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Zawaski: No More Hiding It -- Blackhawks Have Real Problems

By Jay Zawaski-

(CBS) Think back to Feb. 8, if you can. Remember that Blackhawks game? Chicago was wrapping up it seven-game road trip in St. Louis. That night, the Hawks put together one of their best overall efforts of the season and were poised to get fat thanks to a fairly easy (on paper) eight-game homestand that awaited.

Well, that didn't happen. With one game remaining, the Hawks are 2-2-3 on the homestand, including Sunday's humiliating 6-2 loss to the Boston Bruins.

Some point to the dog days, it being the middle of the season, and the Hawks know that it's all about the playoffs for them. Maybe there's some truth to it being tougher to get motivated for midseason games, as Patrick Kane recently acknowledged, but other teams face the same challenge.

"With our team, when we want to play and we want bear down and come ready to play the game, it seems like good things happen," Kane said. "Sometimes we have those stretches where maybe we take a little time off, and it doesn't bode well for our team."

Anytime you guys are ready, Patrick.

Nothing stands out when looking at Chicago's advanced metrics. The Hawks are near the top in most categories, as they have been for the last several seasons.

Offensively, Chicago has been fine as well. Kane is leading the NHL in points. Marian Hossa has been red-hot. The only players who have really underperformed offensively are Patrick Sharp and Andrew Shaw.

To me and many others, the real reason the Hawks have struggled is because of their defense.

It doesn't take a statistical expert to see that the Hawks, especially recently, have been turning the puck over in the defensive zone with startling frequency. Even stalwarts like Duncan Keith and Niklas Hjalmarsson have had their share of blunders. Puck possession in the defensive zone is key to the Hawks' success. They've built their championships on excellent defensive zone exits, neutral zone possession and successful offensive zone entries. Simply put, they've been slipping in those categories since the calendar flipped to 2015.

The bottom line is the Hawks need to improve the roster, but there's a problem. Coach Joel Quenneville typically doesn't trust younger players. That means Klas Dahlbeck is probably stuck in Rockford. Furthermore, Stan Bowman has never been the general manager to make a big, impact trade.

So if help isn't coming from Rockford or the trade market, where is it coming from?

Jay Zawaski is the executive producer of the Spiegel and Goff Show on 670 The Score and the Blackhawks columnist for Follow him on Twitter at @JayZawaski670.

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