Pressure mounts, and it doesn't get any easier for Hawks
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It has been a struggle the past few weeks for Viktor Stalberg and the rest of the Blackhawks, who have lost eight straight games.
A Blackhawks organization that has had the golden touch for the better part of the last four years, that seemingly could do no wrong on and off the ice, has come face to face with its worst adversity since Rocky Wirtz and John McDonough took over the club.
The Hawks' eight-game losing streak has seen them plummet down the standings in the Western Conference and left coach Joel Quenneville and his players searching for answers about how to turn things around before the situation becomes even worse.
Quenneville and general manager Stan Bowman are under growing pressure — Quenneville to prove his message isn't being tuned out by the players, Bowman to show that the roster he assembled isn't seriously flawed.
Quenneville, who led the Hawks to the Stanley Cup just two years ago and likely is headed to the Hall of Fame as a coach, deserves the chance to guide the team out of this funk. But that doesn't mean his bosses aren't watching closely what happens from here.
"I feel pressure of winning a hockey game," Quenneville said Saturday when asked if he was personally feeling the heat. "We're in the winning business, and this has gone on too long here."
McDonough recently admitted in an interview with the Daily Herald that the Hawks are the fourth sport and fifth team in town, which makes staying in the winning business all the more important to a franchise that can't afford any kind of drop-off.
We've all seen how quickly the Hawks can fall off the sports map around here. Things aren't to that point yet, but it would be nothing short of a disaster for them to miss the playoffs.
And it could happen.
No team in the West has a tougher remaining schedule than the Hawks (18 of the final 26 games against teams currently in the playoffs).
It starts with three more road games this week, including stops in Nashville on Tuesday and New York on Thursday to play the Rangers, the best team in the Eastern Conference.
When the Hawks beat Florida on Jan. 20, they were first in the NHL with 64 points. Now they are in 12th place. That's how quickly they could tumble out of a playoff spot with another bad two weeks.
Perhaps the most troubling aspect of all this is the Hawks aren't showing any signs of coming out of their slump.
They are starting soft in games and falling behind. The goaltending is not getting any better. Special teams have been beyond awful, and their stars aren't making any difference.
In the first six games of their road trip, Marian Hossa doesn't have a point and is minus-6 with just 11 shots. Jonathan Toews doesn't have a goal with 2 assists. Patrick Kane has 1 goal and 14 shots. Duncan Keith is minus-8.
"You need every guy in the room," Kane told reporters after Saturday's 3-0 loss to Phoenix. "When we were successful in the past we had a lot of guys step up and play beyond their game.
"That goes for myself or anyone. Myself, I've got to pick it up and score goals and make plays and do what I can to help the team win."
The Hawks aren't going to beat anyone if they don't play the kind of desperate hockey they have only talked about.
"That team came out harder than we did tonight," Toews said after Saturday's loss. "It's still all about our work ethic."
"We've got to play desperate right from the first shift," Patrick Sharp said. "Giving up the first goal, chasing 2-0 is not the way to win hockey games."
The Hawks returned home after Saturday's loss and will practice in town Monday before departing for Nashville.
There were no roster moves made Sunday — no trades, no call-ups from Rockford, nobody put on waivers. Let's see what happens Monday, if anything.
"You're always exploring avenues, whether it's lines, combinations, (bag) skates, meetings," Quenneville said. "When we've gone through this stretch here, we've had a lot of meetings, but at the end of the day we just want results."
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