Making the Stanley Cup Playoffs is no easy task and it’s even harder in the salary cap era. Sustained success has been difficult for many teams including our beloved Chicago Blackhawks.
The abysmal month of February (5-7-2) pretty much made Hawks fans write them off as if they were already eliminated from the playoffs, especially after the horrid Canadian road trip. However, the spark of the surprise-win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on February 27 created a new narrative for the Hawks.
Could they make this unlikely push for the post-season?
After beating Tampa, the Hawks beat a very hungry Florida Panthers team who is desperate for standings points to have any chance at the playoffs. Moving into the month of March, the Hawks destroyed the Anaheim Ducks as expected and many fans thought: the turning point is here!
On Thursday night, the Hawks had yet another surprise win over the Edmonton Oilers that extended their win streak to four games, including an amazing offensive performance, and a whole lot of this:
As of Friday morning, this was really happening. The Hawks were on a four-game win streak heading into their Friday night fight against the worst team in the league: the Detroit Red Wings. However, that was the end of the positives. The Hawks lost to the Red Wings in poor fashion. They were gassed, flat, lame, and weak. It was simply too good to be true and they barely even showed up to the Little Caesar’s Arena.
Now we arrive at the Sunday night loss to the St. Louis Blues. You would think on International Women’s Day and an entire female broadcasting crew, the Hawks would show up in extreme fashion to beat a division rival and avoid a season-sweep.
Come on Hawks, hometown girl Kendall Coyne-Schofield is there between the benches. You have to win for her!
Unfortunately that did not happen. The Hawks have struggled all year with the Blues. Even in their previous meeting, they couldn’t come out on top and they scored five goals! So now, what have we learned?
The trade of Erik Gustafsson was extremely beneficial for Adam Boqvist
I believe Four Feathers Podcast panelist Ron Luce said it best:
Since the Gustafsson trade, Boqvist has five assists in five games. He is becoming his own player without the shadow of Gus looming over his offensive production.
Boqvist is a young player who still has a lot to learn but, now that there is nothing in his way, he can become the player the Hawks need him to be and develop into something quite special.
Corey Crawford is still an elite goaltender
After the trade of Robin Lehner and acquisition of Malcolm Subban, it was clear Crawford was the starting goalie for the remainder of the season. Since that move, Crawford has started nine consecutive games including both the Edmonton and Detroit games in the back-to-backs last week.
If you take into consideration just his numbers in 2020 he’s posting an average .924 save percentage, not including this 2-0 loss to the Blues. Also, if you exclude the one outlier loss against the Blues (6 goals against) then his average increases to .929.
We can eliminate Corey Crawford as “The Problem“.
The Blackhawks try against good teams
Looking over the last two months might not be the best way to tell but, the Hawks have really been playing with purpose against the teams that truly matter and they fell flat many times. The Canadian road trip, for example, had the Hawks face three teams who were ahead of them in the standings: Winnipeg, Calgary, and Vancouver. Then they came home and faced Nashville and Edmonton with a road game against Dallas sprinkled in between.
In those examples across eight games, the Hawks corsi-for was an average 51.8%. Theoretically speaking, it means the Hawks were in control more often than not in these specific games.
|63||2020-02-25||@||St. Louis Blues||5||6||L||30||3||4||0||37||8||2||4||0||31||45||40.8|
|64||2020-02-27||@||Tampa Bay Lightning||5||2||W||27||1||6||0||38||34||0||5||0||30||41||42.3|
|68||2020-03-06||@||Detroit Red Wings||1||2||L||33||0||3||0||25||6||1||2||0||50||43||53.8|
When it all boils down, the Blackhawks were not very good this season. Even if they do somehow manage to pull themselves out of the hole they’ve dug themselves into, they won’t be beating any team like the Blues, Stars, or Avalanche in a seven-game series. At this point, the best thing to hope for is young player development and avoiding major injuries.