BOSTON, MA - MARCH 29: Joel Quenneville of the Chicago Blackhawks talks with his players during a stop in play in the second period against the Boston Bruins on March 29, 2011 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Up against it, aren't you now? The Hawks apparently can't work without a degree of difficulty that would cripple most, and now they've maybe gone too far. While simply tossing away points against Tampa, Anaheim, and Boston, they've now got to come up trumps through a gauntlet that looks pretty terrifying. And the way they're going, it could cost them everything.
Tuesday at Montreal - Well, at least here's another team that keeps tripping over garbage cans lately, just like the Hawks. The Habs have won only two of their last six and three of their last eight to somewhat jeopardize their playoff position in the East. But most of their struggles come on the road, the Hawks will have to get it done inside the Centre de Molson - or The Keg - where the Bleu, Blanc, and Rouge are 23-11-6. And as you saw last night, the Hawks are toddler-in-the-snow helpless against a team that traps and locks down the neutral zone, which the Habs do expertly. You'll be lucky if this game cracks three goals total.
Wednesday vs. St. Louis - So you have to play what will assuredly be a slog in Montreal, as tight as can be, fly three hours home and play the next day against a team that simply lives to smear your remains all over the glass? The Blues would prefer there not even be a puck when they play the Hawks, as they know they can get to them through physicality. This does not bode well. This is also the same team that hung a 10 on the Wings last week. Still, the last time the Hawks encountered the Scourge from Missouri, it was on the backend of a back-to-back, and in St. Louis, and they rode a four-goal 2nd period to a win. But that Hawks team had a pulse. This one? Unclear at best.
Friday at Detroit, Sunday at home vs. Detroit - Oh does this set up for an epic punch to the kidneys. In another time, this looked like it would be two teams killing time until the playoffs. Now? The Hawks will need to win at least one of these, and if they don't ace the first two games this week they may need to win both. The Wings are battling with the Sharks over the #2 seed, though one wonders if that's really enough to keep a team interested. But after struggling mighty for a month, the Wings just might be snapping into gear. They came back from 3 down to beat Nashville on Saturday in OT, and then paddled the Wild yesterday. And they'd probably love nothing better than to end the playoff hopes of a team they still think of as "little brother". And if they do, you'll never get over it.
The other thing to keep in mind is Dallas and Calgary. Dallas has four games too this week, against Columbus, Colorado twice, and Minnesota. Their tragic number is six, and that refers to the number of points the Hawks pick up and they lose out on to eliminate them. The Flames' is four, as they only play twice. So essentially, if the Hawks can sweep this first back-to-back and both the Flames and Stars lose once in regulation, then the upcoming weekend won't be the definition of nausea that it looks now. But when have things ever been that easy.