Predicting the Blackhawks playoff chances a lesson in futility
How are you supposed to make any type of predictions about the Chicago Blackhawks postseason run this year?
How are you supposed to know anything about the state of this team as it enters the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the seventh season in a row?
The final month of the regular season has been a series of skyscraping highs and plunging lows. It started with Patrick Kane’s injury during a game against the Florida Panthers, and followed with a 4-0 shellacking at the hands of the Tampa Bay Lightning the next night.
But the Hawks looked like they’d be okay without their offensive superstar as they won six of their next seven games. Those victories included a sound 4-1 defeat of the playoff-bound New York Islanders and a 1-0 defensive strangling of the New York Rangers, who recently clinched the Presidents’ Trophy with the best record in the league.
Even when the Hawks weren’t at their best, they still found a way to put together four wins in a span of six days, with two of those victories coming over playoff qualifiers Winnipeg and Vancouver.
Especially in the second half of March and in April, though, there have been some lifeless performances out of the Hawks. They were blanked 4-0 by the Stars on March 21, and opened the next week with a pair of duds: a 4-1 loss to the Flyers and a 5-2 defeat against the Blue Jackets. A 4-3 win against the Buffalo Sabres required some late-game heroics from Jonathan Toews to save the Hawks from an embarrassing loss to the league’s basement dwellers, and Chicago then capped the season with a 4-game losing streak.
Ovreall, the Hawks went 5-7 in their last 12 games to close out the regular season in 2015. But late-season slides are nothing new for the Hawks: it’s a trend that’s played out in each of the last five seasons. In 2011, the Hawks closed the season by winning just seven of their last 16 regular season games. The 2012 Hawks had a 9-game losing streak in January and February and then dropped four of their final regular season games. The 2013 Hawks, who would go on to win the team’s second Stanley Cup, had a 12-game stretch of .500 hockey in March and April. In 2014, the Hawks returned from the Olympic break and won just seven of the 16 games they played.
Of the four prior Blackhawks teams that dealt with a slump near the end of the regular season, two of them had lengthy playoff runs with one of them resulting in a Cup victory. Two others went home after the first round.
So what’s going to happen this season?