SAN JOSE, Calif. — There’s no point in bailing now, not after all the work the Blackhawks did to give themselves a shot at the playoffs. There’s a minimal chance after their crash the last two weeks, but they intend to see how much chaos they can cause while trying to beat their long odds.
“Oh, yeah, of course,” coach Jeremy Colliton said. “We’ll play right to the end. We’ve just gotta find a way to put some points on the board. That’s all we can do.”
The Hawks aren’t mathematically eliminated, but that’s pretty much the best thing anyone can say about their pursuit. Even sweeping the last six games wouldn’t be enough without significant help.
Their last, last, last reasonable chance came Tuesday in Arizona, and their offense let them down again in a 1-0 loss. With six games left, the Hawks are tied with the Oilers at 76 points, seven behind the Avalanche, who hold the second wild-card spot after beating the Golden Knights on Wednesday.
The Coyotes are two points behind the Avs, and those teams will meet Friday. The Wild are in the mix, too, at 79 points. The Stars hold the first wild-card spot with 86 points.
Elimination lurks for the Hawks as they get ready to visit the playoff-bound Sharks on Thursday, and it hasn’t been a fun matchup for them. San Jose combined for 12 goals in the first two meetings.
If the Hawks can stay alive for the rest of the week, a brutal four-game finish awaits them with home games against the Jets (No. 3 in the Western Conference), Blues
(No. 5), and Stars (No. 7), then a season -finale on the road against the Predators (No. 4).
But they’re still going for it.
“Yeah, why not?” goaltender Corey Crawford said.
That was basically the Hawks’ rallying cry when their season started to turn, and it stopped sounding absurd when they went on a seven-game winning streak to pull into the second wild-card slot Feb. 20.
That surge is why this has felt more like a failure than an admirable fight as the Hawks have come up short in the final weeks of the season. Merely getting here would’ve been a nice thought for the Hawks when they were 9-18-5 in December, but they thought they were past moral victories.
They were in position to run away with the race a month ago but have gone 7-7-1 since. It was theirs to take, too, considering no one else in the mix was overwhelming. The Coyotes and Avalanche were the best at 9-5-2 during that stretch.
The Hawks have played better lately, but it’s too late in the season for good efforts to mean anything if they don’t result in points.
“We’ve just gotta keep getting better,” Colliton said. “I think we’ve made some strides and we’ve found a way to win some of these games, but not enough.”
The Hawks’ biggest problems have been on special teams. They have been in the bottom 10 in power-play conversions and penalty kills the last 15 games.
The power-play woes are especially troubling after that unit was the most dangerous in the NHL for a long stretch. They have converted on four of their last 36, which is hard to fathom with a group that has Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Alex DeBrincat.
But every team slumps eventually. It’s bad timing for the Hawks, but they’d be able to weather it if they hadn’t started so poorly. Colliton opened 3-12-2, and if the Hawks had flipped even three or four of those losses, they’d be having a much different conversation now.