This afternoon, my beloved Chicago Blackhawks beat their divisional rival the St. Louis Blues 3-1. This was their first game at home after a disastrous road trip. Since that road trip started, the Hawks' record is 9-3, and the three wins have all come in the last three games.
However, there's an old adage that a team is never as good as it looks on a winning streak, nor as bad as it looks on a losing streak. I think that's what we're looking at here. The Hawks woeful run of games caused them to drop from sixth in the division...to sixth in the division. They're eleven games over .500 with 71 points. Even the goalies- who have come in for the most criticism in the 9 game skid, and most of it was deserved- are 21-14 (Crawford) and 11-7 (Emery).
This is not to say that the 9 game skid wasn't pretty bad, or that the team is destined to hoist the Cup. It's certainly not to say that Crawford and Emery are perfectly fine goalies. It's just to say that, well, the season is long, and it's made up of a lot of parts that seem really great and a lot of parts that seem really horrible, and both ends of the spectrum don't really tell you much about the season as a whole.
There's this weird bifurcation in sports, where what is actually important- the season as whole- get abstracted into a stat line while what is actually a bit more frivolous- any single regular season game- is immediate, visceral, and exciting. This works for players; they don't have to think about being 8 points back in the standings, they just have to think about the next game, the next period, the next SHIFT, even. Just start with having one good shift the next time you're on the ice, right? Worry about the shift after that when you play it.
The role of the fan- and I do think fans have a role to play in sports- can't be broken down into discrete events quite so easily. I think we fans do need to spend a little more time taking the long view, remembering previous successes (some of which may not be as long ago as it seems) and recognizing that all it takes is one game, or one goal, or just one funny hop for a losing streak to end.
I'm not saying we should avoid the excitement and joy of a single game- watch me at a game, I cheer everything, include the announcement of the raffle winners- and I'm not saying we can't criticize the team when they're mired in a losing streak. I can talk about sample sizes and flukes all day long, but something clearly went wrong during the Hawks' 9 game losing streak, and it's fair to ask if that can't be fixed before the playoffs. Let's just keep in mind that this, too, will pass.
It's an almost Obama-esque commitment to keeping your cool, staying on an even keel, and playing the long game. And that's a lot to ask for a lot of us, myself included. But it's something to aspire to, at least.