It seemed like the Chicago Blackhawks were finally getting the swing of things toward the middle of November. From Nov. 15-27, the team picked up four wins in five games, dropping only one game to the Tampa Bay Lightning in overtime during that period, still keeping a good pace against one of the league’s best teams this year.
Unfortunately, the Blackhawks seem to have taken a turn for the worse in the past week. They’ve dropped their past four games, including games to their Central Division opponents, the Dallas Stars and Nashville Predators. Two of the losses came in regular time, while the two games against Dallas ended in overtime and a shootout, respectively.
With such a tight-knit Central Division, the Blackhawks cannot afford to keep losing to their division opponents. Teams like the Predators and Stars are hungry to get into deep playoff runs, while Chicago looks like it could care less about even making playoffs. The lack of energy on the ice has been obvious, and with other teams putting in the energy, it makes the Hawks look twice as bad.
In games where they’ve taken the lead, they’ve taken their foot off the pedal too many times, allowing their opponents to catch up and beat them. They should not have a problem with scoring, since they’ve had games like their 7-3 showdown against the Anaheim Ducks at the end of November. Instead, the Hawks need to look into putting a full 60 minutes of play on the ice.
The power play has continued to be disastrous, which hasn’t come as a shock given the way the team has been treating the man advantage. Despite having multiple opportunities throughout the last couple of games, especially against the Stars, Chicago has continued to squander those precious two minutes. The power play can sometimes be the determining factor in a game, and there has been more than one opportunity in which the Hawks could have used their time to gain or add to a lead. Instead, they often spend time passing the puck around or losing control of it to the other team, where they then end up chasing it back and forth until time expires. Silly penalties have also contributed to the team’s woes, though the Hawks have done a slightly better job of keeping out of the box.
The Blackhawks are also fighting injuries, with a substantial hit coming from the loss of Corey Crawford. Crawford was injured in the latest game against Dallas and was reported to have sustained a lower-body injury (possibly groin-related). Backup goalie Anton Forsberg has actually done a decent job while in net, and the Hawks have also called up Jean-Francois Berube. However, the team has been highly reliant on Crawford this season, and his absence will be painfully obvious until he returns.
If the Hawks cannot get their act together soon, they should not envision a playoff run once the spring hits. They look sloppy and tired on the ice, and though they are playing a large number of games in a small time frame, they have to start picking up the points. Gaining one point here and there is helpful in at least gaining something, but getting the full two points is what will give the team a boost both in terms of motivation and in the standings. It will be especially helpful and essential for Chicago to pick up points against division rivals, and the team needs to start pushing for big wins in those types of games.
November was on and off for Chicago, with some players like Artem Anisimov and Alex DeBrincat having phenomenal games while other members struggled. Though the Hawks will likely have a harder game against the Washington Capitals this Wednesday, they do have some games coming up that they should easily win against the Arizona Coyotes, Buffalo Sabres and Florida Panthers. They’ll also be able to test their divisional battle skills as they take on the Minnesota Wild later in the month, as well as the Stars again.
With the team currently sitting at sixth place within the division, it needs to get things moving along, and with the season hitting December already, the time to get moving is now.