CHICAGO – It’s not panic time yet, but it’s getting there as the games are starting to run out and the points out of the playoffs continue to grow.
For the Blackhawks, that currently sits at eight for the last Western Conference playoff spot after they got just two out of a possible ten points on the road. In a reversal of their season trend, the Blackhawks lost 4-of-5 games on their Canada trip, and now find themselves in desperate need of points with 23 games left.
Meanwhile, the front office has less than a week to decide what to do about the trade deadline, with Stan Bowman having to determine if the team will buy or sell by next Monday evening.
It’s a lot to think about for the Blackhawks at the moment, but at least they get to try to solve their problems this week at home as they return for a pair of games at the United Center.
The Rangers come to town for their only visit of the year on Wednesday while the Predators are in on Friday, as they currently sit five points ahead of the Blackhawks in that chase for the last Wild Card spot.
“Prepare with as much urgency and desperation as we have all year.,” said head coach Jeremy Colliton when asked about his message to the team after the bad road stretch. “The first two games of the road trip we weren’t bad but we just didn’t have that the whole game, and at this time of the year you end up coming on the wrong side of it.”
Colliton is correct, as the team got leads in the first period in all but one of their five games on the road trip. But only their game in Calgary ended up being a victory as the Blackhawks were outscored in the second and third period 13-2, and failed to score in the final 20 minutes in the four losses.
“In the first two games we had the lead. Obviously, any of the last three games we couldn’t come away with the win as well; played pretty well in those games,” said forward Patrick Kane of the road stretch. “Just a matter of executing in certain situations and playing the same way but trying to get the results in the end.”
Kane also pointed toward the fact that the team will likely need a lengthy winning streak to get themselves back into the playoff hunt. Their longest of the season came in January when the Blackhawks won five-straight games, so there is evidence that such a run can be put together.
The question becomes if the group can do that, especially in these final three games before the trade deadline, and continue a playoff chase into April.
“These next few games are huge for us. We’ve got two at home, four on the road, and then pretty much a whole month at home. If we can get ourselves back within a few points of the Wild Card race, and then we have a home stretch we can really do some damage. So, for us, we need to worry about the next game, winning these next few and getting ourselves back in it.”
If they don’t, it could be a third-straight spring at home for the postseason.