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 Blackhawks have fell several points out of the playoff race, currently sitting at last in the Central Division after losing three straight games. A lot of hard work and commitment will be needed if they want to dig themselves out of this hole and still make the playoffs. Coach Quenneville said “the hole’s getting deeper” during a postgame press conference following a 2-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday night at the UC.

While the losing streak may seem bad, it’s nowhere near the longest which is still held by the ’74-75 Washington Capitals, which lasted 20 games. However, they should be focusing on how to end this losing streak while it’s still small, because the next thing you know, three games turns into five games, and so on. The main goal for the Hawks now is being able to find the chemistry with all these young players in order to start winning games again.

Last season, the Hawks had one of the oldest teams, with the average player of most players on the team being 25 or older. This year, it’s the exact opposite as 12 of the 20 players who suited

up for Monday’s game were 25 or younger. For majority of the veteran players on the Hawks, they have almost been nonexistent this season. Take Patrick Sharp for example. He’s 36 years old, and the Hawks were adamant about resigning him again after being traded to the Dallas Stars in 2015. He’s only scored six goals and has seven assists this season, which is not even close to the stats he was putting up back a few seasons ago. Another player who hasn’t shown up too much this season is Duncan Keith, who is scoreless this season but has over a dozen assists.

Captain Jonathan Toews is still only 29, his poor performance affects the team deeply as he used to be one of the main scoring contributors on the team along with Kaner and Sharpie. He currently has 14 goals and 17 assists this season, which is nothing special. It’s getting tiring hearing the same postgame interviews from Toews saying “We know we’re in a fight for the playoff spot” but words don’t mean anything if you don’t follow through.

Nevertheless, the young group of guys who hope to someday when a Stanley Cup look promising. Alex DeBrincat and Nick Schmaltz have often been called “Kane and Toews 2.0” but can they live up to that? Will Ryan Hartman and Vinnie Hinostroza continue to be role models among this young team? These are the many questions to ponder about for the future.

Winning three Stanley Cups in less than a decade is a great sense of pride for the Hawks, but it doesn’t guarantee them a spot in the playoffs. That’s something they will have to work viciously for each season, regardless of who’s still on the team.

The Hawks next game is Wednesday night at 7 as they face off against the Toronto Maple Leafs. The last time these two teams met, it was early on in the regular season and the Hawks lost 4-3 in OT, so this should surely be a good game.

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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