The Chicago Blackhawks coasted their way through the regular season and made their way into the top spot in the Western Conference headed into the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Facing the lowest seed in the Nashville Predators, however, the Blackhawks have run into their greatest test this season. The Blackhawks are currently down 2-0 in the seven-game series with the Predators now gaining home ice advantage.
Chicago has yet to score a goal in the first two games of the series despite outshooting the Predators 59-49. They have had scoring chances to capitalize on during the first two games, but have yet to see their superstars make any game changing plays. Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane finished the regular season tied for second in the NHL with 89 points, yet hasn’t registered a single point in two games this postseason. If the team wishes to see any type of extended playoff success, they must rely on him to create offense throughout the remainder of the series.
The Blackhawks have overcome more difficult deficits in postseasons past including a 3-1 deficit to the Detroit Red Wings during the quest to their fifth Stanley Cup Trophy. The series is far from over, but the team needs to refocus to regain the championship swagger they’ve had in previous years. Chris Hine of the Chicago Tribune quoted Patrick Kane on the team’s mindset heading into game three on Monday night.
“You try to block out all that noise. You just want to play the right way, whether you’ve had a good game or bad game, wipe the slate clean and come back next game and see what you can improve on. Play with confidence, try to make plays, try to create scoring chances more than I have in the first two games.”
Another player Chicago must look to throughout the remainder of this series is Captain Jonathan Toews. Toews capped his regular season with 58 points in 72 games played this season matching his total from the 2015-2016 season. Not known as a goal scorer, Toews often creates offense quickly for his line mates and keeps them involved throughout the sequence of a game. This series, however, he has been unable to generate any offense for the Blackhawks top line.
The most frustrating part for the Blackhawks this postseason is how efficient they were at generating offense during the regular season. Chicago saw six players score 20 plus goals, yet no one has stepped up to get that coveted first goal of the series. Once the first puck finds the back of the net of the Blackhawks, the rest should come easy for them.
Mark Potash of the Chicago Sun-Times wrote about the pressure on the Blackhawks and their lack of offensive production and even quoted Toews following the game two loss in his most recent article.
“For sure. It always is. But everyone in this room will take it upon themselves to try to make a difference and try to get our team going. It’d be nice to get one of those bounces. And I think when we do, it’s going to give our team a lot of energy and hopefully the floodgates will open.”
Despite all of the frustration surrounding the Blackhawks locker room, a win on Monday night will silence all of the criticism that has plagued them during the first two games of the series. Chicago finished as the best team in the Western Conference for a reason and will have to show why 23 road wins during the regular season is no joke. With veteran leadership and a history of overcoming early playoff deficits, the Chicago Blackhawks are far from an early exit from the postseason.
[Featured Image by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images]