The Chicago Blackhawks Bad Start Puts Them In Trouble

Chicago Blackhawks bad start
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Through five games, the Chicago Blackhawks are still looking for their first win of the 2021-22 season. Over the offseason, General Manager Stan Bowman reconstructed the Hawks’ roster from the ground up—instilling faith into the fanbase. Now, the fans are losing hope quicker than ever, but how bad are things actually? 

Chicago Blackhawks’ Bad Start Is Dangerous

The Blackhawks started their season with a three-game road trip and have since played two more at home. During this stretch, they have gone 0-4-1 to put them dead last in the entire league. The last time they dropped the first five to start the season dates back to the 1997-98 season. 

On Tuesday night, the Chicago Blackhawks took on the New York Islanders for the first time at home in 662 days. Head coach Jeremy Colliton was greeted with boos as he was introduced to the United Center crowd. Following a loss, he would leave the ice in a similar fashion—boos echoing through the half-empty arena. During the next game, the Hawks lost 4-1 versus the Vancouver Canucks and were booed off for the second consecutive game.

Despite struggles in recent years, the Hawks were projected to be in playoff contention by many. Their mirage of additions, including the likes of Marc-Andre Fleury, Seth Jones, Tyler Johnson, Jake McCabe, Jujhar Khaira, and Caleb Jones, was more than enough to turn heads. Even better, their captain was slated to make his debut after missing the entirety of last season. The pieces were all in place. 

Now, for Hawks fans, it is hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. However, the players do not seem as concerned. After the first loss, Alex DeBrincat said, “We can definitely be better, but it’s a long season, a lot of time to go. One game’s not going to keep us down.” Similarly, after the third loss, Patrick Kane said, “We obviously have to be better […] but I think we’re a good enough team, well-enough coaches to get out from underneath this and turn it around.” 

Albeit, after the losses have continued to pile up, the urgency is clearly setting in. In Kane’s most recent post-game interview, his tone had shifted: “Obviously frustrating but can’t feel sorry for ourselves. Got to find a way to dig ourselves out of a hole.”

Positives

Amid these tough stretches, it can be hard to seek out the positives, but there have been distinct improvements from last season. For starters, Jonathan Toews is back and has played big minutes in every game this season. Already, he has drastically improved the Hawks at the dot. Toews has taken 37% of the Hawks’ overall faceoffs and won 57.4% of them: adding a guy like this is already a big step in the right direction. 

In regards to special teams, those have also improved. Up until their most recent loss, the Hawks had not let in a single powerplay goal. And even then, the one they did let in came at a 5-on-3. This penalty killing, slotting them at second in the league overall, is a major improvement from recent seasons. When accounting for their last three regular seasons, their penalty kill percentage sits at 30th overall in the league, only above the Detroit Red Wings.

All around, the Hawks have improved as the season has gone on. During their homestand, they have outshot their opponents and tightened up their defence, but their failure to carry their momentum throughout the entire game is what costs them.

Next Steps For the Blackhawks

The Blackhawks take on the Red Wings later today. Detroit is playing in the second half of a back-to-back on the road. They fell 6-1 to the  Montreal Canadiens last night, so it is crucial the Hawks use this to their advantage to pull out the win. Unfortunately, Kane was placed in COVID protocol yesterday afternoon. Losing him in any situation is detrimental, and it will be tough if he misses any games.

Both Chicago goaltenders have gotten their fair share of playing time. Fleury has not played to his full potential, but this is understandable after making the large leap from the Vegas Golden Knights to Chicago. He is playing in front of a fraction of what Vegas’ defence was in front of him.

Dylan Strome continues to be a question mark. Colliton healthy scratched him the first four games before Strome made his season debut in the fifth. Last season, Strome showed frustration after being scratched, and the same has continued this season. At the last home game, 15 scouts from different NHL teams were in attendance. Coupled together, this has caused much speculation about potential teams that Strome could land on.

Main Photo: Embed from Getty Images