing three in a row to end the season. What happened that year? The ‘Hawks were one shot away from going to the Cup. This fact should really calm down some fans.

The last positive for the ‘Hawks coming up will be their road trip. The Blackhawks will be heading out on a four-game road trip to Calgary, Vancouver, Minnesota and Winnipeg. This trip is exactly what this team needs. Since the addition of all the players from the trade deadline, the team has not had a big road trip to get to know these guys more. This trip should bring nothing but positives as they are playing three teams who are not in the playoff picture. Along with all this, it is rumored Marcus Kruger will be back on this trip. This is huge news not only for the depth of the forwards, but for the penalty kill as well. He is perfect for winning faceoffs and getting the puck out of the zone during a penalty kill.

Taking all this into account, I really think that Blackhawks fans should be worried. The ‘Hawks are really walking on thin ice with their place in the standings. The upcoming road trip will really be a gut check for this team, and will be huge considering there are a possible eight points on the table right now. I am not to the point where I am slamming the panic button, but I am hitting the button lightly right now.

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