Thursday, Feb. 3, 2011
By Tracey Myers
Ah, home sweet home. For the Chicago Blackhawks so far this season, its been anything but. Whether theyve gotten into startstop mode too often, gotten too pretty or just havent shown up at all, the Madhouse has been maddening.
Well, now theyre going into enemy territory for a while. A long while, it seems. The Blackhawks will play 19 of their next 31 on the road, including this five-game trip that takes them through Western Canada and the southwest U.S. If the Blackhawks are going to be successful on it, they are going to have to get back to that simple, hard-hat hockey that fared so well for them on their Circus Trip back in November.
And theyre going to have to live by their own mantra: from here on out, every game truly does count.
We went into the break disappointed, so lets channel our energy in a proper way, coach Joel Quenneville said prior to the Blackhawks 7-4 victory over Columbus on Tuesday. You want to make sure guys are focused and youre ready to start.
The Blackhawks victory over the Blue Jackets exemplifies what these final 31 are probably going to be like: tough, sometimes mucky, fights to the end. Shaking off All-Star break rust and overcoming two deficits, the Blackhawks gritted one out. It came with no style points.
None of the remaining games should have style points. The Blackhawks just need to play hard, 60-minute games.
They need Patrick Kane to get his scoring going again. Same for Marian Hossa. They need Patrick Sharp to keep doing what hes been doing. Same for Jonathan Toews. They need both their goaltenders, Marty Turco and Corey Crawford, playing every night like theyre trying to grab the No. 1 job away from the other. They need their defense to be as sound as it was last season.
As Quenneville said, lets make sure theres a purpose. We all want to max out no matter what the situation.
Entering Thursday nights games, the Blackhawks were eighth in the Western Conference with 58 points. Four through seven are Nashville (61), San Jose (60), Anaheim (60) and Phoenix (59). Can they leap into fourth place with a couple of victories? Sure. Can they fall just as fast with some bad games? Absolutely.
The Blackhawks have been inconsistent this year. Ill argue the entire conference has been, save Vancouver and Detroit. You dont get a logjam like the one were seeing because everyones running on all cylinders.
For as much as the Blackhawks have squandered, they still have more than enough opportunities to climb back near the top. Theyve got to put their hard hats on again. Theyve got to play 60-minute games every night. And theyve got to embrace the road-game mentality every minute, every second.
The road beckons once more. The Blackhawks have some time to bond, regroup and recognize the task at hand. They can get there with simple, hard-played hockey.
Tracey Myers is CSNChicago.com's Blackhawks Insider. Follow Tracey on Twitter @TramyersCSN for up-to-the-minute Hawks information.