Blackhawks’ Top Guys Must Step It Up

The Chicago Blackhawks’ core players need to rise to the occasion if they hope to surmount a comeback down 3-1 in their first-round playoff series versus a St. Louis Blues team that doesn’t seem fazed.

Coach Joel Quenneville’s crew is being outplayed. The guys lack heart and urgency in this series so far. Perhaps the worst part about it is the top players aren’t providing an edge in these contests.

Let’s start with the man who caught the NHL by storm during the regular season: point leader and Art Ross Trophy Winner Patrick Kane.

Throughout the series to-date, #88 has registered four points on four assists and has nothing to show for in the goals column. For a right winger who scored the second most goals in the league, 46, during the 2015-16 tenure, he has to start getting pucks in the net. But, give Blues’ goaltender Brian Elliott credit. The 31-year-old has swatted away all 17 of Kane’s shots on goal this series-, which leads the organization. One way or another, Kane has to find a way to figure out Elliott and return to regular season form to jumpstart a Chicago revival.

Who can forget about rookie sensation Artemi Panarin?

The Russian winger led all first-year players in points (77), goals (30) and assists (47) during the regular season campaign. Panarin has struggled to score on Elliott on all but one of his 16 shots on net this series. The squad needs more firepower from their young asset in a pivotal game 5.

Next, despite placing second in ice time among Blackhawks’ forwards, Captain Jonathan Toews has been virtually nonexistent.

And normally, “Captain Serious” is known for making noise come playoff time. Last time around in the first round of the 2015 postseason, Toews scored three goals and five assists through six games. At the moment, he has only two points on two assists. The last thing the Blackhawks needed in a moment of desperation was a dry spell from their team leader.

Plus, remember when fans were ecstatic after the Blackhawks reunited with former Winnipeg Jets captain Andrew Ladd at the deadline?

Regardless of playing on the first line the whole series, Ladd has been a liability on the ice. The 2010 Stanley Cup champion has notched 0 points, 0 assists and 0 goals. At this point, fans wonder if the guy was even worth giving up on 21-year-old Marko Dano and a couple of draft picks. Ladd has to prove his worth- the Blackhawks took a risk to get him.

Marian Hossa has been quiet as well. Hossa only has a point and an assist under his belt. The 37-year-old three-time Stanley Cup winner only totaled 13 goals and 33 points in 64 games this season, though. Nonetheless, an unexpected spark from the Slovakian would pay large dividends.

Concerning the blue line, Trevor van Riesmdyk has been playing a bigger role this series and he has harmed the Blackhawks. Van Riesmdyk has no points and is dead last in the plus/minus column with -5. The rookie defenseman had two costly turnovers in game 4 which resulted in goals by Blues’ forwards Jaden Schwartz and Alexander Steen. When it comes down to crunch time, the Blackhawks have to avoid these mental lapses.

One positive, however, is the impact defenseman Duncan Keith has made since returning from a six-game suspension. The two-time Norris Trophy winner leads the group in goals (3) and is tied for first in points (4). Aside from Keith, Brent Seabrook and Erik Gustafsson are the only defenseman to have recorded a point in the playoffs- that has to change.

With one game separating the Blackhawks from the offseason, now is the time for the primary players to show up. Going to sleep for the first 3/4 of period 3 will not fly the flag for Chicago.

Game 5 is tonight in St. Louis and it’s a do-or-die scenario for the defending Stanley Cup champions.