For many years, November has meant an extended road trip for the Chicago Blackhawks. The Ringling Bros. circus would come to Chicago for an extended stay and the Blackhawks would have to hit the road. Because of this, the extended road trip became known as the annual “Circus Trip” for the Blackhawks.
Chicago Blackhawks Circus Road Trip: Then and Now
After more than 100 years, the Ringling Bros. Circus last may. While high operating costs and the decline of ticket sales have been blamed, the decision was also driven by growing concern about the treatment of animals. While there may be no circus in town, this month the Blackhawks still play seven games on the road.
Annual Circus Road Trip History
Blackhawks Novembers Past
After the expansion of the 60’s and 70’s, the team would play several away games out east. Following the 80’s expansion and the WHA merger, the Hawks would alternate between west and east coast trips season to season. In the late 90’s, the “Circus Trip“ consisted of traveling to play west coast teams.
Despite the long road trip and travel, the Hawks often used the trip to bond as a team. They would try and build an “esprit de corps” as former Hawk coach Mike Keenan loved to say. Unfortunately, success varied year to year for the team. While under current Blackhawk coach Joel Quenneville, the annual Circus Trip has been successful and was used as an important building block to a successful regular season record.
Blackhawks November Present Day
Due to the Ringling Bros. Circus closing down, the Blackhawks do not have an extended west coast road trip this November. This season the Hawks do have 8 straight games against teams from the Eastern Conference, 3 home and 5 away. This set of games are a unique twist for their season schedule compared to years past.
Their first game of the 8 was at home last Sunday, a 2-0 loss to the Montreal Canadiens. Last night they suffered a 3-1 road loss to the Philadelphia Flyers. Their next 6 opponents from the East present the Blackhawks with a daunting task over the next three weeks. Furthermore, the 6 teams remaining have a combined record of 47-32-13. The inconsistent Hawks are currently 10th in the Western Conference with 16 points, tied with 4 other teams. As a result of the recent Blackhawks struggles, the next 6 games will have a big impact on their ability to stay in the playoff picture. If they can win 4 or 5 of the next 6 games, they should be in good shape.
Improving their Play
To improve their play, the Blackhawks will need to improve their offensive production and better support Corey Crawford.
Paltry Power Play
A large part of Chicago’s anemic offense is their power play. It has been near the bottom of the NHL all season. Last night against the Flyers, they were 0-4 on the night. This included an extended 5-3 man advantage that could have swung the momentum in a close game. The Hawks are still searching for that all-important net-front presence and some greasy goals. If they cannot improve the power play soon, the next three weeks will be tough to watch.
Leading the League: Corey Crawford
While the Hawks have been outscored by every team except the Hurricanes. Luckily for the Blackhawks, they have Corey Crawford in goal. Crawford is still leading the NHL in goals-against average and save percentage. Because of his play in net, Crawford was recently named the #1 star in the NHL for his two shutouts last week. Crawford has been great, but he will need some offensive help from his team over the next 6 games to be sure.
The Month Ahead
Listed below is the record of the Blackhawks and their upcoming Eastern Conference opponents:
Chicago Blackhawks 7-7-2 16 pts. Goals = 44 Goals Against = 39
Eastern Conference Opponents
11/11 away vs. Carolina Hurricanes 5-5-3 13 pts. Goals = 35 Goals Against = 38
11/12 home vs. New Jersey Devils 9-4-2 20 pts. Goals = 52 Goals Against = 48
11/15 home vs. New York Rangers 8-7-2 18 pts. Goals = 56 Goals Against = 57
11/18 away vs. Pittsburgh Penguins 9-6-2 20 pts. Goals = 45 Goals Against = 59
11/22 away vs. Tampa Bay Lightning 12-2-2 26 pts. Goals = 64 Goals Against = 43
11/25 away vs. Florida Panthers 4-8-2 10 pts. Goals = 48 Goals Against = 59