jets

It gets really grim when the Blackhawks have a day off after a particularly demoralising defeat. As a fanbase we take to social media and comment threads en masse in order to tear our hair and each others throats out. Considering that this specific defeat is the third  really bad one in the last four games, the angst levels have been redlining. That’s not to say this is without good reason: losing three out of four is never a Good Thing, but losing them to non-playoff teams in abject fashion makes it far worse. It isn’t even so much the lowly status of the Stars, Flyers and Beej that stings, it’s the patheric capitulation by the Hawks in those losses (and you can include the win over the Canes in that, too: the Hawks did their level best to fuck that up as well).  just four games ago we were coming off a successful trip to New York talking about a run at the Division. Now the Hawks are (at least temporarily) in the Wild Card mix and we’re looking anxiously over our shoulders at Winnipeg.

 

Now, first things first, the chances of the Hawks missing the playoffs altogether are still remote:  Sports Club Stats have them at a 99.9% probability of making the postseason. OK, the remaining schedule is pretty heav,y with the Jets, Kings, Wild and Blues all to come and only the Sabres being a soft target, but there should be more than enough here to get them over the line. It looks as though the Central, barring a collapse, will fill both Wild Card slots, so even fifth will suffice. But, obviously, we’d rather not be in that position. However, as Sam pointed out in the Committed Indian, in 2011 the players and coach were laughing off the idea of missing the postseason after a late slump and we all remember where that led us . No, thank you very much.

I don’t share Sam’s pessimism about this iteration of the Blackhawks , although I do understand it. Call me naive (it’ll be the nicest thing anyone has called me this week) but this lot have turned my expectations on their heads too often, for good or ill, for me to truly count them out. What we’ve seen lately has been what happens when someone can’t or won’t strap a fumbling team onto their back and drag them back into it. Too often, that role has belonged to Toews, but he’s been badly out-of-sorts himself lately. Marian Hossa, another tireless warrior, may have played the worst game I’ve seen him play as a Hawk against the Beej. Patrick Sharp is still struggling to score. Brandon Saad is trying hard but can’t do it alone, yet.  Duncan Keith is being hobbled by his partner, whether that be Roszival or Rundblad.  Patrick Kane remains sidelined.

Worryingly, the Coach clearly has no answers. One bad performance led to multiple line blowups, which have exacerbated rather than cured the problems.  The defensive pairs, outside of Oduya/Hjammer are a mess. David Rundblad didn’t even look AHL quality against Columbus.  Q keeps throwing shit at the wall (Hi Andrew & Dan!) praying that something will stick. Corey Crawford (and to a lesser extent Scott Darling) have been excellent and they’ve needed to be.  I’m not going to speculate on locker room rifts and personnel issues: I simply don’t have any evidence or information about it, so I’d rather not go there. This doesn’t look like a happy and cohesive unit right now, especially apparent on the wretched power play but I don’t want to make guesses or assumptions about why this should be so.

But I still believe all is not lost, or at least not yet. I may be whistling past the graveyard here, but there is so much talent and so much power on this team that it’s not, in my opinion, going to take much to get a snowball effect going. Winning begets winning and the Hawks badly need a win, escpecially against a Winnipeg team that has had their number this year and is hard on their heels in the standings. The Hawks are 1-3-0 against the Jets, that solitary win being in OT last time out.  The concept of “Statement Games” is an overused one, but in this case a thumping of Winnipeg (or just a win, to be honest) would be a statement of sorts.  Q needs to forget about trying to work line magic, roll his strongest lines, even at the risk of being slightly top-heavy and just get the Hawks out there. No-one in this Division is uncatchable yet (wow, how’s that for blind optimism?) and that should be foremost in the Hawks minds.

It’s going to be a bumpy ride to the end of the regular season, for sure, but let’s try to hold the doom and gloom at bay, at least for a while. Start it tonight.

Let’s Go, Hawks.