Chicago, IL — What a week for the Chicago Blackhawks. They started the week one point behind the Central Division leading Minnesota Wild.
The Hawks then hit the road to Canada to face the three current playoff bound teams in the Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators & the Toronto Maple Leafs.
By the end of this Canadian excursion they find themselves not only picking up 6 valuable points out of 6 but they are now five points ahead of the Wild and sitting in first in the Central. Now that is a successful road trip.
Minnesota during that time picked up no points so the Hawks now find themselves in what I thought was a possible position.
I have to admit, I really didn’t think they would catch the Wild or the Central this soon especially given that Anisimov, Hossa, Crawford & Darling have been in and out of the line up with injuries.
There is only 11 or 12 games left for the Hawks and Wild so time is running out. I still contend it is not imperative the Hawks win the Central but it would still be nice to have home ice throughout the playoffs facing the West.
There is an outside chance now they are only 3 points behind NHL leader the Washington Capitals to catch them based on the strength of opponents each team faces. The Hawks have the far easier schedule on paper.
The Hawks also face Pittsburgh and Columbus who stand in between so they can dictate a lot yet even in the East of how the teams finish in that conference.
Again the Penguins and the Blue Jackets face in theory a tougher schedule than the Blackhawks. If they get that they would secure home ice throughout the playoffs regardless of opponent.
Then again we all know the President Trophy winners don’t usually fair well in the playoffs. Who was the last President Trophy winner to win a Stanley Cup? Oh yeah it was the Chicago Blackhawks scratch that notion.
The Hawks have now put themselves comfortably in the game tonight against the Colorado Avalanche with the opportunity to clinch a playoff berth and we all know that is their ultimate goal.
I believe they just need to win in any fashion (regulation, OT, SO), to get in or a couple of other scenarios if the Flames win over the Kings.
Good on the Hawks you always seem to amaze and impress me. Nothing is out of their reach now.
What is really impressive is how the Hawks have gained ground and swept Canada. It was with eight different goal scorers and some of them are in their first NHL year coupled with outstanding defensive structure and goaltending.
The Hawks who scored goals in those three Canadian games – Kane, Oduya, Panarin, Toews, Keith, Panik, Hayden & Hartman. Now that is a balanced attack. If they can sustain this it will make them very hard to match up against.
Plus you have to keep in mind this is without Anisimov in the last two games and without Hossa in the last game.
Nick Schmaltz is growing up before our eyes as has Ryan Hartman and Richard Panik. I loved seeing the tears of the Maple Leafs fans bemoaning losing Panik. I was amused.
Now we can add John Hayden to the list as well. The guy just got here two games ago and I already see a huge step from game one to game two.
Even Mike Babcock said after the OT win over the Maple Leafs yesterday that he was surprised how good “some of their kids are.” He said he saw some of them in Juniors but didn’t think they would be this good.
So young rookies just keep doing what you do and listen to your coaches and just shine.
Coaches I’ve got to say Coach Quenneville, Kitchen, Dineen you guys have been really exceptional this year bringing these young guys along into the fold and just putting them in positions to their strengths and to succeed.
In the Ottawa game Hayden was eased into the NHL game with limited minutes and he still had 5 hits. A couple of games ago Schmaltz made a defensive error that cost a goal so he sat to contemplate his error.
Yet the coaches put him in at the end of the game to give the kid confidence now that is coaching. I bet Schmaltz won’t make that error ever again and it’s ok to make errors as long as you learn from them.
The best example was probably the last game against the Leafs. My Lord John Hayden has stepped in like he has played with Toews and Panik his whole life not just two games.
I know the kid is smart graduating from Yale but still give him credit and the entire leadership of the team both players and coaches because there is a learning curve yet you really don’t see that curve they fit in so well right away.
Also who would’ve put Hartman and Panarin out together in OT? They rarely if ever play together yet they get the GWG in OT together. Now that is blending & putting in some Tabasco to boot. Well done.
I really think the coaches should at least be up there and possibly win the Jack Adams. This year more than any in recent history the coaching has brought these kids along and developed them quickly.
I also give huge props to the leadership on this team. Post game Hayden said he’s learned more in two games just being around these guys and a winning culture, I’m paraphrasing here.
Ryan Hartman you are a Chicago treasure to be sure. Just keep being you. He represents what Chicago is so well.
The other thing individually is Patrick Kane and Artemi Panarin are closing in on their individual goals.
Kane I believe at the time of this post is just two points out of the scoring lead and has a chance to go back to back years with the title which that has not been done in a long time and I’m not sure possibly never by an American.
Artemi Panarin I believe is one point off of getting his schedule B bonus and something tells me both Kane and Panarin are not going to be this close and not close the deals. Keep it rolling boys.
I would also like to, insert emoji of girl/boy with hands raised to the sky , Johnny Oduya is back with the Hawks!
Before the trade deadline that was the one thing I said I would be ecstatic over if the Hawks got Oduya back. Stan you never cease to make me happy thank you.
I am so glad he is back with this team and already we see the improvement. The Hawks defense was good before now it is excellent with Oduya back. Welcome home Johnny O.
Are the Hawks perfect? No they still need to work on face-offs, special teams and shots against are a little too high. Clean these items up and keep working on them and get healthy.
Close out the last eleven games strong and Spring is coming!