In came November and out went the outstanding start to the season for the Blackhawks. In fairness, things have not reached panic mode, but a loss to the lowly Columbus Blue Jackets Thursday evening could shake the optimism of the most diehard Hawks fan.
The Blue Jackets should not pose a huge threat if the Hawks were firing on all cylinders, but the Jackets are in desperation mode. Although Columbus has a dismal record, the players are still professionals. They are rested and are coming off a lopsided weekend loss to the Flyers. The Blue Jackets know every point is precious and they must win now or their playoff hopes will be soon over.
There are some concerns, including questionable personnel and lineup decisions. The schedule won’t be any easier later this month. By design, the time to make hay was early November, before the long road trip begins next week.
The Blackhawks aren’t as good as their high-flying start indicated. Most likely, they aren’t as bad as their last two losses, but the drop off is reason for concern. The real Blackhawks will emerge in time; for now the situation is somewhat confusing.
Maybe the biggest concern should be the recent play of goalie Corey Crawford. Crawford was a main reason the Hawks stated out in fine fashion: He was the difference in many close games. Now, Crawford isn’t sucking up shots, and the puck isn’t being absorbed. Lately Crawford looks like he is fighting the puck and getting frustrated.
Crawford hasn’t been the only Blackhawk to seem frustrated.
These days the Hawks can’t seem to play consistently. Beyond scattered individual performances, the Hawks’ style of play has been difficult to define, which is another disturbing issue.
Maybe the personnel don’t fit what the coaching staff wants to accomplish or the players can’t get on the same page. Maybe the front office made wrong signings this summer. In any case, the Hawks offense has sputtered and the defense hasn’t been very good either.
If Joel Quenneville did not enter the picture in October of 2008, it is doubtful the Blackhawks would have won a Stanley Cup the following season. Under the pressure of a franchise starved for success, Quenneville kept everyone on course and won the grand prize.
This is a new group with different challenges. In a short time, Quenneville seemingly has gone from being too confident of his high-powered offense to looking bewildered. To put it mildly, some of Quenneville’s coaching decisions have been curious.
Recently Quenneville mentioned he juggled the line combinations to create more balance. Balance what?
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