Yes, the Blackhawks have lost some ugly games in the last few weeks. But when you place those losses into context, they suddenly don’t look nearly as bad. Consider the following:
Jan. 19: 4-1 at Ottawa – This game was the Senators’ fourth win in a row; they would win 11 straight before finally losing on Saturday to the Leafs. In that stretch, the Sens would outscore their opponents 37-13 and would also beat New Jersey and Vancouver at home and Pittsburgh and Buffalo on the road.
Jan. 23: 5-1 at Vancouver– This game was also the Canucks’ fourth consecutive win at the time in the midst of a stretch of an 8-1-1 stretch. During that run, the Canucks would only lose to Ottawa and Phoenix while beating Pittsburgh and Buffalo. Vancouver would outscore opponents 35-23.
Jan. 30: 4-2 at Carolina – Again, the fourth win in a row for an opponent riding a hot streak. Yes, the Hurricanes’ record isn’t impressive, but they’re 7-3-0 in their last ten, with the victory over the Hawks in the middle of it all. In those ten games, the Canes outscored their opponents 35-23 (sound familiar?).
Feb. 5: 2-1 vs. Phoenix (SO) – This time at home, the Hawks were the Coyotes sixth consecutive victim in an 11-game stretch in which they went 9-2-0 and outscored opponents like Detroit, Calgary and Nashville 36-31. Maybe not the overwhelming numbers of the previous three opponents, but still a team that was scoring well over three goals per night. In fact, one of the two Coyotes losses was to a Washington team that hasn’t lost in 14 games.
Remembering that sprinkled among these losses were wins at Detroit, Calgary and San Jose, the Blackhawks have reasons to remain confident.
The grain of salt this laundry list of excuses comes with is that the Blackhawks could have, and should have, won all four of these games. The shootout loss to Phoenix was one of the worst efforts of the season, as the Hawks were outplayed in almost every aspect of the game. The loss in Carolina was at the end of a two-week road trip, but the Hawks had plenty of opportunities to win that game and didn’t finish. The games in Vancouver and Ottawa weren’t very good efforts from the Hawks’ goaltenders.
As we get into March, and the Hawks continue to press for the President’s Trophy, they will get their opponents’ best effort every night. Bringing a mediocre effort, like they did in the losses to Phoenix and St. Louis at home last week, will not only cost the team valuable points, but open players up to potential injury. Hopefully the win in St. Louis will help the team re-focus for a couple victories before the Olympics.