Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 4-2 loss to the Colorado Avalanche at Pepsi Center on Saturday:
1. Losing ground
It's been well-documented much this weekend means for the Blackhawks. It could basically make or break their playoff chances with exactly two weeks left. They even got a break when they found out during warmups that Colorado's second-leading point getter Mikko Rantanen would miss the game due to an undisclosed injury, joining captain Gabriel Landeskog on the sidelines.
But the Avalanche seemed to elevate their intensity because of it. Just like their last meeting against Colorado, the Blackhawks failed to hold a lead at any point in the game and were forced to play catch-up in the third period when they fell behind two goals.
With the regulation loss, the Blackhawks fell six points out of the final wildcard spot in the Western Conference with only a game in hand. It didn't help that Arizona picked up a point, either. Time is running out.
2. Lack of power play success reason for offensive drought
The power play was one of the main reasons why the Blackhawks turned their season around at the end of December. It was converting at a 40 percent clip for months. Obviously, that was going to be unsustainable over the course of a full season.
But it has completely dried up over the last several weeks, and it's the primary reason why the offense hasn't been firing on all cylinders as of late.
The Blackhawks had three power-play opportunities against Colorado. They recorded 12 shot attempts, six shots on goal and generated four scoring chances but couldn't find the back of the net. They're now 1-for-25 on the power play in their last 11 games. The 5-on-5 success is there, but the 5-on-4 isn't.
The Blackhawks have scored only seven goals in their past four games, which comes out to 1.75 per game. That's not going to cut it.
3. Not taking advantage of defensive improvement
It really is a shame that the Blackhawks are hitting a scoring drought at the worst possible time. Because there's noticeably been a defensive improvement over the last week. It's their best stretch in a while.
Over the last three games, the Blackhawks have allowed 20 total high-danger chances at 5-on-5, according to naturalstattrick.com, for an average of 6.7 per game. They had given up double-digit high-danger chances in 13 of their previous 17 games, including consecutive games where they allowed 20 to Montreal and 15 to Toronto.
Their season average in that department before Monday was 11.5. So they've shaved off nearly five full high quality scoring chances per game in this mini stretch. That's a huge improvement. But they haven't had much to show for it, recording one out of a possible six points.
4. Turning the page fast
Fortunately for the Blackhawks, they won't have too much time to sulk on this regulation loss. The two Central Division foes will go right back at it on Sunday night at the United Center. And that's truly a must-win game for the Blackhawks. It's why they should start Corey Crawford on back-to-back days for the first time since November 2017.
Another regulation loss would put the Blackhawks eight points back with seven games left, and it would only be a matter of time before they're mathematically eliminated from playoff contention.
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