'It's all right now': Blackhawks treating every game like must win from here on out

'It's all right now': Blackhawks treating every game like must win from here on out

When the calendar flips to March, that's when teams in the NHL start to get excited about the thought of playoffs. The dog days are in the rearview mirror and the stretch run has arrived.

Originally, it didn't seem like the postseason was remotely possible for the Blackhawks. Then they rattled off wins in 10 of 12 games, and while that was happening, everyone that they needed to lose was losing. It reached a point where they sat in a wildcard spot for a brief moment.

But in a matter of two weeks, things have changed drastically.

Going into Thursday's game, the Blackhawks are nine points out of a wildcard spot in the Western Conference and have a 0.9 percent chance of making the playoffs, according to Despite those long odds, they're not giving up hope until the math says they're out of it.

"It's just win the game tonight," Jonathan Toews said of the team's mindset. "We played pretty decent in San Jose, but we didn't come up with the win and then obviously gave up some goals in the third. But we've got to be better. These are our playoffs right now and it's time to raise our game, raise our level, so we'll see what we've got."

The projected playoff cut is around 88 points, which is lower than in year's past. But with the Blackhawks at 63 points and only 16 games remaining, they have no margin for error. They need to go on a run of 11-2-3 — or something along those lines — just to reach that benchmark, and there's no guarantee they'll win any tiebreaker scenario because they're behind in the regulation plus overtime wins category.

So yeah, every game from here on out is a must-win situation. Preferably in regulation, but one step at a time.

"There's no playoffs, there's no offseason, there's no next year," Toews said. "It's all right now. We want to be as good as we can be. ... We don't have that many games left this year so we're trying to make the most of it."

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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?


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