Sunday, January 24, 2016

Blackhawks' Tank Running A Little Low, But No Worries

There is a saying, "It's a marathon, not a sprint".  This applies to many things including a full NHL season.  The Chicago Blackhawks did not have a friendly visit to the two teams in Florida this last week.  Although the players will never give excuses for their play, let's take a look at a few things that may be factors.

First off, let's look at the Eastern Conference Standings.  The Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning are 2 of the top 5 teams in the Conference this year.  The Panthers are no longer the pushover team as they once were.  For those with short memories, when the Blackhawks were winning their 7th game in a row, the Panthers had won their 12th in a row.  As far as Tampa Bay is concerned, we already know they are a good team.  Not to mention after getting shutout in Game 6 of the NHL Finals last year, they were also shutout on October 24th of this year at the United Center.  A slight revenge factor was eating at the Lightning, who came into the game against the Blackhawks winning 6 in a row.

The biggest contributing factor would be that the Blackhawks have played 12 games in the last 20 days, including 3 sets of back-to-back games.  Remember the quote, "It's a marathon, not a sprint"?  Well, the Blackhawks' schedule doesn't give them the opportunity to catch their breath right now.  After Tuesday, they will have played 14 games in 24 days.  That average doesn't even give a full day's rest between games in a stretch of 3 weeks where every team in the league wants to beat the reigning Stanley Cup Champions.

The two games left of this "sprint" have the St. Louis Blues visiting the United Center tonight and the Blackhawks visiting the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday.

The Blues have won 5 of their last 7 games.  In 2 previous meetings this year:

St. Louis Blues 6 AT Chicago Blackhawks 5
Chicago Blackhawks 4 AT St. Louis Blues 2

The Carolina Hurricanes are 5-2-1 in their last 8 games.  In their lone previous meeting this year:

Carolina Hurricanes 2 AT Chicago Blackhawks 1

After Tuesday, comes the much needed All-Star Break.  The Blackhawks will get a full week off before they start a 3-game road trip against Colorado, Arizona, and Dallas.  For those that are upset about Duncan Keith and Corey Crawford not appearing in the All Star game, I say please refer to the above article referencing the need to rest.  

Corey Crawford is having a career year and is on pace for personal bests in Games Played, Wins, and Minutes Played.  He is a huge reason why the Blackhawks have had the success they have had, especially in their 12-game winning streak (9-0-0, .946 SV%, 1.88 GAA).  The argument can be made that he stole 3 or 4 games for the Hawks on that streak.  With the amount of games played and minutes he will be playing, he needs to have that rest for the post-season.

There are still 31 games remaining in the NHL season and the Blackhawks are in a good place atop the Conference.  It's not important to be the top seed in the Conference, as the Blackhawks have proved that twice before (2nd seed in 2010), (4th seed in 2015).  All you need to have, is enough points to get into the Road To The Cup that leads to the finish of the marathon.


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