Hockey is back in full force in the Windy City. Fans are gathering in droves, packing the United Center to capacity almost every night. Season ticket ownership is skyrocketing. Even Gary Bettman is taking notice of the franchise's will to live.
Now that Chicago has set itself up for victory, the gears need to change from rebuilding mode to playoff contention. Here's how the 'Hawks can end that pesky five-season playoff drought:
Winning on the Road
The 'Hawks are unbeatable at home this season; every home game has resulted in at least one point thus far.
Playing in front of a packed house at home is one thing, but continuing to win on the road may prove to be a challenge for this young team.
It is unrealistic to think that they can win every home game this year, so they will need to rely on road victories, especially against Central Division teams.
Finish, finish, finish
Five OT losses at home just won’t cut it. Yeah, it’s a point, but it’s also a missed opportunity. With as much talent as there is in the Central Division, playoff contention could come down to a matter of a point or two.
Those winnable overtime chokes may come back to haunt the ‘Hawks.
Toews, two goals in 16 is unacceptable. Kane is ranked in the top ten for points in the league.
Sharp seems to be on his game when it comes to lighting the goal lamp and Versteeg’s 15 points in 16 games is nothing short of impressive; but that doesn’t let the rest of the scorers off the hook.
Jack Skille’s run with the ‘Hawks this season fizzled and Dustin Byfuglien has been a non-factor on offense. Toews, Havlat, and Byfuglien need to earn their keep this season.
Yes, I'm talking to you Mr. Havlat. There is no question that Martin Havlat is among the elite scorers in the league, when he's playing, that is. When he's hurt all the time he's nothing short of trade bait.
Toews was limited by injuries last year too, and he can't be much of a captain on the IR.
Eyes on the Prize
The Cup: the elusive dream that many teams don’t have a prayer of reaching. The Blackhawks have a legitimate chance at a run this year. That is, of course, if they stick to their guns and play their game.
Passive regular season play won’t do much except rack up some more digits in the OTL column. When the coach makes decisions and takes risks, the rewards can be worth far more than one measly point a night.
On paper, it is great that the team is unbeatable at home. But how long can that last? Once other teams realize that the ‘Hawks lay back late in the third period with a tie game, they will realize that playing overaggressive could potentially knock the team off.
We all want the best for this franchise. But for the fans to support this team, the ‘Hawks need to produce.
They owe it to their fan base to at least make a good run, because losing franchises have a funny way of turning into competitive dynasties in the world of hockey, and out time is now.