The Chicago Blackhawks are currently in a playoff spot, but now only slightly.
Based on what has happened during this “Month of Death”, this team just doesn’t have “it” yet. The Chicago Blackhawks have displayed that they CAN play with the top teams in the league when they are on their A-Game.
They defeated the Tampa bay Lightning and the Carolina Hurricanes with complete efforts, with nothing to critique or change. They are, however, inconsistent and inconsistency can strike at the worst times as the Tampa Bay Lightning know all to well, dominated in a sweep by the eighth seed in 2018.
Unfortunately for the Blackhawks, it doesn’t matter if you can play with the best team in the NHL, as they will most likely have to in the first round if they qualify for the postseason. It doesn’t matter if you have a span of good games where you go 1-0-3, you will still be down in the series 3-1. It doesn’t matter if you comeback and take the game to overtime because that doesn’t cut it, you need to win the game.
The Blackhawks’ current record at the time of this writing is 2-8-3 against these teams. In the regular season, this record is horrible. It’s even worse in the post season, 2-11 total. I’m not confident that they will do much in the post season as even their A-Game isn’t enough to defeat these teams.
This Blackhawks team looks to need just one or two more years before they can be real contenders. They need their rookies to get more experience as their rookie mistakes can cost them games.
The veterans need to be more aware as well, as the game winning goal last night vs Tampa Bay was caused by a mistake from the defense, allowing a breakaway goal against. This is something that really shouldn’t have happened with both defenders back in the zone.
Connor Murphy was on one side, Duncan Keith on the other. Neither closed the gap and the Lightning took advantage of this. I attribute this to lack of chemistry, though. Like the forwards, the defense needs some time to get used to their partners’ tendencies. If Murphy and Keith spent a lot of time on the same pairing, this most likely would not have resulted in a shot, much less a goal.
Their offense is great, with Patrick Kane and Alex Debrincat leading the charge, and Kirby Dach looks to be close to returning. Their offensive production is spectacular, with their powerplay back to being effective for them against the Lightning. I would like to see them put more pucks on net, though. They seem to try to find that perfect shot when it’s not there when they should just shoot. Pat Foley said it best last night when he said that the ‘Hawks just have to shoot the puck on goal. You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take says Wayne Gretzky. The Blackhawks had many chances to shoot the puck, but settled for a 5 SOG third period down by 1.
But offensive production alone won’t help them in the playoffs. They could win games 7-6 against teams like Detroit and Nashville, but Tampa and Florida? That doesn’t work. Based on the current standings, either Florida or Tampa Bay will be the Blackhawks’ first round opponent.
The most goals they scored on them? 4.
The most goals the Blackhawks allowed? 6.
The Blackhawks need their defense to step up a bit more, but even on their A-Game where they allowed 23 SOG, the Tampa Bay Lightning won that game based on a misread on the defense. The Blackhawks won’t go anywhere or accomplish anything until the defensemen catch up to the level of the Blackhawks forwards in production and impact. The team needs to build chemistry, especially the young players on the ‘Hawks roster. Pick their pairing and play them with the same guy at all times. It is halfway through the season now, the coaching staff has to solidify their lines if they want to achieve success against the elite of the league.
Their goaltending duo is still signed for next season, the Blackhawks now need to bring in the right complimentary pieces to their roster that will take them over the hump. They luckily won’t need to look to free agency for this, as Jonathan Toews looks to be coming back by next season and Kirby Dach will be added to the roster by (speculation here) sometime in late March to early April. Could be earlier, though.
The Carolina Hurricanes didn’t help the ‘Hawks either, as the Columbus Blue Jackets secured two more points against them, bringing their point total to 31 to the Blackhawks’ 33. Honestly, this team may have to go on an insane winning streak in April if they continue to lose in March.
This month is showing what kind of team the Blackhawks are, and they have the potential to be a great team in the future. But their game just isn’t where it needs to be to compete in the postseason this year. They cannot find ways to defeat the Lightning or the Panthers at the moment and we can’t really expect this to magically change in the postseason when the intensity skyrockets. If not this season, the Blackhawks will be a problem next season.
The Blackhawks will attempt to bounce back against Tampa Bay at 3 pm CST on Saturday.