Rozner: Is this the end of Chicago Blackhawks' playoff run?

  • Tampa Bay Lightning's Chris Kunitz (14) scores past Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Jeff Glass as Erik Gustafsson (56) and Patrick Sharp also defend during the second period of an NHL hockey game Monday, Jan. 22, 2018, in Chicago.

    Tampa Bay Lightning's Chris Kunitz (14) scores past Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Jeff Glass as Erik Gustafsson (56) and Patrick Sharp also defend during the second period of an NHL hockey game Monday, Jan. 22, 2018, in Chicago.

Updated 1/24/2018 7:26 AM

When there's blood in the streets, buy property.

The Chicago Blackhawks haven't exactly faced their Waterloo yet, but to buy their 2018 future under the circumstances would certainly qualify as a contrarian approach to investing.


Nonetheless, a little perspective is necessary after a three-game losing streak when it all looks so very bleak.

So let's go back a year when the Hawks were tied for the most points in the West, about to go on a two-month run when they took over the conference and went into the postseason favored to win a Stanley Cup for the fourth time this decade.

The Hawks failed to fire against Nashville, looked small, old and slow while getting swept, and made changes.

Now amid an inconsistent season with the long overdue inclusion of several young defensemen trying to find their way, it has been determined that the dynasty is over.

Ten days ago, it was just as certain that the Hawks were finding their stride.

This is the fickle nature of expert hockey commentary.

There's no doubt the Detroit game was a stinker. The Islanders game was mostly about goaltending. The Lightning game was very winnable.

But there were also many clues within that 2-0 defeat Monday that explain a lot about this season.

The Hawks were the better team, just as they were against Minnesota two weeks ago, but, as was the case Monday, the Hawks simply couldn't finish around the net when they were dominating play in a 2-1 loss to the Wild.

by signing up you agree to our terms of service

The number of times Brandon Saad has been a half step slow getting to a loose puck or getting his shot off are far too numerous to count, but this is usually a case of thinking and watching instead of playing and reacting when a player lacks confidence.

Saad is hardly alone. It's infected nearly the entire team save Patrick Kane, who will shoot from anywhere any time and almost always gets a good look.

There were Duncan Keith and Michal Kempny whiffing on wide-open looks.

The first goal against late in the second period was a result of players stopping because they thought a whistle would sound on a delayed penalty. Jeff Glass, Erik Gustafsson, Patrick Sharp and Nick Schmaltz all quit on the play as they allowed a short-handed goal.


The second goal ended the Hawks' chances with 94 seconds left when Kane lost a board battle, took a step the wrong way, Keith screened Glass on a shot from above the circle, and Glass didn't look ready.


All of these are small physical and mental mistakes that add up to a loss when it should have been a victory.

The salary cap has cost the Hawks many of the assets that made them great, but they are still good enough to get on a huge run and make the playoffs.

It won't happen, however, without better goaltending and if the Hawks' best players don't start burying the puck.

It's the age-old question of whether confidence comes before winning, or if winning breeds confidence, but it's a real problem right now for so many Hawks players.

On top of that, the most expensive players have to be their best players, and it's not happening.

So is it really all over for this group of players?

After winning the Cup in 2009, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Marc-Andre Fleury went seven years before winning again, and now they've gone back-to-back when the NHL thought that group was finished.

They did it by infusing young talent and letting that young talent contribute in a big way.

The Hawks are trying to get younger and faster -- maybe even more athletic, Gar Forman -- and there have been and will be more growing pains.

If Corey Crawford doesn't return soon, it may be too late for this season, and it's certainly not looking very pretty right now.

The Hawks play seven of the next 10 on the road, including a pair of trips out West. When they finish that stretch in Vegas on Feb. 13, they'll have a good idea of whether there's a reason to roll the dice on the current group.

If they don't start climbing the standings, they will have to search for a way to shed some big contracts and maybe become sellers heading into the March 1 trade deadline.

That's an unfamiliar feeling around these parts.

Blood in the streets, indeed.

• Hear Barry Rozner on WSCR 670-AM and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.

Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.