Needless to say, it has been several years since Chicago has gone through a stretch anywhere near as unimpressive as the streak of mediocrity it is presently mired in. The Blackhawks’ offense has been inconsistent and often flat-out terrible, particularly in two home games against the Nashville Predators and a road matchup vs. last season’s Stanley Cup Final nemesis Boston Bruins.
The defense, meanwhile, has been a problem all year long. Do not be fooled by the lopsided shot totals from Chicago’s game in Ottawa on Friday (49-29 in favor of the Blackhawks); the Senators generated an enormous quantity of high-quality opportunities, and were testing Antti Raanta in prime scoring positions from start to finish.
Chicago appeared sluggish and even lazy against Ottawa. On a Senators shorthanded goal, Patrick Sharp (who plays the point on the power play) coasted back on defense at quarter-speed while letting the ill-suited Brandon Saad cover for him. Sharp is hardly the only one guilty of being lackadaisical for the Blackhawks these days, however; even Jonathan Toews has been spotted taking a breather instead of giving his all.
Laziness — sporadic or not — is as out of character for Toews as it is for Chicago as a team, but it has nevertheless been an obvious problem lately.
Time is dwindling for the Blackhawks to correct their many issues. Many of the NHL‘s best teams are heading into the postseason playing some of their best hockey of the season, but Chicago is as about as far from that boat as possible. The longer this slump extends, the more feasible a first-round flameout becomes.