The Chicago Blackhawks no longer have the privilege of coasting through the regular season only to turn it on when the playoff race rolls around. This year, their performance early on matters now more than ever. Here’s why.
This year, the Chicago Blackhawks are going to be playing meaningful hockey far earlier than we anticipated.
Why October Matters
Elliotte Friedman, a reporter for Sportsnet and an NHL network insider, reported that of the 54 teams who have been 4+ points out of a playoff spot on November 1st since the 2005-06 season (just before the Kane and Toews era), only seven of these teams have made the playoffs.
In over a decade of hockey, only seven teams have been able to overcome a four-point hole that they were in after the first month of the season. That’s how small the margin of error is. Two games in the first 30 days of your season could make or break your chances.
That’s why this year, the start of the season matters now more than ever. Though they helped to create this problem themselves, the Chicago Blackhawks are still fighting an uphill battle. Their defense is questionable and turnover prone and their goaltender situation is less than desirable to put it lightly.
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Corey Crawford has often been viewed by the fan base as the savior of this team. The thought process is that “Once Corey comes back, we’ll be back to our old-selves and be okay. Unfortunately, the Blackhawks cannot wait to “be themselves” and win games until Crawford comes back. They certainly can’t wait until the spring like they normally do, either.
Instead, the Chicago Blackhawks need to figure out their issues and they need to do it fast.
The first few weeks of the NHL season are typically sloppy and their first game against the Ottawa Senators was no exception. These games are filled with defensive miscues, systematical mistakes and goalies trying to make up for the two of them.
In Mark Lazerus’ words, the team with more speed, talent and determination tends to win these contests. The Blackhawks happened to be that team two nights ago.
That said, the Chicago Blackhawks cannot rely on these things to win them games. Every team in the Central Division got better — and significantly faster — this offseason.
The Chicago Blackhawks did not.
If they want to get back to accomplishing their “One Goal” they cannot afford to be one of the team’s 4+ points out of a playoff spot come November 1st.
Offensive lines and defensive pairings will take time to iron out. The young guys will need time to learn the system. The Blackhawks are still working on their new 1-3-1 power-play set up. Corey Crawford is still working on his health.
While these things will all require season games to solve, the Blackhawks simply cannot afford to lose games in this process.
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Cam Ward isn’t going to play as well as a healthy Corey Crawford can, however upon Crow’s return the Blackhawks cannot afford to spend time climbing out of a hole they created for themselves in the start of the season with Ward in net.
The playoff race doesn’t start in the spring time. The playoff race doesn’t start once no. 50 takes the net.
If the Blackhawks want to be in it, it needs to start now.