The Chicago Blackhawks have been struggling as of late.
While the Blackhawks were able to pick up two points on Saturday night, the way they went about it opens the door for a plethora of questions.
First and foremost: Why are the Blackhawks playing such lackluster hockey after winning the first six games of the season?
Some may attribute it to the long road trip that they have endured; others may say the Blackhawks are fatigued from playing back-to-back games. Both of these are perfectly good excuses as to why the Blackhawks seem to be hanging on to wins by a thread as of late.
The only bright side after this game, besides the win, is the fact that they are now 7-0-2—five of those wins coming on the road, which leads the NHL. In fact, the Blackhawks have played the most road games of any NHL team. Again, that might explain why fatigue has become a central factor on the roster.
Without the stellar play of Corey Crawford and Ray Emery on both Friday and Saturday night, the 'Hawks may very well have lost back-to-back games in regulation.
Coach Joel Quenneville even went so far to say that the win on Saturday night was "criminal" due to Emery's fantastic goaltending (via Mark Lazerus Chicago Sun-Times):
It was criminal. You've got to call the cops after that performance. We stole two points. He was spectacular. I've never ever been out-chanced, outplayed like that in my life. It was a special performance, and it continued in the shootout.
In those two games against the Canucks and Flames, the 'Hawks have scored a combined three goals—two of those coming in the third period against the Flames. They were outshot both times and have failed to score a power-play goal, which could be cause for alarm in the near future.
Puck possession is what the Blackhawks' system is built upon. Without sustained pressure in their offensive zone, their is no way to be in control of the puck.
The resiliency of the Blackhawks was evident very early on in the season—being badly outplayed but still having enough willingness to block a shot and play every shift 100 percent.
But things have changed—now the 'Hawks are being badly outplayed and outshot with little response to what is happening on the ice.
Fatigue is a factor, but considering how this 48-game season is compacted, there is very little room for rest.
Will this be a sign of things to come for the Blackhawks?
If the goaltending and penalty kill can combine with stellar offense and defense, the Blackhawks can be the top NHL team once again the season.
If they fail to click on all cylinders, be prepared for more games like the one the Blackhawks played on Saturday night against the Flames.
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