If anyone had guessed the Chicago Blackhawks would be struggling in January 2014, there would definitely be confusion. Unfortunately, the Hawks have not been playing as well as expected in January, and it’s cost them in the standings. It’s made the fans and some in the media a little edgy. The Olympic break is coming up and with it, comes a long road trip that will last longer than the Circus Trip. And thanks to it, the Hawks won’t play a single home game until their March 1 Stadium Series game. Needless to say, they need to win a game.
What needs to get going for the Hawks is their offense. It seems as if their line combinations are starting to get kind of rusty and predictable. Yes, Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp make a fantastic line combination, but Toews should be paired back up with his fellow superstar Patrick Kane. Speaking of Kane, he’s been shuffled around multiple times. As pointed out in this article, the Hawks’ top six forwards have failed to maintain possession and forechecking. Perhaps putting Toews and Kane back together would help things.
The defense, meanwhile, needs to protect Corey Crawford better. Many of the games he has lost, they barely provided any protection for him and some bad goals have gotten through. He’s still the same goalie he’s always been, but he needs help. The defensive pairings are good, but they need to be better. They do play better around Antti Raanta, but it’s doubtful he’s going to be in goal during the playoffs (unless Crawford gets injured again, and that seems unlikely).
The Winnipeg Jets are red hot right now, and it will make things difficult for the Hawks. They cannot look past the Jets coming in while expecting to win. If the Hawks can win this home game, they can go into the month-long United Center closure with some confidence that can help them in the homestretch of the NHL season. It’s no easy task, but it can be done.