After missing the playoffs last season for the first time since the 2008-2009 campaign, the Chicago Blackhawks are not having the bounce back year they were hoping for.
Since new head coach Jeremy Colliton took over in November, the Hawks are 11-18-7 on the season and remain seven points out of the final wild card spot in the Western Conference.
Despite their deplorable first half of the season, the Hawks entered the All-Star break with back-to-back wins and captain Jonathan Toews playing his best hockey in quite some time. He has seven points in his last four games, including a hat-trick in an 8-5 win over the Washington Capitals.
The catalyst for Toews’ recent success comes from once again being paired with Patrick Kane on the first line. The Hawks were on a five-game skid prior to Kane and Toews being reunited.
“It makes the game the simple.” Kane told the Sun-Times. “It’s not like you have to think too much or even talk too much about what we want to do.”
To go along with the front line scoring, the Blackhawk’s powerplay has been firing on all cylinders. Since December 18th, the Blackhawks lead the NHL in powerplay percentage with 39.8 percent conversion rate.
“They’re making great reads and just being clean with the puck and making great decisions,” Colliton told the media after Tuesday’s win over the Islanders. Colliton also mentioned that the play of Erik Gustafsson on the blue line and Dylan Strome in front of the net has allowed more freedom for Alex DeBrincat and Patrick Kane.
Although the offense appears to be coming together, the defense still has a lot of catching up to do. According to naturalstattrick.com, the Blackhawks have allowed the second most high-danger scoring chances in the NHL through the first half of season and have also allowed more goals (189) than any other team in the league.
The Hawks still have a large mountain to climb to make the playoffs, but the improved play of Jonathan Toews and the powerplay might provide a glimmer of hope for Hawks fans to keep watching.
The Blackhawks will look to keep the offensive fire-power going when they return from the All-Star break on February 1, in Buffalo to skate against the Sabres.