Three and a half minutes into the 3rd period last night the Chicago Blackhawks were dominating the Nashville Predators and appeared to be back in the saddle after a 10 game stretch of .500 hockey. Five minutes later the game was tied, and the Hawks graciously accepted an icing call after being stuck in their own zone for over two minutes. Eventually Chicago came away with a shootout win (thanks to 34-year-old defenseman Michal Rozsival) and reclaimed the league’s top point total, however, it appears this kind of volatility won’t stand with Hawks brass.
In the last 24 hours, Chicago has sent Jeremy Morin, Brandon Bollig and Jimmy Hayes back down to the minors in an effort to shore up the roster as the playoffs approach. With forwards Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp set to return from injuries and recently acquired center Michal Handzus coming aboard, the Hawks are hoping this version of the team can play consistent hockey for 60 minutes. Hossa and Sharp should bolster a mediocre power play currently ranked 15th and Handzus’ 55.6 win percentage will hopefully help the team keep the puck in the offensive zone.
Of course, faceoff wins and power play goals are fine and dandy, but unless the Hawks can figure out a way to regain the focus that kept them out of the loss column during the first half of the season this team is increasingly looking like one primed for a painful playoff exit.
And goalie Corey Crawford needs to tighten up RIGHT NOW. The term “soft” does not begin to describe the two goals Nashville scored on him last night, and on Easter Sunday Crawford came within 47 seconds of a shutout against arch rival Detroit Red Wings before allowing a Cory Emmerton slap shot to cross him up. Crawford—and the Hawks defense for that matter—needs to buckle down in the third period and finish teams the way they did during their 24-game unbeaten streak.
Chicago has two days until the St. Louis Blues come to town, which should give them a chance to get the new lines in order. After that they have two more shots at Nashville, a team ranked last in shots per game (25.5) and 21st in goals scored (89).
The bottom line is being back on top of the points standings is great news, however, if version 4.0 of this Blackhawks team can’t get online soon that record they set to start the season is gonna be a pretty small footnote to the 2013 campaign.