The trip that will have kept the Chicago Blackhawks off their United Center ice for 18 days hasn’t resulted in a complete fall.
The Blackhawks have lost four games, a starting goalie, and a second-line center during their season-long six-game suitcase swing that concludes tonight against the Rangers in New York.
Somehow they’ve managed to stay within striking distance of a playoff spot despite winning just one game – 4-3 against the Oilers in overtime Friday – of the five they have played so far. This despite losing starting goalie Corey Crawford to an upper-body injury, and center Artem Anisimov, the team’s second-leading goal-scorer with 13, to the same.
Players and coaches found themselves trying to accentuate the positive after losing 4-3 in overtime Sunday against the Flames to fall into a Western Conference standings tie with Calgary at 42 points.
Both teams are three points out of the second wild-card spot.
Rookie goalie Jeff Glass started his second straight game Sunday and made 35 saves to keep the Hawks afloat after they fell behind 3-0. Perhaps the most memorable save he made in his hometown occurred when he stifled Johnny Gaudreau on a breakaway with 2 minutes, 43 seconds left and the Hawks down one.
“Well, we were down 3-0, [so] it’s a great point,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said told reporters in Calgary after the game. “That was a great save. That was like, ‘OK, that was instrumental in getting us a point. Pretty dangerous opportunity to close the game out.’”
Glass, who was born and raised in Calgary, wasn’t impressed with his start, which included allowing a last-second goal at the end of the first. But he was impressed with the way the Blackhawks responded during the next two periods.
“You don’t ever want to give up three,” he said. “We did a good job to climb out of that hole. It felt good to get back to all square, but I would have liked another point.”
Top liners Jonathan Toews and Brandon Saad each were happy finally to record a point. Both had gone six games without a goal or an assist. Toews’ goal, which came 56 seconds after Jordan Oesterle scored in the second, pulled the Hawks to within one.
Saad, who earlier clanged one off the crossbar, smacked home his game-tying goal off a Toews faceoff win with 1:46 left in regulation.
“We’ll take any point [we] can get,” Saad said. “But obviously we want to get both points, especially with the position we’re in.”
“Working in the right direction,” Glass said. “My goal is to get two points every game. We fell short of that [Sunday]. Little bit of room to improve for next game, something to shoot for. It’s a step in the right direction.”
The direction the Hawks will be going after today is home, finally, where they are 10-5-2. They will play eight of nine games there after today. Where they go in the standings remains to be seen.
“We just kind of limped into the Christmas break,” Kane told reporters in Vancouver on Thursday before the Hawks lost their third in a row. “Let’s get back to the way we want to play. This is an important trip. You look at the teams were playing against, they’re all kind of right around the same spot we are.
“Big games, important points. It’s going to be a dog fight till the end of the season.”