Believe it or not the NHL season is almost over.
The Chicago Blackhawks only have 11 more games, and despite not having their best player, Jonathan Toews, for the past 12 games, the ‘Hawks have managed to cling to the 6th seed in the Western Conference by winning the last five out of their last seven games.
This isn’t a time to get too settled down, though.
Only four points, or two wins, is separating the ‘Hawks from making the playoffs or watching the playoffs on their couches, though it is important to notice that both teams in contention have played more games than the ‘Hawks.
With a tough schedule ahead – Chicago plays St. Louis and Nashville twice and Vancouver and Detroit once – there’s no reason to believe that the ‘Hawks are a sure bet to make the playoffs.
Right now I am a little bit scared. Not only is there a decent chance the ‘Hawks don’t make the playoffs, but the ‘Hawks don’t currently have the number one thing that helps a team win games in the playoffs: consistent goaltending. Just ask the Canucks how important consistent goaltending is in the playoffs.
As of late, Ray Emery has been the number one goaltender, but the role of starting goaltender has shifted so many times this season I’ve lost count. Emery has better numbers than Corey Crawford, but the reality is no goaltendter has been rock solid for too long to give any form of confidence on who should be the starter.
This isn’t exactly what you want your goaltending situation to look like with 11 games left in the regular season.
The talent at goaltender is there. I don’t doubt that. Crawford showed he could play well in the playoffs last season, and Emery has had some success in the playoffs in the past. What worries me is the defense.
The ‘Hawks have scored more goals (213) than the vast majority of other teams, but they’ve also given up more goals (203) than the vast majority of other teams. This a far-cry from the Stanley Cup season where the ‘Hawks scored a 271 goals and only gave up 209. It seems like I am beating an old drum, but the ‘Hawks’ defense really hasn’t improved form the beginning of the season to now, so I doubt that’s going to drastically change in the next month.
I am not expecting a deep playoff run for the ‘Hawks this season, but if the standings stay the same as they are now come playoff time, we’d play the leader of the Pacific division, which is either going to be Dallas, Phoenix, or San Jose. All of those teams are beatable for the ‘Hawks, who could gain some confidence and momentum going into the second round.
But none of that will happen if the ‘Hawks can’t get more consistency from their defense or goaltending.