Blackhawks

Four takeaways: Blackhawks playoff hopes take massive hit after West Coast trip

Four takeaways: Blackhawks playoff hopes take massive hit after West Coast trip

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 5-2 loss to the San Jose Sharks at SAP Center on Sunday:

1. Playing catch-up again

The Blackhawks trailed three different times. They responded twice. But they couldn't even it up the third time as the Sharks pulled away in the third period with a trio of goals, which included an empty-netter.

It's the fourth time in five games the Blackhawks failed to hold a lead at any point in the game despite scoring at least three goals in four of them. But quite frankly, it's the primary reason they've lost four of those five games since winning 10 of their previous 12. It's difficult to pick up victories when you're chasing the game and don't build any sort of cushion.

2. Effort was there, but high quality chances against remained

The Blackhawks knew what they were up against going into San Jose. Even though they were without Evander Kane and Erik Karlsson, the Sharks ranked second in goals per game (3.58), third in shots per game (33.8) and fourth in power play percentage (25.3). It was a big test for the defense.

And while the overall effort was certainly much better than it was in Los Angeles, the Sharks generated 29 scoring chances and 16 high-danger chances at 5-on-5, according to naturalstattrick.com. It's the 11th time this season the Blackhawks have given up at least 16 high-danger chances during 5-on-5 play. The Blackhawks themselves had eight.

3. Patrick Kane's dry spell

After recording at least one point in 20 straight games, Kane was held off the scoresheet for the third time in four games and second straight. It's only the second time this season Kane has been held without a point in back-to-back games, with the first and only other time being Nov. 21 and 23.

The Blackhawks are now 0-10-2 when Kane fails to pick up at least a point. They're 27-19-7 when he does, according to NBC Sports Chicago's stats guru Christopher Kamka. So yeah, there's a reason he's been in the MVP discussion. When he's on, so are the Blackhawks. When he's not, often times neither is the team.

4. Playoff hopes all but dead

The Blackhawks didn't do themselves any favors on this West Coast trip. It was important for them to pick up at least four of six points to stay in the hunt. But they managed to get just two, and it came during the first game when they squeaked out a last-minute victory in regulation.

With the loss, the Blackhawks are heading back home trailing by eight points for the final wildcard spot and have seen their playoff odds slip to 1.1 percent, according to sportsclubstats.com. Barring a miraculous run in the final 16 games, it appears the Stanley Cup playoffs won't be coming to Chicago for the second consecutive season.

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Lack of energy comes at wrong time for Blackhawks: 'Makes you angry'

Lack of energy comes at wrong time for Blackhawks: 'Makes you angry'

Effort has not been a major concern for the Blackhawks this season. For the most part it's been there, and you could see it over the last two months when they started to string together a run.

But Wednesday, it was.

The Blackhawks didn't have a great first period. They had a decent second. Things went off the rails in the third. 

The Blackhawks lost focus, and the compete level wasn't nearly where it needed to be in their first home game in exactly two weeks after giving up five third-period goals, four of which came in a span of 7:08.

"Makes you angry," head coach Jeremy Colliton said following a 6-3 loss to the New York Rangers. "Because it's a game that you're looking for like, we needed this game. We didn't do the things right from the start to put ourselves in the best position to win. We just didn't have enough guys ready to play."

The Blackhawks picked up two out of a possible 10 points on their five-game road trip in Western Canada, but that wasn't necessarily indicative of how they played. All five games were there for the taking but they squandered opportunities to do so. A power-play goal here or there could've been the difference, but instead their drought is now up to 0-for-17 in their past six games.

It was a tough road trip for the Blackhawks, not just because they didn't get the desired results, but because it was a demanding travel schedule that started and ended in Winnipeg. But they wouldn't use that as an excuse even though it's a valid one at this time of year.

"To me, the story of the game tonight is, you're going to have games throughout the year where you don't have energy, where it's hard to find," Jonathan Toews said. "You've got to find the motivation to go out there and play your best game. It's just a mental thing that you have to do and that's just the name of the game, playing NHL hockey. That's one of the challenging things that if you want to make the playoffs and you want to be a winning team you're not going to feel at your best every night.

"There's going to be tough travel, tough schedule, a lot of adversity, things that pile up in your way and you've got to find a way to overcome it. So we didn't do that tonight." 

With Wednesday's loss, the Blackhawks fell to 1-5-2 in their past eight games after going 12-5-0 in their previous 17. They remain eight points out of the final wildcard spot in the Western Conference but have four teams to jump, two of which have a game in hand.

Playoffs seem like a pipedream at this point, and you have to wonder how this latest spiral could impact the Blackhawks' plans ahead of the Feb. 24 trade deadline. It's always a challenging time of year for players, especially on teams on the outside looking in, but that doesn't mean it's time to wave the white flag.

"We have to think really short-term," Colliton said. "And that's tomorrow, how are we going to prepare? Because we didn't prepare well enough. The coaches have to do a better job of preparing the team, the team needs to do a better job of preparing each other, and individually they've got to do a better job of preparing themselves to play."

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Sports Talk Live Podcast: Are the Blackhawks buyers or sellers?

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USA TODAY

Sports Talk Live Podcast: Are the Blackhawks buyers or sellers?

Charlie Roumeliotis, Scott King, and Ben Pope join Leila on the panel.

0:00- The Blackhawks return home after two weeks on the road. Did they return to Chicago as trade deadline sellers? And what are the chances both goalies could be dealt by Monday?

12:00- Pat Boyle joins the panel. He gives his thoughts on the Blackhawks trade deadline plans.

14:30- David Ross says the Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo could hit 1-2 in the Cubs lineup in 2020. Will that solve their leadoff woes?

19:00- The Astros controversy just won't go away. The panel discusses.

21:00- The NFL reportedly wants to expand the playoffs to 14 teams and go to a 17 game regular season. Is this a good idea?

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

Sports Talk Live Podcast

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