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Blackhawks Mon Mar 17 2014
There's never a good time to fall into a losing streak; however, if there's a time to get it out of the way, it's now before the start of the playoffs. The Hawks have had a couple of bad games recently, which put its fandom into a state of emergency wondering if this team was ever going to win another game again. Season over, man. Season over!
Since the Sochi games, the Hawks are 4-4-0, including 0-2-0 coming into last night's game against the Red Wings. A 3-2 loss in Colorado against the Avalanche followed by a 3-2 loss at home against the Predators last week proved two things for fans at home: they're putting a lot of shots on net and taking a lot of bad penalties.
The Hawks outshot their opponents the last two games with a combined 72 to 58, but led in penalty minutes with a combined 19 minutes to 15. Penalties are going to happen, especially with a defensively aggressive team like the Hawks, but it's when they're happening that has led to unfortunate goals against.
In the game against the Avs, a game that catapulted Patrick Roy's team ahead of the Hawks in the standings, there were two bad penalties late in the third period, which put the Avs at a two-man advantage. Nearly halfway through the period, Andrew Shaw was called for interference on a hit that was completely unnecessary. That was followed 30 seconds later with a delay-of-game penalty against Marcus Kruger.
The Avs already led 2-1 at the time, but the Hawks were riding high after Patrick Kane's electrifying goal earlier in the second period cut the lead in half. With the two-man advantage, Ryan O'Reilly fired a wrister past Antti Raanta to give the Avs a 3-1 lead, and eventually a 3-2 win.
The idea of momentum in a game is one that can be debated, but it was clear the back-to-back penalties called against Shaw and Kruger were back breakers. Mix that with a few bad turnovers and we find the Hawks, who once had the best record in the league, to now looking up at both Colorado and St. Louis while in third place in the Central.
Then, enter last night when an old friend in the Detroit Red Wings came to the United Center for a nationally televised game. Marin Hossa returned from his upper-body injury, which would help any team, and was named the game's number-one star with one goal and two assists. The penalty minutes were still there at 10 minutes to only eight for the Red Wings, but the stat of shots fired went 30 to 20 in favor of the Hawks.
It was a much-needed win against a team that took the Hawks to the limit last year in the Western Conference semis. The Hawks looked the same as the other games, except for the absence of Hossa, but this time came out on top. Better-shot selection can be attributed to this breaking trend; although, sometimes the puck simply bounces in your favor.
The point is that every team goes into a losing streak at times. Hawks fans were spoiled last season when their team started the season hotter than a pistol by way of a 24-game unbeaten streak, and then followed it up by winning the Stanley Cup. The Hawks certainly can win it all again, but you might not have a comfortable view entering in the playoffs this year compared to last.
The Hawks have 14 games remaining on the schedule before the playoffs begin. They're one point behind Colorado for second in the standings, which is the difference between hosting or playing in Colorado for round one. They remain seven games behind the Blues, who have one game in hand. The chances of catching them are slim, even with a game against Ken Hitchcock's team this week at the UC and one next month.
Anything can happen along the stretch these next three to four weeks, but if it's one thing that needs to remain constant, it's for the team to not get down with close losses, especially if they're outshooting the opponent. That, watching the penalties, the return of Hossa and now apparent call-up of Finnish star Teuvo Teräväinen should provide a little extra kick down the stretch, and should help talk Hawks fans off the ledge.