Who are the Chicago Blackhawks?
The emotional roller coaster that is the NHL season is beginning to hit the corkscrew after the double loop, especially for Blackhawks fans. After the All-Star break, the Blackhawks suffered through an ugly 9-game losing streak that looked to have knocked them from a legit Stanley Cup contender to a team questioning whether or not they're suited for the playoffs.
Just when you think they're down and out, the Blackhawks walked into Madison Square Garden and handled the Eastern Conference leading New York Rangers with ease, scoring three goals in the game's first four minutes and adding another before the 10-minute mark. They killed off all seven power play opportunities the Rangers had and Corey Crawford stopped 22 of 24 shots, collecting the victory. Obviously relieved after snapping their skid, the Blackhawks weren't going to be happy with a letdown against lowly Columbus.
Fortunately that didn't happen as they started streaking in the other direction with a 6-1 victory to conclude the 9-game road trip (2-6-1).
Upon returning home, Chicago was faced with a truly tough test in back-to-back tough divisional games as St. Louis and Detroit came to town. After beating both rivals in regulation, it looked as though the Blackhawks were back in position as a top-tier team. That was until the Dallas Stars came to town.
Losers of five of their previous seven contests, the Stars showed up in Chicago trying to find their way back into the playoff picture in the West. With just over 10 minutes to play, the Blackhawks led 1-0 and looked to be on their way to a fifth straight victory before three unanswered Stars' goals sent them into what would be the first of another losing streak.
The 'Hawks traveled to Los Angeles in hopes of righting the ship against a Kings team that had only scored a league-worst 129 goals entering the contest. Instead, Crawford gave up four goals on just 10 shots before getting pulled in favor of Ray Emery. The 'Hawks lost 4-0 and then dropped the game at Anaheim the next evening.
At the trade deadline, the Blackhawks added depth at defense by trading two 2013 draft picks to Winnipeg for Johnny Oduya. They also unloaded big man John Scott to the Rangers in exchange for a 5th round draft pick. There were plenty more holes to address, but GM Stan Bowman said with more teams in the playoff mix this season, that meant less players were available and therefore less trades were made.
So, I ask again, who are the Chicago Blackhawks? Are they the team that lost 9-straight or the team that beat three of the league's premiere teams in five days? Are they the team that has recorded one power play goal in the month of February or a star-studded team whose high-powered offense will make up for lackluster play from their goaltenders?
Whichever identity they choose, they had better do it soon; Chicago fans are some of the most passionate in all of sports and this roller coaster has not been the most fun for many. They see a team that is too talented to be sitting in 4th place in their division and 6th in the Western Conference; a team that has held the top spot in the West already this season, with its current players; a team that is primed to win now and for years to come, but are currently playing sub par.
These fans had a taste of victory when the Cup returned to Chicago in 2010; they want more, so will the real Chicago Blackhawks please stand up?
Steve Peters is a staff writer for NHLfanchat.com. Follow on twitter: @stevepeters_