It wasn’t that long ago that the Chicago Blackhawks were fighting to stay in first place in the Western Conference but plenty has changed in a little over a month. The team’s most recent stint as Stanley Cup Champions seems to be nothing more than a distant memory for Chicago, whose current nine-game losing streak is their worst since the 2006-07 season. As the Blackhawks struggle to find a way to win, are their playoff hopes in jeopardy or can coach Joel Quenneville get Chicago back on track?
With each Blackhawks loss it feels more apparent that the bubble is closer and closer to bursting, but with Chicago sitting at sixth in the Western Conference it might be too early to push the panic button. Things certainly are bleak in the Windy City though and it became even more apparent on Tuesday night when the Blackhawks lost a 3-2 decision to the Nashville Predators. Despite playing the Predators tough and outshooting them 32-19, the Blackhawks gave up goals late in the period three times, including the game-winner with under six minutes to play.
“We need one badly,” coach Quenneville told the Chicago Tribune.
Quenneville rarely shows much emotion, hiding behind his bushy mustache but since he’s beginning to get put on the hot seat, he needs to figure out a way to win – and fast. The Blackhawks recent schedule hasn’t been easy, with just three of the losses coming against teams that wouldn’t earn a playoff berth if the season ended today. Only two games have been at home, where Chicago has thrived this season with a 19-6-4 record as compared to the a poor 10-15-3 road record.
First things first for the Blackhawks – the team needs to end this streak and win a game, no matter how sloppy. Chicago hasn’t won since Jan. 20 when they defeated the Florida Panthers 3-1 at home. And it won’t get much easier for them in the next week.
The Blackhawks are on their way to New York to faceoff against the best team in the Eastern Conference – the New York Rangers. Quenneville has been moving players around on different lines and rotating goaltenders in an effort to generate a spark and he has already decided to start their number one goaltender Corey Crawford against the Rangers. The news of Crawford’s start came shortly after backup Ray Emery admitted that he should have stopped the game-winner in Nashville.
From there, the team will head to Columbus to take on the Blue Jackets, who are the league’s worst team. It might be a chance for Chicago to finally earn two points before heading home for a string of tough battles against the St. Louis Blues, Detroit Red Wings and Dallas Stars.
It might be time for the Blackhawks to acknowledge the fact that there is a serious possibility that the team will not make the playoffs this season, which should be motivation enough to step up their play. But it just seems strange to tell a team who was fighting for the top spot in the league for the first 48 games that their playoff berth might now be in danger.
Nine games don’t define a season.
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