The Chicago Blackhawks are down 3-1 in their Western Conference Quarterfinal matchup against the Phoenix Coyotes in this year’s Stanley Cup Finals and now stand on the brink of going golfing by next week.
There are plenty of issues up and down this team that you could point out as a reason for the deficit, and they’re problems that go all the way back to the regular season.
The coaching is an issue, which ties almost directly to the problems on special teams. Goaltending is a problem, with Corey Crawford allowing three soft goals in all three overtime losses. The defense is a disaster, and is even worse when Sean O’Donnell is inexplicably dressing.
But a major problem with this team is the fact that the big guns on this team simply haven’t shown up yet for this series.
We hear all about the Blackhawks’ “core”, and a big reason why they’ve let several players go in the past couple seasons is to keep that core intact. Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, and Marian Hossa make up that core on the forward lines.
Obviously, Hossa is out. And he’s going to continue to be out for the foreseeable future. But even before he went down, courtesy of Raffi Torres, Hossa wasn’t particularly effective in his two games in the series. He had no points and was a plus-3 before being knocked out by Torres.
Sharp has been more invisible than even Hossa was. Aside from his deflected goal that forced overtime in Game 2, Sharp has contributed virtually nothing. One does have to wonder if his wrist injury from earlier this season is having any effect on that, though.
Toews returned from his concussion in Game 1 and had a strong game, with a goal and an assist in the loss. He’s winning faceoffs at a big clip, and has three points for the series, but has been held back, particularly in Game 4, by his linemates. Toews rolled with Andrew Brunette on one side of him and 19-year-old Brandon Saad on the other side. Not an easy feat to get some offense generated, especially with the way Brunette has played in this series.
Out of the “big four”, Kane has actually looked pretty decent in this series, except for the fact that he’s trying to do too much. He’s going for the big play everytime he touches the puck and his overhandling has led to some turnovers.
If the Hawks hope to rise up against the Coyotes and extend this series, to a Game 6 or a Game 7, it’s going to start with the big names. The secondary scoring has been there. In regulation, the goaltending has been there. It’s time for the big dogs to be there.