Sidney Brown provides dispatches from the front lines of Blackhawks fandom every week during the hockey season.
With only two weeks left in the 2015-16 regular season, the Chicago Blackhawks are trying to find their stride before the biggest test begins — the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
As the old saying goes, numbers can tell a story, and with the recent struggles during the month of March, such a statement couldn’t be more factual for the Men in Red.
- 0 for 15 on the power play (last week)
- Lost 7 of last 9 games (including current two-game losing streak)
- 1-2-2 record vs. Central Division in March
- 0-10 vs. Western Conference playoff teams
- 10-12-3 since 12 game winning streak in January
- given up 74 goals in the last 25 games (2.96 per game average)
- Shutout four times during that span
What does this all mean at the end of the day? With this bad stretch, it means that the Hawks may be in a desperate position, trying to reach the finish line of the regular season without losing significant ground to their many Western Conference competitors.
Pinpoint some reasons for the recent struggles, it’s not that hard: goaltending — with the recent injury to starter Corey Crawford, backup Scott Darling has been called upon to fill in at the starters role. In his last four starts, Darling has posted a 1-2-1 record, allowing a total of 9 goals and tallying one shutout (last Friday at Winnipeg).
Although Darling has tried to hold his own, inconsistent defense along with turning pucks over will make any goaltender look below average. Next, the special teams — 0 for 15 on the power play last week and 12 of 14 on penalty kill. With the PK — although this unit has been better in spots recently — this unit clearly misses Marcus Kruger, who hasn’t played since injuring his hand on December 17th.
With the return of Kruger to the lineup this weekend at Calgary, the PK unit should and will get a major boost. Remember fans, without a great penalty kill there will be NO CUP (checkout the stats from the last 3 Hawks Cup victories).
If there’s a time that the Hawks should begin to play with desperation and with playoff intensity, the time is now. With a four-game road trip, including two division opponents, the Hawks need to improve their 18-14-4 road record by play with some consistency and sending a message to their opponents.
No, the Hawks will not be champions in the Central Division this season, that honor perhaps will go to the Dallas Stars. Have the Hawks won the ultimate prize without having home ice advantage in their pocket? Yes, see last season. This last stretch of regular season game should be looked at as is this team establishing their game in time for the playoffs along with monitoring will Corey Crawford return in time to get his game back in preparation for the playoffs.
A message to all fans — this is a time for concern, NOT a time to panic.
Points: Patrick Kane (92); Goals: Kane (39); Assists: Kane (53); Penalty Minutes: Andrew Shaw (60); Goals Against Average: Corey Crawford (2.32)
Goals Per Game: 2.8 (8th in NHL)
Goals Against: 2.5 (9th in NHL)
Power Play: 22% (5th in NHL)
Penalty Kill: 78.8% (24th in NHL)
The Road Ahead (Through 4/1)*
Tonight at Calgary Flames — 9 pm
Sunday at Vancouver Canucks — 7 pm
Tuesday at Minnesota Wild — 7 pm
4/1 at Winnipeg Jets — 7 pm
*All times central
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