Chicago Blackhawks fans know defense, special teams and depth win Stanley Cups, not regular-season points, and the team doesn’t have much of the former three items right now
The Chicago Blackhawks are currently in second place in the Central Division with 10 points and a 4-2-2 record. Their first eight games were against 2017 playoff team opponents, and they surprisingly came out OK. They have had tremendous goaltending from Corey Crawford and Anton Forsberg, the top six is producing and the penalty kill is off to a significantly better start than it was last year.
So what’s the problem?
Although it may not seem like there is one, fans who have followed the Blackhawks know structural problems exist on this team. Despite any kind of regular-season success they may have this year, in the back of everybody’s minds will be the question: “Can the Blackhawks win a playoff series?”
Early problems on the ice
Watching the Blackhawks’ powerplay really makes me think they can’t. But honestly, what else is new? The Blackhawks have struggled for years to find the right combination of skill and grit when on the man-advantage.
It’s not rocket science to give the open man the puck, but somehow the ‘Hawks make it so much more difficult than it is. I can see myself five years ago screaming with every other ‘Hawks from the 300 level — “SHOOT!” — as the Blackhawks wait for the perfect shot to open up.
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This year, it’s like the guys are skating in mud. Hockey coaches always emphasize moving your feet when you’re away from the puck, but it seems like the Blackhawks are all just standing in place. I’m honestly starting to think either the ‘Hawks don’t watch tape on themselves or they’re making an instructional video on how to kill their own powerplay.
When the season started, the Blackhawks showed a lot of promise. They were playing like they spent all summer thinking of ways to prove analysts wrong. They were forechecking, hitting and making teams pay for their mistakes. But a handful of games later, it’s like those first two games never existed.
A lot of me believes that coach Joel Quenneville‘s voice may have become stale after 10 years in the Blackhawks’ locker room. Or maybe the problem is just depth and management of the salary cap. Or quite possible the lack of player development. Or, hell, a combination of all of that.
But as each game passes where the Blackhawks barely collect points from Patrick Kane‘s raw talent, the more I believe they do not have what it takes to win a playoff series.
The last four games were against Edmonton, St. Louis, Minnesota and Nashville, all teams that will be competing for the Stanley Cup come April. Close your eyes and honestly tell me you feel confident the Blackhawks will be able to beat any of those teams with ease in a seven-game series.
The Blackhawks’ front office isn’t dumb. In fact, general manager Stan Bowman and Co. are patiently waiting to see the outcome of the first half of the season. By Christmas, this Blackhawks team will either jell and find some momentum, or more organizational changes will be made.
This is the last hurrah.