Blackhawks in need of a miracle, but they have offered little reason to believe
Of all the reasons defenseman Connor Murphy was excited to be traded to the Blackhawks last year, the near-certainty of playing hockey in the spring was at the top of the list. After four years of irrelevance with the Coyotes, Murphy finally was going to get to experience playoff hockey.
‘‘I thought about it a couple of days ago, about where I’ve been the last three or four years in April, sitting at home — that worst feeling in your gut, that anxiety and that embarrassment of not being in the playoffs ever,’’ Murphy said. ‘‘There are a lot of guys that have battled their whole career and never won, and that’s the one thing that hurts the most is not winning.
‘‘It’s not about just being in the NHL or the money or anything like that. It’s all about winning and trying to accomplish your dreams.’’
Well, barring a small miracle in the last two months of the season, Murphy is going to have to wait until next year to get his chance. After losing three consecutive games, the Hawks are seven points out of the second wild-card spot, with three teams ahead of them outside the playoff picture. According to Hockey-Reference.com, the Hawks have a 10.3 percent chance of making the playoffs — and a 0.1 percent chance of winning a fourth Stanley Cup in nine seasons.
At the All-Star Game last month in Tampa, Florida, winger Patrick Kane said the Hawks probably had to go 23-10 in their last 33 games to make the playoffs. Having gone 1-2-1 since the All-Star break, that means the Hawks have to win about 22 of their last 29 games, starting with the Stars on Thursday and the Wild on Saturday (the teams currently in the wild-card spots).
Given the Hawks’ body of work so far this season, it’s a near-impossibility.
‘‘You’ve got to win one game,’’ Kane said when he was asked if the Hawks had such a run in them. ‘‘I think that’s where we’re at right now. . . . We can’t look at trying to put together five or six in a row. That’s just going to go against you negatively.’’
So many things have to happen for the Hawks to pull off the improbable:
• Murphy said they have to regain their home-ice advantage. They’ve lost five games in a row at home and are a middling 12-11-3 at the United Center this season. They have 15 home games left.
• Captain Jonathan Toews pointed out that the power play still could make a difference. The Hawks are 29th in the league at 15.5 percent. If they were a middle-of-the-pack team at 20 percent or 21 percent, how many standings points could have been salvaged?
• Forward Nick Schmaltz noted the Hawks need some of their characteristically dominant performances. Even when they’ve played well, they’ve been allowing teams to hang around. That leads to come-from-ahead losses, such as the one Saturday in Calgary, and late-game bad bounces, such as the one Tuesday against the same Flames.
• Coach Joel Quenneville suggested that if goalie Corey Crawford — who is taking a couple of planned days off the ice after skating for four consecutive days — gets healthy enough to return, he could play every game down the stretch, as he did the last time the Hawks were in such dire straits at the end of the 2010-11 season.
• And, of course, the big names have to start earning their money and producing.
‘‘When we assess everybody’s performance this year, I don’t think anybody’s exceeded expectations or come close to it, especially the top guys,’’ Quenneville said. ‘‘I don’t think anybody should be satisfied with where they’re at in their play.’’
Certainly not with where they’re at in the standings, with the longest summer in a decade staring them in the face.
Do the Hawks have a miracle in them? It’s a lot to ask.
‘‘I still think we’re capable of doing it,’’ Quenneville said.
It’s possible. But they’ve given little reason for anyone else to believe so far.
Follow me on Twitter @MarkLazerus.