Friday, Dec. 31, 2010
By Chris Boden
October 7th at ColoradoOctober 9th versus DetroitOctober 13th versus NashvilleOctober 22nd at St. LouisOctober 23rd versus ColumbusNovember 1st at New YorkNovember 3rd versus New JerseyNovember 7th versus EdmontonNovember 13th at NashvilleDecember 11th at San JoseDecember 13th at ColoradoDecember 15th versus ColoradoDecember 28th at St. LouisDecember 30th versus San Jose
Fourteen of 39 games so far this season where, as Joel Quenneville has aptly described it, his Blackhawks have left meat on the table.
Meat that their opponents have gobbled up for two points each time, while the Hawks have all of three points to show overtime or shootout losses Oct. 7, Nov.13, and Dec. 11.
These are games in which the Blackhawks have been tied, or held a one-goal lead, either entering or during the third period. And lost.
All but two were against the Western Conference teams theyll be battling it out with down to the wire for playoff spots, and positioning. Half occurred at home. Just when an impressive, four-game win streak provided hope those late fades were a thing of the past, it reared its ugly head the last two games, versus teams where victories wouldve provided points to immediately offset the games those opponents had in-hand.
In fairness, there have been twelve games this season where the Hawks have been in similar situations and gone on to win. Overall, its fair to say theyve weathered the storm of injuries, fatigue, and the target on their backs very well.
Theyre in the thick of things as their opponents games-played gradually catch up to theirs. But its those ones that got away that they have to hope wont bite them come April. Make no mistake, it will be an absolute dogfight to make the playoffs. And when they head down the home stretch, making it in would almost seem like the actual playoff games have less pressure - if thats possible - for a defending champ.
Brian Campbell said it after Thursdays loss: the effort was probably there, the smarts might not have been, in terms of taking penalties against one of the most highly-skilled teams in the NHL.
They had the effort and smarts in that win streak to overcome the personnel absences. Theyll need it even more without their captain Sunday and Monday against two teams they are 5-0 against this season - Anaheim and Los Angeles. The Ducks and Kings probably figure its time for some payback.
The To-Do List is ever-evolving. But its safe to say that improving the bottom-five penalty-kill is near the top. And as the calendar year provides a fresh start, a better way of finishing from here on out will be of utmost importance, as the second half of the Blackhawks season begins Wednesday against Dallas.
Im thankful that in 2010, the Blackhawks, and Comcast SportsNet provided me with one of those top career memories of an up-close view of the run to the Stanley Cup, and the ensuing celebrations.
Ill just start 2011 with wishes for health and happiness for all our readers, viewers, and fans. That health part includes the Blackhawks, too.
Happy New Year, everyone.
Chris Boden is the host of Blackhawks Pre and Postgame Live on Comcast SportsNet.