As it always seems to go, there was a smidge of trepidation inside the Blackhawks fanbase after two less than ideal losses down in Florida.
On Saturday night a lifeless Hawks team got flattened 7-0 by the Panthers, the team’s worst shutout loss since 2001. Then on Monday they blew a 4-1 lead in an eventual 5-4 overtime loss to a desperate Lightning team trying to make the playoffs.
The small bit of anxiety after those two losses was quelled by a 5-1 thumping of the defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins on Wednesday. Granted Pittsburgh wasn’t anywhere near full strength, but it was still encouraging to see the Hawks rebound with a big road win over one of the league’s best.
We’ve become accustomed to the Hawks taking nights off mentally in the Spring when their postseason status is set. The Panthers game was a classic case of the Hawks simply not giving a crap. In Tampa, the Hawks were easily the dominant team for 55 of 60 minutes. The Lightning managed to pot three goals in the last five of the second period to tie the game, and then got a fortunate bounce in the 3-on-3 OT shenanigans.
Even through all of that, the Hawks have managed to pad their division lead as the Wild continue to wilt. The Hawks now own a nine point division lead over Minnesota with five games left to play. While it’s not mathematically official, the Hawks basically have the Central locked up. Call in the autopsy, the Wild are dead.
The Hawks will also be bolstered come playoff time with the return of Artem Anisimov between Kane and Panarin. That will allow Q to rearrange his lines and shake things up. Will Kero move down to fourth line center? Does that mean the end of John Hayden? We’ll see.
All of that to simply say this: R-E-L-A-X! This team is going to be absolutely fine. I think most Hawks fans understand that. But for the minority of you still sweating, chill out. It’s going to be okay.