Chicago was ranked the first in the NHL just a week ago. With 20 wins, 44 total points, 105 goals, and 11 road wins, the Blackhawks came off their annual Circus Trip looking like defending, and possibly repeating, champions.
Though they haven’t won yet in December, the Blackhawks aren’t on what would be considered an awful skid just yet. Since Joel Quenneville became head coach back in 2008, Chicago has had only four 4+ game losing streaks: March 2009 (5 games), April 2011 (4 games which overlapped the end of the regular season and the beginning of the playoffs), January 2012 (4 games), and January/February 2012 (9 games). As far as three game losing streaks, during that same time frame, Chicago had three of them.
The Blackhawks never lost more than two games during their championship 2012-2013 season.
While nobody needs to be panicking just yet, there is an issue to address. One of the top goaltenders in the league, Corey Crawford has been looking for consistency these last few games. Though Antti Rannta was in net for Chicago’s shootout loss to the Ducks, Crawford was in net to face both the Stars and the Wild. At least Raanta’s game went into a shootout.
Recently, Quenneville hit the nail on the head when talking to the media. “He needs to be better,” said Quenneville of Crawford. The comment came after Chicago’s game with Minnesota where Chicago had the lead early in the third period, but gave up two goals in the last four minutes to give the game away. The Wild game winner came with just 1:48 left in the game, while Crawford stopped 19 of only 23 shots on the night.
As far as Chicago’s offense goes, things are looking to be status quo. Chicago is netting 2-4 goals per night, which is typical of an NHL game. They are seeing production from the guys expecting to fill those roles, along with the occasional goal from guys not expected to be goal-scorers.
However, the team knows it needs to step it up. “You look at the last couple games. There are mistakes we’ve made that we have to tend to, obviously,” said captain Jonathan Toews. Chicago is the star pupil of the Central Division, claimed to be the best division in the NHL. When you’re at the top of the top, mistakes can be costly and highlighted.
What Chicago needs to do now is get a grip on the reigns. Crawford can bounce back to his winning ways if he can calm down and focus on the nightly task of playing top-tier hockey.
Winning a cup, being the talk of the town, and running the top of the NHL standings like a Senior in high school, has given Chicago an apparent air of confidence. Confidence is good, cockiness is not. Any team can win on any night. That needs to be a theme in Chicago’s locker room right now.