Blackhawks recent struggles continue

Photo Credit: Bill Smith/ Getty Images

Photo Credit: Bill Smith/ Getty Images

Just last week I was talking about how the Chicago Blackhawks had an opportunity to break away from the three-man race in the Central Division. One week later, things have changed after losing their fourth consecutive game Wednesday night to the Philadelphia Flyers.

Chicago has struggled in the month of March with a 2-4-1 record, and going 0-3-1 in their last four games.

Every single player has to take blame for the teams recent struggles. Corey Crawford has struggled in his last two games giving up four goals to the Dallas Stars on March 11 and five goals to the Los Angeles Kings on March 14, the defense is not doing their part with helping Crawford and Scott Darling out and most importantly the offense has been horrendous.

Seeing Crawford give up four goals one game, and then the following game to give up five goals, is something that Blackhawks fans have rarely seen – actually, not at all this season.

One reason for Crawford’s recent struggles may be because of the amount of games he has played this season. According to ESPN.com, Crawford has played in 57 games, and is on pace to play in 62 games this season, which would be a career high for him. Last year he played in 59 games – 56 in which he started.

His workload has increased, largely to the fact that he has played at an all-time high – recording a career high in shutouts with seven, and having a career high .926 save percentage, according to ESPN.com.

Crawford deserves the blame for the loss against the Stars and to the Kings, along with the defense because there were moments when the defense collapsed on Crawford.

But in the other losses this month, the blame has to go to the offense.

They bring in Andrew Ladd, they have a potential MVP in Patrick Kane, a potential Rookie of the Year in Artemi Panarin and Marian Hossa has finally returned from injury. And yet in seven games this month, Chicago has scored more than three goals twice, when they won 5-2 to the Detroit Red Wings on March 2 and to the Red Wings again 4-1 on March 6.

Chicago has never had an issue with their offense during their run of success over the past six years, and the same goes this year. Chicago is ranked eighth overall in goals for per game, scoring 2.77 GF/G, according to NHL.com. And even though this team is top 10 in scoring, they do have a flaw on the offensive side of the puck.

Chicago’s first, third and fourth-unit have all been inconsistent this season. Captain Jonathan Toews is having a mediocre season, Marian Hossa’s numbers are down this season, partially because of injuries and his age, Andrew Desjardins has only 10 points on the season and Teuvo Teravainen has struggled to score as well.

As for the second line unit of Kane-Anisimov-Panarin, the Blackhawks would not be fighting for first place in the Central Division if it were not for these three players.

These three guys have been the most consistent on the ice this season and they have all put up solid numbers. According to NHL.com, Kane has 38 goals and 52 assists, Artem Anisimov has 19 goals and 18 assists, and Panarin has 25 goals and 37 assists. These guys have been phenomenal all season, probably one of the best lines in all of hockey, however, when they have their moments when they can’t score, the whole team seems to struggle scoring.

During their four-game losing streak, of being unable to pick up at least two-points, Patrick Kane has only one assist and no goals. As for Panarin, he has only one goal and no assists in the four-game losing streak and Anisimov has only one assist and no goals during the losing streak.

With the lack of production from their best unit during their four-game losing streak, it shows that the Blackhawks have rode the second-unit all season because without those three guys, the Blackhawks struggle to get consistent production from the other lines.

As for the recent struggles from Kane, Panarin and Anisimov, coach Joel Quenneville did something different Wednesday night that he is notorious for doing, switching up the lines. Against the Flyers, Quenneville brought Kane up from the second-unit to play on the first-unit with Toews and Tomas Fleischmann, Hossa moved down to the second-unit, and Andrew Shaw and Andrew Ladd moved down to the third-unit.

Unfortunately, the struggles continued even with the line shake up.

It’s not time to panic if you are a Blackhawks fan, however, there is a reason to be concerned with the way the offense has struggled as of late.

You can follow me on Twitter @rnickels26