SPORTS HKN-LEAFS-HAWKS 9 TB

The Chicago Blackhawks' Brandon Saad (20) handles the puck around the Toronto Maple Leafs' Zach Hyman (11) during the first period at the United Center in Chicago on Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2018.

The 2017-18 NHL season hasn’t panned out how the Hawks intended it to. This is not the team we are used to seeing from previous years. The Hawks have lost the last seven games, which isn’t helping their chances of making the playoffs.

Speaking of the playoffs, with each game the Hawks continue to lose, it increases their chances of not making the playoffs altogether this season. The six-game losing streak at home is the longest since 2005. Many of the veteran players just haven’t been showing up, leaving the young guys with a lot to handle. Toews hasn’t been generating enough goals, Seabrook needs to give more of a defensive presence, and Crawford has been out since Christmas due to an “upper body injury”. It seems like there hasn’t even been an effort to work at fixing the inconsistent line first line. This is not where the Hawks hoped to be at this point in the season.

While they haven’t been playing the best hockey, the Hawks as a team have completely transformed since last season, becoming a much younger and faster team. Even Calgary Flames

coach, Glen Gulutzan took notice in the change. “We notice the speed.” Gulutzan said. “When you get on the ice, you’re not sure who they are the first time.” The Hawks lost to the flames on the road, and again back at home last week.

As for team chemistry this season, that’s something that’s not as pretty. Bad passes being executed, poor defense. The list goes on and on. It also hasn’t helped that Corey Crawford has been out since Dec. 23, when the Hawks were still within reach of a playoff spot. He has recently been skating again after being cleared of post-concussion symptoms, with no return date yet. Filling in for him has been 32-year-old Jeff Glass and 25-year-old Anton Forsberg (who the Hawks got in return through the Panarin trade). While they have both been consistent in goal, Crawford was able to mask a lot of the mistakes the Hawks made when he was in net.

Another loss that hurts the Hawks is Marian Hossa, who scored 26 goals last season and has been present for all three Stanley Cup’s. He has been sidelined due to a rare skin disorder, which could potentially end his career. It’s a mixture of all these different injuries as well as players getting older that is affecting the Hawks, who were once a dominant team leading the Central Division is now sitting in last place with a record of 24-25-8.

If a miracle doesn’t happen within the next few games, they will start to move their focus to the 2018-2019 season. Young players such as Alex DeBrincat, Vinnie Hinostroza, and Anthony Duclair all have a ton of potential which could be useful for the Hawks as they gain more experience. I most certainly think that this team can have a huge turnaround for next season if they stick to the plan.

ERIK BENSON is a blogger for The Vidette. He can be reached at esbenso@ilstu.edu. Follow him on Twitter @erik_b001.

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