By Jay Zawaski-
(CBS) With the Blackhawks embarking on a five-game road trip ahead of the Olympic break, they find themselves in unfamiliar territory. They’ve lost three games in a row, each to far inferior opponents.
As the Hawks head out on the road, here are some random thoughts on the current state of the team:
– Sunday night’s 3-1 loss to Winnipeg had Jonathan Toews frustrated, and searching for answers.
Last week, I wrote that in order to break out of his slump, Bryan Bickell must play. Well, Sunday night, Joel Quenneville decided to make him a healthy scratch, and played defenseman Michael Kostka on Michael Handzus and Kris Versteegs’ wing. Kostka played just over seven minutes, Handzus just over eight minutes, and Versteeg just over 10 minutes. The more time goes by, the more I wonder why Jeremy Morin isn’t up with the big club and getting an extended look. The Blackhawks’ offense has been slumping to say the least. I’m not sure plugging your eighth defenseman in at wing is the best answer.
– I don’t know if Quenneville is trying to send some sort of “get me help” message to Stan Bowman, but it’s highly unlikely that help is coming any time soon. Bowman is extremely patient and conservative when it comes to making deals. He’s not going to make a panic trade, nor should he. Options are in the organization, however. Maybe it’s time for a new look on the bottom six. Of course, Quenneville would never bench Handzus, who hasn’t recorded a single point in 14 games.
– I’ve said this over and over again: Corey Crawford is good enough to win a Stanley Cup with the Blackhawks. That said, I’d like to see him steal a win now and again. Sunday night, Al Montoya (of all people) stood on his head for the Jets, stopping 34-of-35 Blackhawks shots. On the other end, Crawford allowed two goals on the Jets’ 20 shots. And while it’s hard to blame Crawford on either of those goals, it’d be nice to see him make an important save at a critical time. Yes, Marian Hossa’s turnover in the defensive zone was 100 percent of the reason Andrew Ladd was able to score the game winner, but every now and then a goalie has to bail out a teammate, just like Montoya did for his Jets teammates on Sunday.
– Despite their recent troubles, it’s important to remember that we are just over a week removed from two of the Hawks’ finest and most complete efforts of the season. Their 4-2 win over Anaheim last Friday was their best game of the season, despite a late push from the Western Conference leading Ducks. Last Sunday’s 3-2 win over the Bruins looked like a playoff game, and the Blackhawks appeared to be in playoff form.
They’re still one of the top two or three teams in the NHL and remain a strong contender for the Stanley Cup. Don’t let a bad few days ruin your view of this playoff-ready and proven team.
Jay Zawaski covers the Blackhawks for CBSChicago.com and 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter at @JayZawaski670.