(Photo: NHL Youtube)
So, maybe I was wrong when I said Blackhawks fans should back off the panic button.
Their eight-game homestand, with one game left, has included a flurry of embarrassing feats.
Bruised by the Bruins
Take, for example, Sunday’s snap of a six-game Boston Bruins losing streak Sunday with a 6-2 loss at the United Center
While they were only outshot 30-28 by the Bruins, the team in black and gold won 11 more faceoffs and scored on two of four power plays. Chicago was outshot 16-7 in the second period, when the Bruins scored four of their six goals.
Downed by an Avalanche
Chicago fell 4-1 to the Colorado Avalanche Friday night, allowing four takeaways and two power play goals. While the Avs only led the Hawks 30-28 in shots on goal, they also blocked 26 shots while the Blackhawks suppressed seven.
Colorado went two-for-three on the power play and Chicago was zero-for-two.
Half-full, Half-empty, or just Half-hearted?
The Blackhawks are 10-10-3 for January and February. They lost nine games straight this time in 2012. This time last season, they were 7-5-7. After their “most games with a point streak” in 2013, the Blackhawks lost five out of nine games in March. They have 22 regular season games left. Snow is still falling, so the sky isn’t. Yet.
The Blackhawks can’t strike early and often enough in games and they can’t hold back their opponents.
As “fancy stats” blogger Jen LC points out in her piece Putting Chicago’s Play In Perspective,
“Since the beginning of the season, the shot suppression metrics were not favoring Chicago, but many thought that once the defense got sorted out things would improve. The defense has not been completely sorted out at this point of the season with just over 20 games left to play.”
The adage that “the best defense is a good offense” simply isn’t true. Teams rely on their blue-liners. While Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, and Niklas Hjalmarsson are impressive, they can’t play all 60 minutes every game, especially with the way they throw their bodies into it.
While Hjalmarsson somehow survived a point-range Zdeno Chara shot to the abdomen, another d-man wasn’t so lucky Sunday.
Johnny Oduya suffered an upper body injury after a hit early in the Bruins game Sunday and is expected to be sidelined for “a couple weeks,” leaving the Blackhawks short an additional defenseman. Rookie defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk has been out since Nov. 16, when he suffered a broken patella in a game against the Dallas Stars. He’s only recently started skating with the team again.
And not every veteran has been dependable. For example, Michal Rozsival was a -3 against the Bruins. He was also in the box on a bad penalty for another Bruins goal.
“We’ve still got seven ‘D’ here so we’ll sort it out,” Coach Joel Quenneville told media after Monday’s practice at Johnny’s IceHouse West. “Some guys might get a little more opportunity. We don’t want to work the top guys extra over this period. Everybody will probably get a little more across the board.”
Also, Marian Hossa, Patrick Kane, and Brandon Saad can’t be the only offense stepping up in these dire times. While Hossa’s been heroic and Kane is generally reliable, the rest of the team has to show they’re worth big ice time and big money. Patrick Sharp and Bryan Bickell, we’re looking at you.
OK, so maybe panic isn’t the answer. There’s a different button to be pushed.
Joel Quenneville said #Blackhawks need to hit the “get attention button.” I asked if he had one of those: “Absolutely. I’ve got it pushed.”
— Chris Kuc (@ChrisKuc) February 23, 2015
Goaltender Scott Darling was recalled from the AHL Rockford IceHogs and signed a two-year contract extension. The Blackhawks also called up forward Joakim Nordstrom, while sending down goalie Antti Raanta and forward Ryan Hartman.
The Blackhawks play the Florida Panthers at 7:30 p.m. CT Tuesday at home and again at 6:30 p.m. CT Thursday at the BB&T Center.