Analysis

Chicago Blackhawks Must Find Consistent Success In Central Division

By Randy Holndoner
CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 10: Ryan Suter
CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 10: Ryan Suter /
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The Chicago Blackhawks are playing consistent hockey, but not in a good way.  Their record against the Central Division, Western Conference and Eastern Conference is in the exact wrong direction of what a team needs to win games.

In the Central Division, the Chicago Blackhawks have a 4-7-2 record.  They were swept from the playoffs last year by the eighth-seeded Nashville Predators.  Afterward, general manager Stan Bowman said there would be a shake-up.

There definitely was, with the exits of Artemi Panarin and Niklas HjalmarssonMarcus Kruger and Trevor van Riemsdyk went to the expansion Vegas Golden Knights.  Brian Campbell retired.

After 43 games into the season, the Blackhawks find themselves one point from the cellar in the Central Division.  This wasn’t the type of shake-up that was supposed to happen.

The return of Brandon Saad started well, and then was stagnant for a good 15 to 20 games before he found a scoring streak of late.  Connor Murphy, who was the “catch” in the Hjalmarsson trade to the Arizona Coyotes, has been a healthy scratch on more than one occasion.

The wild, wild West

The Blackhawks have not fared any better facing the remainder of the Western Conference.  Overall, in the conference, they are 9-11-4.  They are one point from finding themselves in 12th place in the 15-team Western Conference.  They are currently three points out of a wild card spot.

No one could have predicted the run the Vegas Golden Knights have gone on, but that doesn’t explain how the ‘Hawks cannot compete against the rest of the conference.  The Dallas Stars, Colorado Avalanche, Winnipeg Jets and Los Angeles Kings have all made strides to get better this year.

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East Coast fever

If the Blackhawks were in the Eastern Conference, they would be doing well.  This year, they are 12-5-2 against those teams.  In two games against the Pittsburgh Penguins and Ottawa Senators, they outscored the opposing teams 18-3.

Those two games alone go far to their overall, plus-16 goal differential.  Unfortunately, playing the Eastern Conference doesn’t come often enough for the Blackhawks.  Only 13 of the remaining 39 games this season are against teams from the East.

Time to flip the script

There is a definite risk the Blackhawks do not make the playoffs this year.  Since Corey Crawford went down with an injury, the Blackhawks have gone 4-3-1.  The tandem of Anton Forsberg and Jeff Glass has not played great in his absence.  In 16 games, they are 5-7-4 with a 3.06 goals-allowed average and a .908 save percentage.

Crawford is arguably their best player at the midway point of the season.  He has yet to get back on the ice at practice, so he will be out for at least the next week or two.  Not good news for the Blackhawks.

With Forsberg and Glass giving up three goals a game, it’s going to be hard to score more than that on a nightly basis.  The recent acquisition of Anthony Duclair for Richard Panik could make a small spark.  Unfortunately, more than a spark is needed for this team.

Next: Blackhawks' Hot And Not Entering 2018

The core of this team needs to be in playoff mode right now.  They need to go on a run in order to get themselves to at least a wild card position.  From there, who knows where that could lead.  Just ask the Predators.

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