Why it won't be easy for Chicago Blackhawks to turn things around
Incredibly, a third of the season is in the books for the Blackhawks.
At 10-12-5, the arrow is most definitely pointing in the wrong direction.
To make matters worse, the schedule isn't about to lighten up with Boston (20-3-5) on tap Thursday and eight of the 11 games after that against teams that would currently qualify for the playoffs (and that doesn't include surging Minnesota, which is 7-0-3 in its last 10).
So how does coach Jeremy Colliton's team turn this around?
Well, it won't be easy. But here are six things that must start happening right away:
Unlike Colorado, St. Louis or other top-tier teams, the Hawks just aren't deep enough to survive a spate of injuries. They desperately need Dylan Strome, Andrew Shaw, Drake Caggiula and Duncan Keith to return ASAP.
It looks like Strome has a good chance to play in Boston, but the others are out. Caggiula might be able to face the Devils the next night.
"We have to show some resilience," Colliton said after practice Wednesday. "Adversity can push you to be better."
Perhaps, but nobody has adequately stepped up to fill the voids left by those four key players.
True superstars step up in their team's time of need.
For proof, look no further than Colorado's Nathan MacKinnon, the NHL's No. 1 star of November after racking up 10 goals and 15 assists. MacKinnon's superb play is the primary reason the injury-ravaged Avs went 8-3-0 over their last 11 games.
In the Hawks' case:
• Alex DeBrincat has no goals on 35 shots over the last 12 games.
• Jonathan Toews has no goals and 3 assists in his last seven.
• Even Patrick Kane, who has been brilliant offensively, must do a better job of backchecking and playing a more complete, 200-foot game.
Now more than ever, the Hawks need their studs to become difference-makers every night.
Cover your eyes:
The Hawks' coverage in their own zone has steadily gotten worse over the last seven games. Opponents are getting wide open in front of the net as defenders and forwards chase pucks to the boards or just lose track of which man in theirs.
"(There's) a little bit of miscommunication in our own end," Alex Nylander said. "We just need to regroup (and) communicate more. If there's no guy in front of you, you've just got to go back to the house and sort out from there."
"We'll get better now. We'll get back to the way we were playing before."
Speaking of Nylander, the young forward must produce more, especially if he's going to stay on the top line with Brandon Saad and Jonathan Toews. He has 2 goals and 1 assist in the last 14 games.
"I've had a lot of chances to score or even make passes that could have (resulted in goals) that I just haven't," said Nylander, who has 16 shots on goal over the last nine games. "Just got to stay positive. … When you get one or two, you'll keep going and it'll be fine."
A big problem last season was the lack of secondary scoring. We thought that might change in 2019-20, but that has not been the case.
• Andrew Shaw has 1 goal in his last 24 games; Dominik Kubalik has 4 in his last 20; Zack Smith has 1 in 20 appearances; and Ryan Carpenter has yet to score.
• David Kampf does have 4 goals, but 1 is an empty netter.
• And Kirby Dach, who did have a nice little stretch in mid-November, has no goals and 1 assist in his last seven games.
This is half the forwards, folks. This group must find a way to contribute more if the Hawks have any chance of being a well-rounded, dangerous team this season.
Early on in games, the Hawks look like they're sitting back and waiting for something to happen, rather than pushing the pace and forcing teams to adjust to them.
"We've got to do a better job of preparing ourselves," Colliton said after Monday's 4-0 loss to the Blues. "Obviously, as a coaching staff we've got to find the right button and to get our guys to come out from the beginning and playing the way we need to."
Amen to that.
The Hawks had no goals for 52 minutes against Carolina and for 48 minutes against Tampa Bay. They then lost 2-1 in a shootout at Dallas, managed 1 goal in 50 minutes in the rematch with the Stars, fell behind 5-1 and 7-1 to Colorado in back-to-back games and were shut out by St. Louis.
Beating the Bruins on Thursday will take a near miracle, but after that the Hawks must come out with more purpose against the Devils, Coyotes, Golden Knights and Coyotes again in the following seven days.
Scouting reportBlackhawks vs. Boston Bruins, 6 p.m. at TD Garden
TV: NBCSCH • Radio: WGN 720-AM
The skinny: Boston (20-3-5) has not lost a home game in regulation this season. The Bruins' 4 losses at TD Garden have all come in the shootout. Boston is riding an eight-game winning streak in which it has outscored opponents 31-12. Only Minnesota has scored more than 2 goals during the Bruins' run. ... David Pastrnak leads the league with 25 goals, 12 of which have come on the power play. He has not scored in three straight games. ... Tuukka Rask (13-2-2) ranks fourth in save percentage (.933) and second in goals-against average (2.04). ... The Bruins rank second on the power play (30.6 percent), although they are near the bottom of the league in PP chances per game (2.89). ... Patrice Bergeron has missed seven of the last nine games with a lower-body injury.
Next: New Jersey Devils, 6 p.m. Friday at Prudential Center
-- John Dietz