The results have been a little up and down lately: a 2-1 loss in New York, a 5-1 drubbing of Pittsburgh in the Stadium Series and then a disappointing 4-2 loss to division foe Colorado.
The Chicago Blackhawks haven’t been bad. Bad is a strong word, and the Blackhawks haven’t been that in quite some time. Inconsistent, however, is a very fitting description.
It’s crunch time in the NHL regular season, that time when teams are trying to get the best placement possible in the standings. The Blackhawks have bounced around the top three Western Conference spots these past few weeks, partly due to other teams like Anaheim and St. Louis coming on strong. It’s also been partly due to the Blackhawks’ own inconsistency: overtime/shootout points unclaimed, points left on the table vs. division opponents and the slumps that just come with an 82-game season.
Whatever the reason, the Blackhawks know they have to get their steady game back fast.
“Consistency is something we need to work on before going into the playoffs,” Bryan Bickell said. “You see the Pittsburgh game and the last game; I thought we played pretty good (on Tuesday) to get the win but we didn’t execute the little things. We’re going to learn from those; those points we left on the table last night could be crucial in the long run. But we need to learn now before it’s too late. This next game is a big test. We need to be good.”
General manager Stan Bowman said the Blackhawks need to, “stabilize and get ourselves back acclimated to being ready for the stretch run.”
“I think the one area we’ve struggled with this year is the penalty killing, but it’s been creeping up since October. We’re looking to keep pushing to get better at that,” Bowman continued. “Our power play has been consistent all year long. It’s been a very effective weapon for us. Beyond that, I just think it’s consistency, finding a way to get points. Our group understands what it takes to win but it’s a very competitive league right now. The standings are tight, so you have to be ready every night.”
The Blackhawks have been solid but not as spectacular as earlier in the season. There have been games where they’ve liked their outing for the most part but still came away point-free. Tuesday’s game vs. Colorado was a prime example of that, and those are the games that leave coach Joel Quenneville stinging. Still, he likes what the Blackhawks are doing for the most part.
“I don’t think we’re playing bad hockey, but the results are obviously not what we want,” he said. “Every game, we’ve felt we probably could have gotten something out of. But I don’t think we’re at the point where we don’t like the way we’re going, I just think we can be a little bit sharper and that might be the differential.”
A sharp Blackhawks team is a very successful Blackhawks team, as we’ve all seen in the past. We’re coming to that time of year when the Blackhawks know how they have to play. They just have to do it, and do it consistently.
“(Tuesday) we did some things well. You never know which way the game could’ve went, but you don’t worry about that too much when you’re playing well. But there have been a couple gams where we’ve been inconsistent and ended up losing,” Brandon Saad said. “The home stretch in sight here, and we’re looking to find consistency and get back on track.”