The three youngsters that the Blackhawks are relying upon to make a serious Cup run scored goals in the game, but it wasn’t enough as the Bruins beat the Hawks 5-3 in an early afternoon matinee in Boston.
The loss by the Blackhawks dropped the squad to 7-3-3 against the Eastern Conference this year (including an overtime loss to Boston and also this loss today).
It also exposed what is quickly becoming a glaring flaw in the team. The Blackhawks are struggling mightily against most of the teams who are in the upper tier of the NHL. Against teams who are currently in the top three in both conferences, the breakdown looks a little something like this:
vs. San Jose: 1-1-1 (still have to play March 25th)
vs. Detroit: 0-2-2 (still have to play April 11th and 12th)
vs. Calgary: 4-0-0 (a rare bright spot for the squad)
vs. Boston: 0-1-1
vs. Washington: 0-1-0 (a humiliating loss to Ovechkin and the Caps)
vs. New Jersey: have to play March 17th and March 27th
All total, the Blackhawks are 5-5-4 against the upper echelon teams, and are 31-13-5 against everyone else. Granted, it’s good that the Blackhawks are beating the teams that they are supposed to beat, but on the same token, these are teams that the squad would have to face after the first round of the playoffs.
Yes, the Blackhawks beat Calgary four times, but those four wins took place before the Flames acquired Olli Jokinen and Jordan Leopold at the trade deadline, so that mark could be looked at almost as meaningless as the Chicago Cubs’ record against the Los Angeles Dodgers (5-2) before the Dodgers acquired Manny Ramirez and spanked the pants off the Cubs in the playoffs.
Sure, they could win these last five games against top teams, but looking at it realistically, they will probably white wash it, and that’s good enough to keep the 4th spot in the playoffs, but it doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in the team’s ability to win a playoff series against Detroit or San Jose.
Another problem that was seen during the game was how quickly the effort and intensity fluctuated from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows. They started the game out high octane and great, then dropped off considerably, then revved up the engine and cooled it off repeatedly for the rest of the game.
The effort needs to be at a continuously high level if the team is serious about competing for a Stanley Cup championship. Teams like Detroit slowly suffocate the life out of opponents by pushing the tempo when necessary, attacking defensively constantly, and never playing without the utmost intensity and tenacity. The Blackhawks’ ebb and flow approach that they employed today is not good enough to get victories against tough teams, and Joel Quenneville would be well advised to address this during the next practice the team has in Bensenville.
Another item of note was the lack of committment that Brian Campbell showed when chasing a puck into the corner during the game. He stopped at about the crease so as not to get hit into the boards by Recchi, and he paid the price as Recchi had room to make a play on the puck and set up a possession that ultimately resulted in the first goal of the game.
Then, later in the game, Brian Campbell tried to pull a slick skating move and fall flat on this butt at the blue line, and the Bruins pounced on the puck and Phil Kessel knocked it past Cristobal Huet for a back-breaking goal.
This may just be a bad game for one of the team’s best defensemen, but the lack of committment to digging into the corner to go get the puck that Campbell showed was potential evidence that he is starting to really feel the effects of a season of hard hockey, and if he isn’t willing to dig in like Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook to get loose pucks and prevent the opposition getting offensive possessions, then the Hawks could be in for some problems.
This may just be the overreaction that Chicago is noted for when it comes to its sports teams. It could also be a way of soothing the pain of a tough loss to an Original Six rival. When push comes to shove, however, the Blackhawks haven’t exactly inspired confidence in their ability to beat the top teams in the league, and they will need to bring their A-game in their last five games against these teams.