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SportsMonday: Blackhawks Barrel Jumping

The Hawks just can't get over the hump. Or should I say they can't get over the barrel? Remember that on Wide World of Sports? Guys on skates trying to long jump a record number of barrels? Those were the days I tell ya; goofy days sure, but days.

They are running out of time quickly (23 games remain in the season) after splitting two weekend games, but the majority of fans aren't ready to give up on the season just yet. And I'll ride with that (is that OK for a 53-year-old guy to say?) as long as possible and as much as possible.

Then again, the standings don't lie. After Sunday's (3-2) loss in Winnipeg, the Blackhawks stood six points in back of the Coyotes, who if the season ended after Sunday's action, would qualify for the second Western Conference wild card with their total of 66. On the bright side, the first wild card in the West, the Calgary Flames, also have 66 and therefore are theoretically catchable as well.

The problem is the number of teams between the Hawks and the team from Arizona. With their victory Sunday, the Jets pulled themselves up to 65 points. They were tied with the Predators, one spot out of the wild card. And the Minnesota Wild are still hanging in with 61.

As usual with teams in this sort of situation, the Hawks don't just need a win streak, they must have one of at least five games. And at least they return home for their next game against the Rangers on Wednesday. The trade deadline is coming (Feb. 24) but I would be surprised if the Hawks made any big moves. I don't think they are inclined to blow up this team. And the only guys they have with bigtime right-now value are still Toews, Kane and Keith.

Overall, the Hawks are healthy but a couple young key offensive cogs just can't seem to get it going this season. They are rolling four lines a decent amount of the time, but virtually every loss features a stretch where you are reminded that coach Jeremy Colliton doesn't really have confidence in anyone other than his big guns.

Saturday's game was as good as it gets. The 8-4 victory over Calgary featured just about every forward who you could have hoped would score to give his confidence a boost, scoring. That included Alex Nylander firing in two (!) and Alex DeBrincat and Kirby Dach each posting a goal of their own.

Unfortunately, Sunday's setback ensured the Hawks would finish their post-All Star Game road trip with only one win in five games. The Hawks clearly battled fatigue in that one but they also suffered for the young players they were counting on to provide a lot of the offense this season having another down game.

The Hawks, back-stopped by rock-solid goaltending from Corey Crawford, made a game of it, especially when Patrick Kane capped off a beautiful rush by one-timing a shot into an empty net to tie the score at two in the final minute of the second period.

It didn't take the Jets long to retake the lead in the third period and they held on the rest of the way. They were the better team on the evening with more shots and more quality chances.

In other words, many of their players could probably clear many more barrels than their Blackhawk equivalent.


Jim "Coach" Coffman welcomes your comments.

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