Considering the turnover the Blackhawks went through this offseason, some stumbling was to be expected.
But right now, the Blackhawks are really struggling. There’s little consistency in their game; some nights the offense works, some nights the defense works, but both haven’t come together very often. So now they sit at 8-7-1, which currently has them sixth in a very competitive Central Division.
There’s plenty of hockey to be played, but the Blackhawks have to start putting things together soon. For now, however, let’s just look at the Five Things to take from their 3-2 loss to the New Jersey Devils on Thursday night.
1. Goaltending “just OK tonight.” That’s the quote from coach Joel Quenneville, and we all know what that means, don’t we? Corey Crawford started off great this season, but he’s allowed a lot lately. Team defense hasn’t been at its best, but Crawford’s not making the big stops, nor is he making enough of them. There were a lot of changes this offseason, and the Blackhawks were going to be leaning on their veteran guys in the early going. Crawford was there at the start; he needs to be there again.
2. Someone other than a second-line guy needs to score. This is becoming a broken record, really. Artemi Panarin, Artem Anisimov and Patrick Kane are supplying plenty of points. Panarin and Kane were at it again on Thursday night — Kane’s now on an 11-game point streak, three shy of his career best set from Nov. 30-Dec. 28, 2013. The Blackhawks need more from everyone. The other three lines have had no consistency and, worse, not a whole lot of scoring. Said Quenneville, “There’s no plays to be made when everybody’s protecting the slot the way they do and blocking shots. That’s what you’ve gotta do and find a way to get some ugly ones.”
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3. Get past the turnover issues. We mean the roster here. Yes, the Blackhawks changed a lot of faces among their personnel. They’re not the first team to go through this — this isn’t even their first time going through this. At some point, the Blackhawks have to jell. That might mean sticking with some line combinations, even if they don’t work immediately. Consistency is needed, pronto.
4. Don’t fall too far behind. Even in past years when the Blackhawks struggled, they were good at forcing overtime, getting at least a point for their efforts. Right now they’re not even doing that, and this could end up hurting them down the line. The Blackhawks were less than three minutes away from getting at least a point on Thursday night. If they get to overtime, perhaps they get that other one. Instead they finished the night with zero. They have to get back to clawing out points whenever they get the chance late in games to do so.
5. Help is on the way. Yes, cheer up, boys and girls: Quenneville reiterated on Thursday night that he expects Duncan Keith and Michal Rozsival to get back into the lineup “at some point this weekend.” That’s great news for a team that could use some help, especially from veterans who have been here, done this before.