By Adam Hess
The Blackhawks kicked off their annual November Circus Trip last week, making their way west through Canada and taking on the Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames, and Vancouver Canucks. Edmonton and Calgary, as I mentioned last week, were two of the worst teams in the Western Conference heading into last week.
Despite that, the Blackhawks struggled immensely in all three of their games north of the border last week. Actually, saying that they struggled is putting it mildly.
The Blackhawks looked horrible, quite frankly. They got off to horrible starts in all three games, especially their first two against Edmonton and Calgary. They managed to battle back in each of their first two games and send those games to overtime, stealing the win in Edmonton and nearly doing the same in Calgary, if it had not been for Johnny Gaudreau’s absolute dominance in that overtime period.
The problem with having to steal games from Edmonton and Calgary, quite frankly, is that the Blackhawks should not have to be in a situation in which they’re stealing games from Edmonton and Calgary. Those teams are bad; the Blackhawks are not, or so we like to think.
The Blackhawks seem to have a dangerous tendency during the regular season to play down at the level of their competition. They play down to the bad teams, like Edmonton and Calgary, but tend to play very well against tougher competition. I’d be completely shocked if the Blackhawks came out and looked as horrible as they did against Calgary this week when they play Los Angeles. Not because the team has “learned a lesson” from their play last week, but because it’s just kind of what the Blackhawks do.
Now, to an extent some of the struggles from last week were understandable. The Blackhawks were without their young star Teuvo Teravainen for all three games in Canada, and their lineups looked pretty questionable for all three games. Hell, Marian Hossa was on the third line to start the game in Vancouver, and while I can’t blame Coach Quenneville for trying to switch things up, that’s not exactly the ideal way to do it.
I’m also not so unreasonable to expect that Blackhawks play their absolute best hockey night in and night out through a 82-game stretch. That’s simply unrealistic and unfair to the team. However, I hardly find it hard to believe that even on their worst night, they can’t hike up their britches and play better than Edmonton or Calgary.
I wrote last week that if the Blackhawks struggled on this road trip and ended up missing the playoffs at the end of the season, we would likely know where to look for the lost points – this Circus Trip. Now, taking three out of the possible six points to start the trip isn’t exactly horrible. But if the Blackhawks play as poorly this week in California as they did last week in Canada, those three points could be all they see from this Trip.