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The Chicago Blackhawks are 1-4-2 since March 9, which is surprising, considering their annual three-or-so-weeks of underwhelming pre-playoff performances usually start about a week later.
Make no mistake: The Blackhawks’ 6-2 loss to the Dallas Stars Tuesday night was a spear to the ribs. It was another loss to the Stars that saw them outkick the Blackhawks in the first period in Chicago. Another loss that indicated that the Hawks are much, much better playing with a lead (37-6-4 when they score first, sixth-best in the NHL) than when they’re trailing (5-19-3, the third-worst winning percentage in the NHL this season).
“I’m not sure why that’s the case,” Patrick Kane told the Chicago Tribune. “Obviously when you get down, you want to continue to play the same structure and the same way to try to work your way back into the game. For whatever reason that hasn’t been the case. It’s not even like we’re generating much, either. We can do a lot better job of generating chances, holding onto the puck. Have that puck possession game. I think that’s one thing that’s missing from our game right now.”
Joel Quenneville said the game was “hard to watch,” and the gifs don’t lie:
Look, there are obvious reasons for this swoon. Losing Corey Crawford to injury since March 14 is a primary one, as he’s right there with Kane for team MVP this season. Their penalty killing continues to be inferior for a team with Stanley Cup aspirations. Patrick Kane since March 9: one goal and two assists in seven games. Artemi Panarin since March 9: one goal, two assists in seven games.
But here’s another reason the Blackhawks are skidding down the standings at the moment: It’s what they do lately before the playoffs.
In 2014-15, the Blackhawks were 7-7-0 from March 18 until the end of the season.
In 2013-14, the Blackhawks were 7-6-1 from March 18 until the end of the season.
The trend’s not always held. In 2013, the Blackhawks were 13-5-2 down the stretch from March 18, and in 2012 that mark was 6-1-3. But the last two years have shown the same sort of late-season malaise, although sans Crawford they’ve leaned into the skid a bit more emphatically.
But this is what happens, more often than not. And the Blackhawks know it, which is why you hear this kind of rationalization from the guys with three rings and counting. From CBS Chicago:
“It’s a group that’s kind of been down that road before,” Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane said. “We’ve seen everything. Hopefully, we can look back on this and say it’s better that it happened now rather than in a month.”
Added Toews: “At the end of the day, we just have to have that unshakable confidence that good teams go through moments like this, where it doesn’t matter what you do, things don’t go our way.”
And if it means facing the Blues or Stars on the road to start the postseason, so be it.
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