The Blackhawks have had a roller coaster of a season. The ups have been exciting. The downs have been maddening. The ride has been exhausting.
There was a glimmer of hope after they strung together four consecutive wins going into the weekend, even though the math said they still had a long way to go. All they wanted was a chance.
But after back-to-back regulation losses to Detroit and St. Louis, the Blackhawks took a real punch to the gut and so did their playoff hopes, which are all but over at this point.
The Blackhawks won't admit it publicly, but reality is starting to sink in that postseason hockey won't be played in Chicago for a third straight season. And it's not a good feeling.
"It sucks," Connor Murphy said following a 2-0 loss to the Blues on Sunday. "Losing sucks, especially having a couple in a row. When they seem to get more heated and obviously the games matter more, it’s frustrating for sure."
The frustrating part about the past two losses is the fact the Blackhawks turned in strong defensive efforts in each of them by giving up only 25 and 26 shots, respectively, and a combined five goals against. They simply couldn't muster up any offense to go with it.
The Blackhawks combined for 14 minutes of power-play time over the last two games and recorded only five shots on goal and generated four scoring chances to go 0-for-7. A goal here or there on the man advantage could have been the difference, and quite frankly, you could say the same thing about many of the losses this season.
"No question," head coach Jeremy Colliton said. "We had our opportunities and we had chances. We created. Would have loved to create more. But you can’t say we didn’t have a chance to put it in the net."
Missed opportunities has been the story all season for both the power play and the Blackhawks, who saw another one slip away on Sunday. It was the first time ever they were swept by the Blues in a regular-season series.
Even if they still have a run left in them down the stretch, the reality is, the Blackhawks will run out of time. There are only 13 games left in the regular season and too many teams to jump with not enough games in hand.
But until the math says they're out, they will keep battling. They have no other choice.
"We’re here to win," Colliton said. "We’ve been developing guys all year, we’ve been playing guys in big situations all year, young players, and that won’t change either. But part of what we’re doing is we want to have winning habits and we’re going to fight to the end."
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