Blackhawks shut out again vs Wild

The Blackhawks needed to start off solidly against the MN Wild after their annual Vegas trip. They certainly didn't expect to find themselves in an 0-2 hole after just 10 minutes of play -- or to suffer their second consecutive shutout loss, the first time that has happened since 2006.

Mikko Koivu opened the scoring unassisted at 7:40 in the first period. Jason Zucker would make it 2-0 at the 10-minute mark, and Mikael Granlund would put the final nail in the coffin late in the second.

However, one goal was all they needed, as the Wild held the Blackhawks to just 24 SOG. Compare that to the Wild, who had 24 SOG in the second period alone. Usually, it's the other way around this season - when you see the SOG are 43-24, it's Chicago with the 43.

The Blackhawks have been playing less-than-their-best since the All-Star Game. Tuesday's loss can't be solely blamed on the annual Vegas stopover. They were out-shot, out-worked, and out-played tonight. Johnny Oduya and Michal Rozsival have collectively been stinking up the ice so bad as of late that you can practically smell them through your TV. Andrew Shaw turned a penalty play into a 4-on-4 in just 22 seconds.  

Teuvo Teravainen, who had one of the better performances tonight, played 12:26, which is more than he's had over the past couple games.  

The players were saying the right things after the loss. Jonathan Toews stated, "I don't think we're too proud of ourselves with the effort we gave tonight." He also said he didn't feel the Vegas trip was an excuse; that the Blackhawks have "got to be better than that."

Coach Joel Quenneville was displeased, calling the effort "not very good", and saying the Wild shut them down. Patrick Sharp said the team needed to raise their level.

And raising it is something they need to do immediately: the race to the playoffs in the West remains tight, and "top 4" in your division is no longer good enough to guarantee your playoff berth - "top 3" is your only guarantee.

As of this writing, the Central division shakes out as follows:
1. Nashville - 72 points / 50 GP
2. St. Louis - 70 points / 50 GP
3. Chicago - 64 points / 51 GP
4. Winnipeg - 60 points / 52 GP
5. Colorado - 55 points / 51 GP
6. Minnesota - 54 points / 50 GP
7. Dallas - 54 points / 50 GP

Currently, Winnipeg sits in the first wild card position, just ahead of Vancouver, who has a couple games in hand over all the Central teams. If both the Jets and Canucks go on a hot streak - if Calgary remains in Pacific contention - if Colorado/Minnesota/Dallas turn their seasons around - there are a lot of "ifs" out there, and there's only one thing the Blackhawks have control over: their own play.

Is it likely for the Blackhawks to fall out of playoff contention? Probably not. Even considering their current losing streak, they're still have a .627 winning percentage, which puts them on pace for a 103-point season. That's actually a lower winning percentage than Coach Quenneville's average for his years with the Blackhawks, so fans should expect the team to shake off their funk and have a solid run to the playoffs.

Assuming both the Blackhawks and other teams remain consistent for winning percentages for the rest of the season, the Canucks will likely move up into 3rd place in the Pacific (97 points projected), with wild card slots going to the Flames and the Jets (both projected with 95 points).

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The Blackhawks next play on Friday night at Winnipeg.