Blackhawks’ first meeting with pitiful Red Wings will offer fans easy schadenfreude
The Hawks open a four-game homestand Sunday against the Wings, who are on pace to be the NHL’s worst team in 22 years.
The Blackhawks have spoken at length about translating their decent road success back to Chicago, where their 9-9-3 mark rates among the worst home records in the NHL.
The four-game homestand this week offers the opportunity they’ve been waiting for, especially considering all four opponents are below the playoff line.
But the three teams that will skate into the United Center as the week goes on — the Flames on Tuesday, Predators on Thursday and Ducks on Saturday — have absolutely nothing on the leadoff Red Wings (in town Sunday) in terms of ineptitude.
The Wings, sitting in last place in the NHL by a mile, were expected to struggle this season. Four years after the end of their 25-year postseason streak, the franchise remains halfway through a bare-bones rebuild. “A struggle” describes their 2019-20 season about as aptly, however, as “breezy” describes Chicago.
After somehow winning three of four games to start the season, the Wings have won only seven of their last 39 and three of their last 19.
They’ve won only two of their last 19 road games (after winning their first two) and endured separate losing streaks of six, eight and 12 games.
They began November by getting out-scored 22-5 in their first four games and ended it by being outscored 19-3 in their last four.
After a 6-0 home loss against the Maple Leafs on Nov. 27, forward Luke Glendening told reporters, “I don’t know how much further rock bottom is, but it’s got to be pretty close.” That proved false: The Wings lost 6-1 in Philadelphia in their next game.
With a 10-28-3 record at the season’s midway point (now 10-29-3 after a 4-1 loss Friday in Dallas), the Wings are on track to finish with only 46 points and 20 wins.
That would make them hockey’s worst team, points-wise, since the 1997-98 Lightning — even worse than the 2014-15 Sabres, whose intentional tanking prompted the NHL to change its draft-lottery rules.
They could become the first team to fail to surpass the 20-win mark since the 2003-04 Hawks.
And their pace of 314 goals against would be the worst since the 1995-96 Sharks and Islanders.
Reveling in the Wings’ present-day awfulness likely will provide some welcome schadenfreude for Chicagoans, who might be witnessing the slow decline of a once-proud dynasty but can appreciate that the Hawks at least haven’t tumbled off a cliff.
And the first meeting of the regular season between the old rivals offers a prime opportunity to admire that rosy contrast.
Yet no win is guaranteed in this league — as the Canadiens, 0-2 at home against the Wings, have learned — and the Hawks will need to do more than talk about improving their home record to make that happen. They can start with changing their mental approach.
“You get a little more adrenaline going when you realize the crowd isn’t for you,” defenseman Connor Murphy said Thursday. “Sometimes you just want to put on a better show at home for your fans, and you get away from just sticking within your own game. There’s not any detail you do differently; it’s just things you don’t even realize mindset-wise are a little different.”
“We need to make sure we play a road-type, patient game at home, and then we’ll get points,” coach Jeremy Colliton said.
These points are important, too, with the Hawks still on the outskirts of the postseason bubble.
And yet compared to the Wings, they might as well be Presidents’ Trophy favorites.