As Viktor Stalberg redirected a Duncan Keith rip from the top of the circle the fans said good-bye to the men in red, in hopes that the recent home-woes aren’t nearly as dreadful on the road. Nearing the quarter-mark of the season the Chicago Blackhawks have established everything but conference dominance.
After Sunday’s victory over the streaking Anaheim Ducks, the Blackhawks finally were able to take a sigh of relief in ending a four-game home losing streak. If there was any game that was most important all season it was this one. The Blackhawks will now hit the road in what could be a six-game trip that could very much make or break an already un-nerving season.
In the next two weeks the Blackhawks will face perhaps the best of the best in Western Conference, with the exception of inter-division foes. With Vancouver, Los Angeles, and San Jose on the schedule, one really must look no further. A rematch with Anaheim and another game against the Hawk-killing, Edmonton Oilers will ice the trip.
At 9-9-2, the Blackhawks face a gut-wrenching task in trying just to keep their head above water. In search for some sort of leadership, the comparisons to a season ago have become extinct and the acceptance of mediocrity has grown to be accepted across a critic-filled fan base.
A year ago, the Blackhawks thrived upon a balanced attack that was back-stopped by a solid defensive effort. While goalie skepticism ruled the air-waves, the lack of team effort seems to outweigh any up or down endured thus far. Currently the Blackhawks rank in the bottom half of all important defensive categories: Goals Against Average, Shots Allowed, and Save Percentage.
In order to right the damaged ship, the Blackhawks must go back to the basics. With the exception of the powerplay, the Blackhawks have no bragging rights. Night in and night out the urgency seems to be lacking, while last night showed glimpses of what could be if the Blackhawks play to the level they are capable of.
At this point the Blackhawks have played the most games out of any other NHL team. While hoping this would have been a good thing entering the long road trip, it has placed fear in many followers. Already with nine losses, the Blackhawks didn’t reach this notch until a loss to San Jose on December 22nd of last season. A direct representation of the change is in recent power rankings which have the Blackhawks in the mediocrity of the league.
Now what the young team faces is a road trip that typically measures what kind of success will follow. All while sitting at .500, the pressure facing them can be felt all the way back at the United Center. As expectations continue to taper, coaches continue to search for answers. Right now any answer would be a sufficient answer, but until consistency sets in the Blackhawks will remain a “yester-thought” of the conference elite.