The Chicago Blackhawks lost their fourth straight game Wednesday night to the Philadelphia Flyers. That in and of itself is news.
Entering their last eleven regular season games, the Blackhawks sit in third place in the Central Division with 88 points, three points out first and five points ahead of in the first wild card race held by the Nashville Predators. The Colorado Avalanche currently occupy the second wild card spot with 76 points in the Western Conference. So, barring an epic collapse, it appears there is a big enough cushion for Chicago to get into the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Perhaps the team knows this and has done the math. That may explain why they seem to be lacking inspiration on the ice. Consider this quote from veteran Andrew Desjardins regarding the team’s play of late:
Andrew Desjardins: "Each individual has to go look at himself in the mirror and just find a little bit of anger." #Blackhawks
— Mark Lazerus (@MarkLazerus) March 15, 2016
Look, I know it is a long season and the Blackhawks have played more games in the last seven years than any team in the history of the NHL, but admitting they can’t find enough passion for games that matter in March? Yes, I know am switching out passion for the word anger. In my opinion, the two are interchangeable in this context. Sure, anger can mean reckless abandon, but it is hard to play angry without passion.
What I find very difficult to accept is that professional hockey players getting paid big money can’t seem to find the passion to consistently give their best to the fans during the season. Tickets start at $60 for nose bleed standing room only in Chicago and quickly jump to several hundred dollars per game. Perhaps the team can be so kind as to let us know what games players may not feel like leaving all they have on the ice, and we can skip those games.
One of the great things about hockey is that the players play through injuries that leave those in other sports cowering in the owner’s suite (yes I’m talking about you Derrick Rose). Players regularly lay down in front of shots going over ninety miles per hour, and wear their bruises like a badge of honor. Except apparently when they don’t feel like it.
Consider what Captain Jonathan Toews said after the Blackhawks loss to the Dallas Stars on March 11: “We ran into a team that was sitting there ready for us. We didn’t have the speed and the work ethic and battles in the corners we needed.” Two more losses later and this still remains a theme. Only now apparently it’s referred to as not playing angry enough.
I wonder how teams like the Minnesota Wild and Colorado feel when reading such quotes by the defending Stanley Cup Champions. Every game matters to them, and I am quite certain they cannot afford to have the team nor any player take a game off. I also have to believe that they need no speeches or motivation to get up for games that matter.
Tell you what Chicago, it might be wise to find that passion, and quickly. If not, it will be a “four and out” come Mid-April. Should that happen, there will be plenty of anger to go around. Only then it will be much too late.
Rick is fortunate to live off the I-90 hockey corridor where both his beloved Chicago Blackhawks and Rockford IceHogs (aka Baby Hawks) call home. Hockey has been in his blood since the early 1970’s when he saw his first Blackhawks game at the “Old Barn”. His favorite player is Keith Magnuson followed closely by Bobby Hull (old school!). When not covering the greatest sport, he enjoys watching live music and has even been known to join his beloved bands on stage for a song or two. Follow Rick on Twitter via @HawksStrength