Chicago Blackhawks Wild Card Chase Continues

0
CHICAGO, IL - MARCH 11: Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford (50) celebrates with center Jonathan Toews (19) during a game between the Arizona Coyotes and the Chicago Blackhawks on March 11, 2019, at the United Center in Chicago, IL. (Photo by Patrick Gorski/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Last time we checked in on the Chicago Blackhawks wild card chase they were coming off a 10-4 run that had them 5 points out of a Western Conference playoff spot. They had clawed their way back into contention but faced a tough 19 game schedule to finish off the season. They had 11 road games and 8 home games left to go, the odds were stacked against them.

Blackhawks Wild Card Chase

The Blackhawks first six games of the rest of their season went well as they ended up going 4-2. Listed below are the results of each game:

Date Home/Away     Opponent              Outcome

The Blackhawks won a big game against the Ducks to start off the trip then completely embarrassed themselves against the Los Angeles Kings. They got thumped convincingly by the second worst team in the NHL 6-3. Yes the same Kings who had just lost 10 games in a row demolished the Blackhawks. Playoffs? With this team? After that, they lost to the Western Conference-leading Sharks 5-2. The playoff-hungry team that needed a 4 point road trip came home limping and falling behind in the standings.

Then in typical Blackhawks roller-coaster fashion, the team won its next three games in a row. Fortunately, two of the wins came against teams they are chasing in the wild card race, the Coyotes and Stars. The wins were also both in regulation which avoided the dreaded three-point game. Could things be turning around?

Blackhawks Wild Card Warning Signs

Despite the 4-2 run, the Blackhawks still find themselves the same 5 points out of the last wild card spot gaining no ground in the race. The clock is certainly ticking on the season which leaves the team no room for errors or losses the rest of the way.

Kane = Hart

Patrick Kane has been the heart and soul of the Blackhawks this season. Over the last couple of months, he has scored at a scintillating pace while playing heavy minutes. He has however shown the past 6 games that the wear and tear of playing 23+ minutes a night may be catching up to him. In those last 6 games, Kane scored 2 goals and three assists. Which is well off his previous torrid pace. He is still tied for second in scoring in the NHL with 98 points but the Blackhawks will need Kane’s Hart-worthy performances every game to make a run.

Blackhawks Power-Play Cools Off

One area of play that has helped the Blackhawks wild card chase has been their power play. They were the worst team in the NHL back in November with a 12.7% success rate. Their previous 10-4 run would not have been possible without their improved power play. During that hot streak, the Blackhawks scored 15 out of 44 times on the power play for an incredible 34% success rate.

An area of concern during their last six games has been the “powerless” power play. The team who was unstoppable on the power play went 1-18 over the last six games. The power play has the ability to win games and must be more productive for the Blackhawks to be successful.

As for their floundering penalty killing unit, that horse has been beaten to death and they are still worst in the NHL at 73.3%. During the last six games, they were able to stay on pace and kill 5 of the 7 penalties against them. There’s something to be said about consistency, it’s just not printable.

Man-On-Man, Oh Man

Another topic that is ran into the ground, is coach Jeremy Colliton and his insistence that his defence corps play a man-on-man system. This struggling defence group is just not succeeding at playing this system. During a key moment early against the Sharks both Blackhawks defencemen were along the right boards within feet of each other. Soon after a Sharks player was left alone in the slot to feast on the unprotected net-minder for a goal. This happens every game for the Blackhawks. Often both defencemen are found behind the net, along the same boards or chasing players out to the point while the slot is left unprotected.

In comparison, watching the Sharks defend against the Blackhawks that game their defence and forwards all played the “protect the house” defence scheme. This left the Blackhawks to circle the perimeter while not being able to penetrate into the prime scoring areas. Coach Colliton’s system is hurting the team’s chances of success. He must realize that he does not have the players to succeed at man-on-man coverage. Whether he changes schemes up any time soon is up to him, but chances are they finish the season using man-on-man.

Remaining Schedule

Listed below are the 13 games on the Blackhawks remaining schedule. We are highlighting the date, the opponent, their record this season, and the Blackhawks record against each team this year.

Date Home/Away     Opponent              Record         Blackhawks 2018-19 Record

(*Denotes Currently In Playoffs)

Blackhawks Wild Card Chase Challenges

The last 13 games for the Blackhawks present several challenges to the team. They have 7 of the 13 games on the road. This includes another three-game road trip out west against the Coyotes, Sharks, and Kings at the end of March. The Blackhawks cannot come home with less than four points on this trip. Anything less will ruin any chances in a Blackhawks wild card chase.

After the three-game road trip, they have their last four games against teams currently in the playoffs. The Jets, Blues, Stars, and the Predators. Those four games will decide their fate if they come home from the road trip still in contention.

Bright Side

One good sign is that Corey Crawford is back in net and playing well. The team will definitely need a red-hot Crawford to make a run. Improvements out of the power play and a scoring surge by Kane will certainly help too. If that happens it will be a very interesting Blackhawks wild card chase, to say the least.

Main Photo:

Embed from Getty Images

LEAVE A REPLY

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.