Photo: 700level.com

The reigning Stanley Cup champions carry a lot of pressure. A couple of losses means a slump. A slump means they’ve lost “it.” And, a goal past any goalkeeper on the squad means a bunch of uninformed, ill-educated, (perhaps the term bandwagon rings a bell) “fans” calling for their removal, if not their heads. Enough already.

In fact, Corey Crawford’s gear mysteriously vanished in conjunction with the Stadium Series at Soldier Field earlier this month.

Chicago didn’t give up the number of players after the Cup this year that they did after 2010’s championship. And, while they didn’t come out streaking like last year, their season (39-15-15) hasn’t exactly been one to cry about.

They sit at seventh place as March edges toward an end. Unfortunately, they’re also third in the Central Division.

This is where there does need to be a push for some more passionate play. The team does need to work harder to hold on to leads, to play full games, to pull their wins back up before it’s too late.

Tuesday night, they lost to the Flyers in overtime.

It started great, as many games this season have–with a goal from Andrew Shaw (Michal Handzus, Patrick Sharp) and a goal by Duncan Keith (Captain Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa) early in the first period. But, Scott Hartnell (Braydon Coburn; then Giroux, Matt Read) tied it up with two goals before first intermission.

Even Bryan Bickell hand, well, fist-feeding Wayne Simmonds a knuckle sandwich midway through the third couldn’t give the Hawks the boost they needed to take the lead.

With just seconds left in overtime, Giroux scored a beauty of a goal to win the game.

Shots on goal were 37-25 favoring Philly.

This followed what looked like an easy win (4-1) against the Red Wings Sunday.

Since the Olympic break, their record is 4-4-1.

Their losses have been close. They just can’t seem to seal the deal.

And, the moment where they need to, well, that’s come — tonight, against the St. Louis Blues, who currently hold first place in the league and could clinch the home playoff advantage with a win tonight.

Going into the game this year, Chicago hasn’t beaten them in three tries. The Blues have won eight of their last nine games, flying high following the Olympic break.

“It’s going to be a fun game, a good challenge,” Duncan Keith said. “They’ve got a lot of depth on that team. It seems like they’ve been building that team, that same group of guys, for three or four years now, and you know they’re going to be hungry.”

While the Blackhawks aren’t at risk of falling from playoff contention at the moment (they are 16 points ahead of Phoenix, the next-highest potential Wild Card team), they aren’t looking like a Cup-worthy team, either.

A win tonight, on home ice, could break the Blues’ dominant streak against them, give Coach Joel Quenneville his well-deserved 700th victory, and take second place in their division–not to mention giving them a boost of confidence!

The Blues are a physical, gritty, determined team.

“We know how good they [the Blues] are as a team, they’re playing well,” Toews said. “It comes down to how prepared we are and how bad we want it. That’s what it’s all about.

“If we thought the game [Tuesday night] was tough and physical, it’s going to be a whole other story [Wednesday] night. So we’ve got to turn the page and be ready and play like we know we can.”

The Blackhawks need want it. They need to out-skate and out-shoot the opponent while avoiding the penalty box. They need to play smart, energetic hockey–Blackhawk hockey.

Carly Mullady grew up needing to know more about icing than its deliciousness on cupcakes. She's the lone daughter of four children, with a father who was among the last cut from the Midwest tryouts for the 1980 Miracle on Ice Olympic team. And she knows very little matches the thrill that happens from puck-drop to handshakes. A rink didn’t return to her hometown until she was gone, but she’s been able to see two younger brothers on the ice. She's their feistiest fan. Her other hockey loyalty lies with the Blackhawks--whether it's meant seeing games for $8 with student IDs when the Madhouse didn’t have much of a temper at all, or dancing to Chelsea Dagger at standing room only--there’s something magical about a roaring anthem, the Indianhead sweater, and the Original Six. A former journalist and current editor, she carries a penchant for excitement (and maybe even fighting) with a resume that includes working for Chicago-area newspapers, and television, including The Jerry Springer Show, as well as NBCUniversal in New York. After East Coast living and a return to the Chicago area, the new Mrs. is giving Graceland a go with her Southern Gent, who now shares her adoration of the game, and their rescue dog, Doc Holliday. Other interests include Cubs, Bears, Illini, Crimson Tide, Pumpkin Spice Lattes, baking a mean pineapple upside-down cake, Kate Spade accessories, and a properly coordinated cardigan for every ensemble.

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