If you’ve watched any bit of the last three Blackhawk games on television during their western Canada road trip, you have to wonder which Blackhawk team is going to show up?  Will it be the Blackhawks who trounced the Calgary Flames 5-1 or the same Blackhawks who were beaten down by the Edmonton Oilers 7-3 on Saturday night?  This year’s All-Star break couldn’t come at a better time for this team and they certainly can use it. 

What the All-Star break could mean for the Blackhawks.

First of all, it’s a physical and mental break for most NHL players (except the ones actually invited to play in this year’s game.)  Seth Jones will be on his way to south Florida to represent the Blackhawks and fans wish him all the best with this honor of representing the franchise before the world.  For the rest of the Blackhawks, the All-Star break is a chance just to breathe again for a few days and maybe let festering injuries heal themselves a bit more.  Maybe it will be time for players to not think about hockey as much for the week but righ now this organization needs some serious time to think heavily on where the Blackhawks are heading as we approach the latter leg of the regular season.

The ups and downs of the western Canada road trip.

Which team truly exemplifies the real Blackhawks this season -the team that beat Calgary 5-1 or the team that dropped a goose egg against Edmonton on Saturday night 7-3?  Well, the reality is that both games symbolize the trials and tribulations this team face each night out on the ice.  The Blackhawks who beat the Calgary Flames looked like a cohesive team working together including Colin Blackwell who had four shots on goal.  This version of the Blackhawks looked like a team on the mend and with newcomer Luke Philp playing in front of his hometown crowd, the Blackhawks didn’t disappoint as the 27 year old callup from the AHL Rockford IceHogs got his first point off an assist on Boris Katchouk’s goal in the second period.

CALGARY, AB – JANUARY 26: Luke Philp #39 of the Chicago Blackhawks battles against the Calgary Flames at Scotiabank Saddledome on January 26, 2023 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Gerry Thomas/NHLI via Getty Images)

The other Blackhawk team that showed up Saturday night against the Edmonton Oilers sadly is the team we’ve grown to expect this season.  While the Blackhawks held their own in the first period, the barrage of Connor McDavid and Company was just too much for this team.  Goalie Petr Mrazek actually kept the Blackhawks from being completely embarrassed but this game was more of an Oilers’ highlight film than a balanced hockey game.

Where do the Blackhawks stand right now?

The Blackhawks actually have competition right now in the race to the NHL cellar.  Chicago currently is 15-29-4 for 34 total points, one point ahead of Columbus in the NHL draft first pick race.  While I would never accuse the Blackhawks of tanking the season intentionally (I’m not defending NHL commissioner Gary Bettman’s recent statement on tanking here), the Blackhawks need to try and salvage what’s left of this season as a building block for next year.  With a 19.4% power play percentage and a 75.3% penalty kill, the Blackhawks rightly site 31st out of 32 NHL teams in overall statistics.  There’s still a lot of hockey to be played and the Blackhawks may be able to figure out some line combinations and build some team chemistry for the future.  Remember, the 2023-24 training camp is only eight months away.

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