The Chicago Blackhawks need to find some consistency in a hurry.
The most accurate assessment of the season to date came from Patrick Kane on November 5th, after an embarrassing loss at the hands of the San Jose Sharks. Kane told Blackhawks.com’s Chris Kuc,
"“It just seems we take one step forward and two steps back a lot of the time. We’re just not consistent enough.”"
You will not find a more precise description. It was just after that disastrous loss to the Sharks that Kane and company went on a 5-0-1 run with 2 particularly impressive road victories against western conference rivals the Vegas Golden Knights and Nashville Predators.
Then, the Carolina Hurricanes came to town, and pinched and forechecked like crazy, and totally dominated the Blackhawks. Fast forward to the Tampa Bay Lightning game.
The last time the Chicago Blackhawks defeated the Lightning was back on June 15th, 2015. It was on that day that both Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith potted 2 goals in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final to notch their 3rd Stanley Cup Championship in 6 years.
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On Thursday night, though, the stars were aligned for the ‘Hawks to end their 4-year long drought. Nikita Kicherov was sidelined with an injury, backup netminder Curtis Elhinney started in place of Andrei Vasillesky and Steven Stamkos only played in the first period.
However, the positive outcome was not to be. The contest saw Patrick Kane extend his point streak to 11, while double shifting left and right (something Jeremy Colliton is fond of). Kane finished the game with a staggering 27:52 TOI.
Corey Crawford was also solid, as he stopped 31 of 34 shots. Beyond that, the ‘Hawks played as uninspired and listless a game since, well, the loss at the hands of the Sharks earlier in the month.
This brings us to Saturday’s match-up against Central Division rival, the Dallas Stars, who came in 12-1-1 in their last 14 games. A game in which the Blackhawks finally did not lose the faceoff battle — an area that needs improvement — and got a beauty of a 2-on-1 goal from defenseman Olli Maatta (whom also contributed 6 blocked shots):
Despite 4 power play opportunities (one of the 5-on-3 variety), Maatta’s tally would be all the offense the Chicago Blackhawks could muster, as they fell 2-1 courtesy of the shootout. This is unacceptable, especially with all of the offensive talent on this team.
Now, we sit here, just over a week removed from the ‘Hawks dismantling of the Predators in Nashville in impressive fashion, with a 7 goal outpouring. Since then, they’ve played 4 games and have gone 1-2-1. The Chicago Blackhawks find themselves back at the .500 mark.
What’s Working for the Chicago Blackhawks?
Corey Crawford and Robin Lehner have been nothing short of brilliant. As a matter of fact, Charlie Roumeliotis from NBC Sports Chicago pointed out:
As I pointed in my last column, the lines have now been steady for the last 9 games or so, besides for Dominik Kubalik being scratched on a couple of occasions.
As much as we bemoan the lapses in judgement, the contracts and the ages of some of the defensemen — as Jimmy Greenfield of the Chicago Tribune tells us:
As Kane Goes, so go the Blackhawks
Patrick Kane is currently on a 12 game point streak while leading the team in goals and assists. At 31, Kane has shown zero signs of slowing down. This season, he’s playing as well as we have come to expect from “Showtime”.
Stars Need to Perform Consistently
Alex DeBrincat is not playing poorly, but is certainly falling short of expectations. After scoring a career and team-high 41 goals last season, he is on pace to score less than half that this season.
Jonathan Toews, while awakening from an early season slumber and leading the team in face-off percentage by a wide margin, he has only 4 goals and 8 assists to show so far. Brandon Saad, while arguably the best 2-way forward on the team, has missed quite a few high quality scoring chances lately and has not scored a goal in 7 games.
Next 4 Games Will Be Huge
The next 4 games are against Central Division rivals and 8 points are up for grabs. Realistically, the Blackhawks need to take 6 points out of a possible 8 points to put themselves in a good position. Within a week, we’ll have a good idea if the Chicago Blackhawks are contenders or pretenders.