Well, in short…nothing. And everything. In other words, while it’s hard to ignore the recent poor play, the belief among many Hawks fans, including this one, is that they will turn it on when it counts. And by turning it on at the right time, will be propelled into the first repeat Stanley Cup champion since the Detroit Red Wings in 1997-98.
However, it would be foolish to think there is a magic switch that gets turned on and off, and despite the Hawks being a team that knows how to win, simply counting on that next gear to kick in automagically—while ignoring the problems completely—is probably not a smart idea. And I’m sure that coach Q and the players themselves are scratching their collective heads to try and determine what is going on.
Wednesday night’s 3-2 loss to the Flyers was the Hawks fourth consecutive defeat, a dubious mark they hadn’t met all season. One of the things the recent downturn has shown is just how good Corey Crawford had been all season, helping to hide some of the defensive deficiencies this team has.
Look, it’s not as if the Hawks won’t make the playoffs. With 88 points, they currently sit in third place, behind the Stars (idle) and the Blues (playing Edmonton at the time of this article). But they look like they aren’t playing as hard as they could all of the time, and Andrew Ladd seems to lack the intensity we’ve seen in the past.
Even putting Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane back together on the top line didn’t notch the Hawks a victory against a surging Flyers team on Wednesday. One area in which the Hawks have struggled is on the penalty kill. Missing Marian Hossa hasn’t helped, of course, and Marcus Kruger is a solid PK man, so not having him ha also hurt the team. Perhaps his return will help.
If it wasn’t for that 12 game win streak earlier this season, the Hawks would be in trouble. While they certainly won’t panic, Q wouldn’t be juggling lines if he didn’t think there was cause for concern. Early this season, only the Kane line was scoring, but fortunately for Chicago, Kane was on fire and has been having an MVP season.
But the other lines eventually picked it up, only to go quiet again. Here’s what Quenneville had to say about his latest line juggling, per CSNChicago.com:
“Well, we’re looking for balance right now. We’re looking for defensive responsibility and we’re looking for consistency in the four-line rotation. We haven’t been very good in that area the last few games and playing major-league catch-up is not productive hockey,” Quenneville said. “We’ve got to find a way what got us into those areas or ways and we tried balancing it out with the lines here and changing it up on a couple of guys. The one line’s been together all year and there was probably never a need to change it. But I feel right now that a different look can help everyone and give us more balance throughout the lineup.”
The number of 5-on-5 goals for the Hawks is down from last season. Maybe the roller coaster the Hawks are on will swing back up as they head into the playoffs. After all, this is a proud hockey team that knows how to win. But it’s so hard to repeat, and the Hawks will need to play much better than they have recently to have a chance at another shot at Lord Stanley’s trophy.
Hot goaltending wins in the playoffs, and while Crawford has been good all year, he has been showing signs of possibly getting worn down lately. There are 12 games remaining in the regular season, and getting Crow some rest is one of Q’s goals, as Scott Darling started Wednesday night at home.
Meanwhile, getting the secondary scoring going, while also shoring up the PK, are the primary areas of interest for the Hawks, as they head into the postseason. It’s hard to believe that the Hawks could be lacking for confidence with the way they have dominated over the last six seasons, but even great teams need a little boost going into such a rough stretch.
So what’s wrong with the Blackhawks? Nothing another Stanley Cup can’t cure. But to do that, they need to play much better. Hey, it’s a long season and hopefully the Hawks are just saving their best for when it counts the most.
At least that’s the hope.