The Chicago Blackhawks finished the first half of a tumultuous season in last place with an 18-24-9 record. Thankfully, in the NHL eight teams from each conference make the playoffs and now with Hawks in the midst of a stretch where they have won seven of eight after Tuesday’s 6-3 to the Boston Bruins, find themselves just four points out of a wild-card playoff spot, trailing the Minnesota Wild and the St. Louis Blues.
After the turmoil from the firing of former head coach Joel Quenneville, the hawks appear to be coming together under new head coach Jeremy Colliton. The exceptional play of Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews on the first line along with the play of Alex DeBrincat and recently acquired Dylan Strome on the second line has this team headed in the right direction.
Kane and Toews extended their point streaks to 14 games and seven games, respectively, in Sundays 5-2 win over the Detroit Red Wings. While Strome added a goal and two assists and DeBrincat had three assists of his own in the victory.
“We gotta ride that as long we can. We just gotta make sure we don’t think we’re just going to show up and it will just happen.” Coach Colliton said after Sunday’s win. “I’m just not satisfied. I think we’re not where we want to be. We gotta keep getting better, we can. There’s more.”
Colliton is right, the Blackhawks will need a lot more of this type of play to secure a wild-card spot but they are getting a little help from the teams they’re chasing. The Minnesota Wild are 1-6 in their last seven games, and the Vancouver Canucks have lost five straight although two losses went to overtime.
If the Hawks are going to make a run they still need to clean things up defensively. They’re allowing 35.3 shots and 3.65 goals against per game, both the second highest in the NHL. One bright spot, however, has been the play of Goaltender Cam Ward. In his last four starts, all victories, Ward has .939 save percentage despite facing just over 37 shots per game.
So can the Hawks pull off a miracle? It’s not likely, but it’s not unheard of either.
The 2008 St. Louis Blues and the 2007 Washington Capitals both had 35 points at the midway point of their seasons but dominated in the second half to make the playoffs with 93 and 94 points each.
Typically a 95 point season is needed to squeak into the playoffs in the NHL. Assuming that 95 points can be the magic number for the Hawks this season, they would have to go 19-6 or find some combination of 40 points in their next 25 games. Obviously, there’s still a long road to go, but at least the Hawks are playing their best hockey right now and giving fans something to root for.
The Hawks will try to make it eight wins in their last nine games Wednesday night when they take on the New Jersey Devils at the United Center