Time: 2:30 PM CT
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The Crosby-less: The Pensblog
Nothing short of Deus ex Machina can save you now.
As bad as it's gotten (still stuck in 11th place, that is), have you ever wondered what life would be like without Toews or Kane for the Blackhawks? For the Penguins, it means roughly something to the tune of 10-7-1, which is still a win percentage better than ANY of our months have been with Toews and Kane in and out of the lineup and fully healthy.
So when the Penguins roll into town without their fearless leader and Franchise Cornerstone #2, and you hear talk that this is another easily winnable game for the Blackhawks, ignore them. (No, really. Ignore them. It seems every time a "beatable" team comes to town, the Hawks fail to live up to the hype. So let's try some reverse psychology for a change.) The Penguins have managed without Crosby, whose year was going along quite fantastically until it got derailed by a concussion, and they've managed relatively well. Enough that, in fact, they're STILL 4th in the East. Possibly playing into this is the fact that good teams are much more easily distinguishable from bad teams over there, but that's still impressive, knowing the Pens have managed to keep the nearest competition at least 6 points at bay. They even managed a 5-game win streak.
As for the Hawks? Many will have you believe this is the end of the line for our heroes. It's hard to disagree. In a game that should have been over way before the Blue Jackets could realize it's possible to fight back, the Hawks once again came out of the rink with no points to show for it. This is no different from how the team has played throughout the season, and no amount of line-juggling, coach-juggling, or roster-movement has really given us any satisfactory results. So when some say it's over, I won't blame you if you go ahead and jump off the ledge with them.
Technically, and I hope you'll forgive the cheekiness, technically it really isn't over until the end of the season, and that's not for a few more weeks. It wasn't too long ago that the Eastern Conference Champions snuck into the playoffs off a shootout (which, if our season came down to that, let me tell you now we probably won't make it, considering how we've sucked the last two shootouts. /more cheek) on literally the last day of the playoffs. That wasn't all either: if I remember correctly, they had also hinged their chances on the outcome of a game between the Leafs and the Habs. And yet, and yet.
A few months ago the Stars were virtually a lock for their division. Today? Sixth place, and fast regressing to the mean. The same 6 points that the 4th place Pens are using as cushion against the 5th place Caps? They're the same 6 points separating 4th in the West and 12th in the West. That's only a matter of team #12 stringing 3 wins while team #4 losses 3 in a row. There's one week left before trade deadline, and who knows what kind of shake-ups will work out or turn out as busts over the final stretch of the season? And then, there's the unknown-- the bad bounces, the injuries, the favorable or unfavorable calls. There's a reason it's an 82-game season.
It's not over until it's actually, legitimately over, and I'm sorry, because I know that's hard to believe when we've seen nothing in the last 50-odd games to back this up. We're trained to detect patterns and use them to forecast the future, and the last few months of bobbing at .500 does little to signify there could be an upturn anytime soon.
But it's still just February, you guys. Come on.
We can't say this game today proves that, and we can't say the next couple of games will determine it either. So let's ride it out, and let's just see where this season takes us.