As the season dwindles down, the playoff urgency grows for the Blackhawks

DETROIT, MI - JANUARY 25: Chicago Blackhawks left wing Vinnie Hinostroza (48) gets congratulations from the bench after scoring the third goal of the game during the Detroit Red Wings game versus the Chicago Blackhawks on January 25, 2018, at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Steven King/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

CHICAGO – This is not pressure they are used to. This kind of stuff only happens in May and June for this team. But if the first four months of their season has proven anything, 2017-2018 is not like the other years in the Joel Quenneville era.

As January gets ready to turn into February, the Blackhawks remain on the outside of the playoff picture looking in. That’s where they’ve been for most of this season as inconsistency, youth, and the loss of Corey Crawford have led to a rather pedestrian campaign.

The Blackhawks head into tonight’s game with the Predators after the quick All-Star break four points behind the Avalanche for the last Wild Card spot in the Western Conference. Currently there are three teams that have the same amount of points (57) as Colorado sitting on the doorstep of the playoffs as the Blackhawks sit in last place in the Central Division.

It’s quite a departure from where the team was just a year ago when the finished with the best record in the conference. Legitimate fears of missing the playoffs haven’t been the norm in this current run with the team, with only the 2010-2011 featuring a close call in not qualifying for the postseason.

Starting this stretch run will be quite different for the Blackhawks tonight in Nashville, who are trying to keep things calm with a twinge of urgency.

“Trying to find the right balance as far as making sure were ready to go mentally every game but we’re not trying to hard and overskating and making the wrong plays,” said Jonathan Toews of the team’s attitude with 33 games to go.  “Just go out there and play hockey.”

Maybe then the team can finally get on one of its signature runs that has aided strong postseasons over the past decade. Since a five-game winning streak in December against middle-of-the-pack to bottom teams in the NHL, the Blackhawks have only won back-to-back games once. Their win over Detroit last Thursday saved a brutal stretch at home where the Blackhawks got just three points in six games at the United Center.

“Hopefully our time’s coming here,” said right wing Patrick Kane. “It would be nice to get rolling a little bit. We got a little confidence in that last game against Detroit. I think a lot of us played the right way and did some good things and kinda got rewarded in that game.”

Maybe the same kind of effort can earn them a spot in the playoffs. They’re slowly running out of time to deliver.