CHICAGO – One of the great narratives of the Blackhawks’ run of success during the last decade was their great record at the United Center.
The team was consistently over the .500 mark at home, and even last year finished 19-14-8 when they didn’t make the playoffs. Big and enthusiastic crowds have made for a major home ice advantage which the Blackhawks took advantage of during three Stanley Cup championship runs.
But in the 2019-2020 season there has been a reversal of fortunes.
No, the Blackhawks are by no means bad at home, but their record of 12-12-4 at the United Center is behind the one in which they have on the road this season. That’s 13-9-4, and is a big reason why the team finds themselves in the thick of the Western Conference Wild Card race with 28 games to go as they embark on a five-game road trip through Canada.
It’s part of a very travel-heavy month of February, where the team has just three home games and concludes with four-straight on the road.
So why the success? A few on the squad have their own thoughts on why.
“On the road, you’re kinda naturally an underdog, just playing in front of the other team’s crowd. Going into those games, you just seem to rally with each other even more and have some more of that desperation, knowing they could gain momentum with a goal and or a big chance, and their crowd getting behind them,” said defenseman Connor Murphy. “When you have a little bit of that underdog mentality, I think that can be good, and it gives a little more fight and bite in your game.”
Certainly, that’s been the case since mid-December, where the Blackhawks have won eight of ten games on the road while also picking up a point in an overtime loss to the Wild on Tuesday. Their only loss in that stretch came in Vancouver on January 2nd, a 7-5 decision in which Robin Lehner ended up getting injured.
The goalie has had his hand in a few of those victories, and he doesn’t believe the reason for success is that complicated.
“I feel like we’ve played a little more simple game on the road,” said Lehner. “Just kinda getting pucks deep and been working hard.”
Jeremy Colliton has a similar thought process when it comes to road success while also crediting the team for having a short memory when it comes to adversity in those contests.
“Our mentality has been better on the road as far as willingness to grind for 60 minutes, “said Colliton. “It doesn’t really matter how it looks. Willing to put the puck in deep in certain situations. We want to make plays whenever we can, but sometimes you’ve got to give the other team credit; they had a great gap or they had back pressure that put us in a bad spot and just live to die another day.
“I think we’ve been much more willing to play that type of game on the road, and we’ve got some results because of it.”
More will be needed for the team to keep them in the race for their first postseason berth since the 2017 season. They sit three points behind the Jets for the last Wild Card spot as they face them Sunday night, with the Wild, Predators, and Coyotes all in the chase with them.
“Every game is pretty much a playoff game, pretty much, and every game you’re going to get your opponent’s best. Everyone’s fighting for those points. I don’t think it really matters who we play, we’ve got to approach it like it’s ‘Life or Death’ every game.” said forward Drake Caggiula.
For the moment, some of these games of consequence will be played on the road, sweet road.