The Chicago Blackhawks need to pick it up with consistent play if they want to make the playoffs.
The Chicago Blackhawks have not impressed in the last two games, with a lack of intensity, puck management, they are passive to shoot the puck, and their “drop-pass transition” powerplay is really hit or miss as the opposition’s penalty kill unit stifles it.
The Nashville Predators really gave the Blackhawks a taste of their own medicine on the forecheck, using a high-pressure form of a 3-2 forecheck and the Blackhawks could not find a way to counter it properly.
The Chicago Blackhawks ran a 2-1-2 forecheck with aggressive pressure during their point streak earlier in the season. They gave the defense fits as they could not find any passing lanes because they had to protect the puck from a Blackhawks forward. They then bypassed this strategy in March, and the opposition has had no trouble starting breakout plays. The Blackhawks need to deploy this system again, and they had no reason to change the system to begin with.
The powerplay needs some work. Once they get in the zone, they can generate many chances for and shift the momentum with a goal at a 27.78% rate (at the time of this writing). They have a great zone cycle system, though they make too many passes in my personal opinion. When there’s an open shot, they usually pass the puck instead.
But this isn’t the main issue.
The issue is their zone entry, where they make their drop pass play extremely obvious and the opposing penalty kill unit knows exactly what to expect from them. Watching Patrick Kane play the puck is entertaining, but it doesn’t go anywhere when he gets smothered by the defense.
They need to play a consistent game. From going 2-0 against the Florida Panthers with a complete effort, the Blackhawks go 0-2 to the Nashville Predators just a few days later. They were solid for the most part in their games against Florida, with good defensive play and smart passes. I don’t know what happened in practice from then to now, but they made multiple steps back. They didn’t play with any intensity or physicality and they made lazy plays with the puck.
They need to move the puck ahead, not to the side anymore as their “hopeful passes” as Eddie O calls it seems to end up as a goal against. Kirby Dach could have moved the puck ahead, but he instead attempted a stretch pass to his streaking linemate. It didn’t work, and his “hopeful pass” ended up in the GWG against them. This seems to be a new element to the Blackhawks’ game, and it needs to be removed immediately.
I’ll be honest here and say, this is my own observation, that the Blackhawks’ game gets worse as they play worse teams. They don’t give them the respect they deserve and pay for it on the scoreboard and in the standings.
They look at the Florida Panthers or the Tampa Bay Lightning on the schedule and play like the Blackhawks who can make the playoffs. Then, they get destroyed by the Detroit Red Wings a few days later. This team cannot take anyone lightly and need to play every game the same way as they did in their 3-0 win vs the Panthers.
The Blackhawks also have to play every game consistently as their schedule does not get any easier from here. Their final games against playoff-bound or playoff contending teams. Their last games of the season are:
Nashville Predators – 3 game homestand (This series could make or break their playoff chances)
Tampa Bay Lightning – 1 game
Florida Panthers – 2 games
Carolina Hurricanes – 3 games
Dallas Stars – Back to back homestand to end the season
Yeah, these four points were huge for the Blackhawks and they let them go.
To conclude, the Chicago Blackhawks need to help their goaltending duo of Kevin Lankinen and Malcolm Subban with smart defensive play and coverage, chip the puck ahead instead of attempting stretch passes down the middle of the ice. They need to find ways to up the intensity, and their 2-1-2 forecheck could be that answer.
Their powerplay is a hit or miss (as many powerplays are) and the entry has to be better, the drop pass is too predictable. The Blackhawks also need to play a consistent game with that relentlessness and “tough to play against” attitude they had vs Florida.
The schedule doesn’t get any easier as the Carolina Hurricanes come to town. The Blackhawks are now chasing a playoff spot and, looking at their final 11 games, they need to go on a winning streak now if they want to make the playoffs. Jeremy Colliton needs to wake up and tell his guys to play fast-paced, relentless hockey, the last two games were embarrassing to watch.
Next Game: Blackhawks vs Hurricanes, Tuesday, 6:30 PM. National television, NBCSN.