Okay, first off, this article is not panicking. It’s only two months into the NHL season, after all, but the Chicago Blackhawks have already lost three games in a row for the first time since the 2013 Western Conference Semifinals against the Detroit Red Wings. While it’s certainly not time to panic, perhaps it is time to be concerned. After all, these are the defending Stanley Cup champions. A losing streak like this is not something to just brush off.
But what has been the reason for this skid? Perhaps it’s fatigue from the Circus Trip, but they have still performed well. Indeed, the Hawks have managed to stay with the teams they lost to — the Dallas Stars, Minnesota Wild and Anaheim Ducks — and only lost by one goal. But it’s become clear that the defensive and penalty kill issues they’ve had are coming back to bite them in the back.
Add that on top of the fact that Corey Crawford seems to be in a bit of a slump, too. He’s allowed eight goals on 41 shots in the games against the Stars, Wild and Ducks and has a .906 save percentage, a number far below what you’d expect from an elite goaltender like Crawford. Add that to the Hawks’ penalty kill struggles (which are likely to keep coming up) and you have a recipe for trouble.
Since it will likely come up again, the fact of the matter is the penalty kill is atrocious. In 85 attempts, opponents have scored a total of 24 goals against the Blackhawks for about 71.8 percent. By contrast, the 2013 team had a penalty kill of 87.2 percent. This cannot be stressed enough: This must be fixed. The reason why they brought in Kris Versteeg and brought back Joakim Nordstrom was so that they could improve the penalty kill. Perhaps they’ll need to work on this in practice — even though they don’t practice very much.
And there might be another reason: The Hawks are just plain tired. Yes, this was brushed aside earlier, but when you consider it it makes sense. The Blackhawks had been on the road for two weeks, and just two days after their first home game since that road trip they were on the road in Minnesota. They haven’t had much time to rest. So expect them to take advantage of a day off to catch up on their Z’s.
Should Hawks fans be panicking? No, but it is okay to feel frustrated and concerned. They still have time to fix their issues, and head coach Joel Quenneville has sounded as if he wants to make the necessary adjustments. All good teams have difficult stretches, but it’s definitely okay to be concerned in these kinds of situations. After all, remember what happened in the Conference Semis: They won three straight games to win the series. Expect a response much like that in the coming games.