The Chicago Blackhawks have to find a way to win again.
After going a record 24 games without a regulation loss to start the season, the Blackhawks have now lost their last two games.
Is this mini-losing streak a cause for concern for Chicago?
Defenseman Duncan Keith says that the Blackhawks' first regulation loss of the season can't be attributed to fatigue (via ESPNChicago):
I don't think we're going to use that as an excuse. Every team has played a lot [of] hockey lately. We've been playing those types of scenarios already this year where we played a lot of hockey, back-to-back games, in a short of period of time.
Chicago was bound to lose eventually and it was due to come against a team like the Colorado Avalanche—a team that can match the Blackhawks in speed and physical ability. But after their 6-5 loss to the Edmonton Oilers on Sunday night, do the Blackhawks have what it takes to get back to their winning ways?
It seems like an absurd question to ask after going 24 games without a regulation loss, but it's a legitimate one.
Any team is bound to see a drop-off in play after participating in a streak such as that. The will to win is zapped away, the will to play goes to the wayside and the Blackhawks start to become disinterested in the game.
Sloppy play is bound to creep up in their game, especially playing in a 48-game shortened season that requires teams to play back-to-back games at least twice a week.
This was most evident in the first two periods against the Oilers. The Blackhawks failed to get the puck out of their zone and turned it over when pressured. The Oilers, who are close to the bottom in the Western Conference, took it to the 'Hawks and were able to put up four goals in the first period.
The Blackhawks took it to the Oilers and scored four goals in the second period and one in the third to give themselves a shot at winning. They looked re-energized, but the deficit was too large, and the Blackhawks are suddenly on a losing streak.
Captain Jonathan Toews said that it's unacceptable to start a game the way that the 'Hawks did Sunday night (via tweet by Mark Lazerus):
Toews: "It wasn't acceptable the way we started the game, but I think we showed a lot of effort and we played hard as a team." #Blackhawks— Mark Lazerus (@MarkLazerus) March 11, 2013
Playing seven games in the last 11 days is sure to take away from any athlete, regardless of physical strength and conditioning. It's just draining mentally when players have to be in the rink that often to play a tough game.
Let's not forget that the Blackhawks' first regulation loss came with Patrick Sharp out of the lineup due to a shoulder injury. Might Sharp be the reason why Chicago is struggling as of late?
Two games out due to injury, and both times the Blackhawks have failed to grab a point. It might be silly to think that he would be a key with the way Sharp has been playing, but he is a valuable player.
With Sharp out, lines need to be mixed up and that might mess with the chemistry already established through the first half of the season.
In the NHL, wins come by gritty play, pretty passes and great shots. The Blackhawks know this better than every team—still leading the NHL with 45 points.
It's only a matter of time before they get back to their winning ways.
A three-day break will do wonders for this team after a heartbreaking loss against the Oilers. The break, their longest of the season, will give them time to rest and catch back up to reality after their amazing point streak.
Let's just hope that the Blackhawks remember how to win when they play the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday night.
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