PHOENIX — The Blackhawks headed back to town on Sunday after being gone for nearly two weeks.
The Circus Trip usually treats them right. And while they would’ve liked a better finish in Saturday night’s trip finale against the Los Angeles Kings, they were pretty happy with how it all went.
The Blackhawks went 3-1-2 on their trip, one more season in which they finished with a positive record on that lengthy excursion. As of Sunday, the Blackhawks are third in the Central Division with 29 points. Dallas leads the division with 38 points, St. Louis is second with 33 and Nashville trails the Blackhawks by one point.
“A win tonight would’ve made it real good,” Brent Seabrook said after Saturday’s game. “We played well in parts and didn’t play as well in some parts. We got some points so that’s good.”
[MORE BLACKHAWKS: Blackhawks end Circus Trip with bitter taste]
Let’s go beyond just this trip. If you want to compare this season to last — though as coach Joel Quenneville always says, it’s tough to truly compare from year to year — the Blackhawks are currently 13-8-3 through 24 games while they were 15-8-1 through the same stretch last season.
Obviously the Blackhawks were still working things out at the start of last season, too. But will they be working things out at the same pace this season? The second line of Artemi Panarin, Artem Anisimov and Patrick Kane — especially Kane — has still accounted for the bulk of the scoring. The offense has improved thanks to Duncan Keith, who has eight points in as many games since returning from knee surgery. Seabrook had a tough finish on Saturday, but he’s otherwise been strong, especially offensively — he’s third on the team with 19 points.
But there’s still a steep scoring drop-off among the forwards after the second line and Jonathan Toews, who has eight goals and seven assists. One of the Blackhawks’ strengths the past few seasons has been balance among the lines, a strong four-line rotation they could roll most games. They still haven’t found that consistently.
[SHOP BLACKHAWKS: Get your Blackhawks gear right here]
On the trip the Blackhawks lost games they thought they played well in (vs. Vancouver), played some of their best hockey (vs. San Jose), won games they probably should have lost (vs. Anaheim) and squandered a lead and a point (vs. L.A.).
“It feels like those games kind of even out, the ones you’re supposed to win and (the ones) you let go,” Corey Crawford said. “Hopefully we have more of the ones where we come back and get those points. We definitely need them throughout the season.”
The Blackhawks’ trip pretty much summed up their season thus far: some good, some bad and the search for consistency continues. They certainly improved their road game from the start of this season. Now they’ll play seven of their next 10 at home, where they’ve been a strong 8-2-1 so far this season. The Central is going to stay tough; the Blackhawks know they need to keep pace, and the trip helped them do that.
“I think it was a pretty decent road trip,” Marian Hossa said. “Obviously we would have liked to end up with a win (on Saturday); that would be perfect for us. It’s a tough loss, but I think we did a lot of good things.”