If only there were a nickname for what January has typically been like for the Blackhawks in recent years.
Junk January? Evil Enero? Post-Holiday Hawk Hibernation?
After a quality month of play in November, and a stellar December, the Hawks had 20 wins with seven losses in regulation, and seven in overtime.
The heels of the rival Red Wings were clearly in sight. Sure, the Hawks closed out 2008 with an embarrassing loss to Detroit heading into the Winter Classic, but the champs were still well within reach.
Then January happened.
With three games left in this forgettable month, the Blackhawks are limping into the All-Star break, having gone 3-4-1 in their last eight games. Sure, not the worst record ever, but consider the following list:
10 Reasons Why January Should Not Exist
1. Patrick Kane has not scored a goal in January. He only has one assist thus far in 2009. Who wants a month where Kaner isn't getting the soda and putting it top shelf?
2. Patrick Sharp has two goals in his last 13 games. I believe that he was on pace for 372 this year. Well, thanks January.
3. The Blackhawks nearly equaled their entire number of losses on the season in the last three weeks. If I could use this month as an adjective—that's so January of them.
Shut out by Chris Mason? Really?
5. The Red Wings? Forget their heels, the Blackhawks won't be nipping at a chance for the Central Division lead any time soon, as Detroit opened a 10-point lead while the Hawks lost to "powerhouses" like Colorado and Nashville.
6. The injuries are slowly starting to trickle in—Duncan Keith and Kris Versteeg are probably looking forward to the All Star Break a little bit more than their teammates at this point.
7. Dustin Byfuglien is currently charging the Hawks $157,000 per point. He has had three thus far in January, with one goal in his last nine games. No way did Dale Tallon jump the gun when he dished out that contract. No, not at all.
8. Adam Burish led the Hawks in shots against the Blues on Wednesday with four. Alright, there needs to be a rule: When your team's goon has more shots than the rest of the players, said goon must give each player on the team one kidney shot. Two, if he sees tears.
9. Head coach Joel Quenneville has been shuffling Ben Eager around the lineup, at times placing him on the top two lines. When a goon not named Dan Carcillo is in your top six, well, your team is getting hit square in the Januaries. Too much? Okay, I'll stop now, except to say...
10. Martin Havlat has been the most consistent player as of late. Why is that a bad thing? Next to Marian Gaborik, Marty has been the most fragile, delicate flower of a player in the NHL for several seasons now.
Expecting Havlat to stay healthy is about as realistic as expecting to look prettier after a game of Russian Roulette with a fully loaded six-shooter in your hand and a fully sugared grapefruit half in the hand of your opponent.
I know, that's a lot of negativity for an otherwise impressive first half for this young team. But one only has to look at last year's Blackhawks to see that a team crawling to the midway point generally falters in the final months before the playoffs.
Last year, the Blackhawks were hovering around playoff contention until a 4-9-1 January left the team in a hole that they simply couldn't dig themselves out of by season's end.
Even the 06-07 Hawks had a chance, hovering around .500 until an abysmal 2-8-2 record in January doomed that squad.
On the bright side, last year's Hawks were ravaged by injuries. This year, the Hawks should be getting Keith and Versteeg back right after All Star Weekend. Havlat's injury issues, which have plagued him for two years, seem to be a thing of the past following his surgery.
Kane and Sharp will be lighting the lamp again before you know it.
On the glass-is-half-empty side, the final three games of January are all road games on the West Coast. One game at the Pond against a tough, down-but-not-out Ducks team that has something to prove, one against an LA Kings team that has always given the Hawks trouble, and then the Hawks have to wade into the Shark Tank, where the pride of San Jose has all of one loss in regulation.
A great way to end a great month.
I'm not saying that history will repeat itself, but if the Hawks continue their slide in the second half and either draw a bad matchup in the first round or fall out of the playoffs entirely, they'll only have themselves—and that awful, terrible first month that shall not be named—to blame.