Blackhawks Road Trip Wrap-Up
Depression is setting in.
After starting their six-game road trip with a blowout win in Columbus, the Hawks dropped their next two and earned a bag skate from coach Joel Quenneville. The Hawks followed the bag skate with a blowout win in Edmonton, before two devastating losses in shootouts to Dallas and Phoenix.
What is becoming painfully clear is that the Blackhawks are not a playoff team right now.
Look back at the road trip.
Four of the six games were against teams ahead of Chicago in the Western Conference playoff race, and the Hawks lost all four games. Are six of a possible 12 points on a tough trip acceptable? Maybe. But not when it doesn’t improve the team’s playoff position, and opportunities for additional points are wasted.
There were some strong positives for the Hawks on the trip.
Jonathan Toews is dominating. On the trip he had 10 points (two goals, eight assists) and was plus-seven.
Corey Crawford has been ridiculous. Despite a 1-1-1 record on the trip, Crawford boasted a .934 save percentage (5 goals on 76 shots) and a 1.63 goals against average in his three starts.
Patrick Kane is well. He had nine points (five goals, four assists) and was plus-two in the six games.
Troy Brouwer is a beast. He was credited with four points (one goal, three assists) and was plus-two, but also chipped in 20 hits in the six games. He has quietly started to establish himself as the net presence the Hawks have lacked, providing a great screen on Duncan Keith’s goal as well.
Nick Leddy has been outstanding. He has seen his ice time increase after the bag skate, when Quenneville essentially cut his defensive rotation to five skaters… including the 19-year-old. On Saturday night he probably received the biggest vote of confidence when he continued to skate with Keith in the third period and into overtime in a tight game with playoff implications. He rewarded the coach’s faith by playing solid hockey throughout.
Dave Bolland is picking it his offense. He added four points (two goals, two assists) in the six games.
Brent Seabrook added some offense. He posted five pointed (one goal, four assists), was plus-three and added 17 blocked shots and 11 hits.
Obviously there have been some negatives on the trip as well.
Tomas Kopecky is a minute-wasting ghost. He had one assist and was minus-four on the trip, and won only 11 of 34 faceoffs (32 percent).
Injuries, and the flu, are killing the Hawks. John Scott had the flu and lost 15 pounds, but the Hawks also lost Marian Hossa for four periods and Jake Dowell on Saturday night. Add to the sick the wounded; Ryan Johnson is now on IR, Fernando Pisani might be headed there eventually, and Viktor Stalberg was banged up in Dallas.
Niklas Hjalmarsson has become Brent Sopel. He piled up 19 blocked shots in the six games, but had zero points and had an even plus-minus. He also saw his ice time dip under 19 minutes in four of the six games; Leddy played almost two minutes more than Hjalmarsson did on Saturday night. For his salary, he needs to do more than get in the way.
Bolland continues to struggle at the circle, winning only 44 percent of his faceoffs on the trip.
The Hawks aren’t physical enough. They were out-hit 138-108 on the trip.
The Blackhawks are in 11th place in the Western Conference. What’s worse, the four teams between the Hawks and seventh place in the West – San Jose, Minnesota, Calgary and Los Angeles – are all streaking. The Sharks, Wild and Flames have won eight of their last 10, while the Kings have won six. The Hawks, meanwhile, have won four of their last 10 contests.