We’re closing in on the end of the regular season and it means bad news for the rest of the NHL the Chicago Blackhawks are taking form for another playoff run. It doesn’t really matter where they finish in the standings or who they play, all that matters is that they make the playoffs.
As teams like St. Louis and Nashville battle for 1st in the Central Division, Chicago has quietly been keeping pace in third, and now they are in position to jump over both. The Hawks are within 4 points of a three-way tie for first in the Central, and they also have a game in hand.
The Blackhawks’ game is coming together at the most important time of the season, right before the playoffs. They are doing it with solid goaltending, tight defense, and timely scoring, all critical areas they’ll need to challenge for a third Stanley Cup in six years.
So by my count the Hawks are 7-2 since the Kane injury. So much for people who said they were finished when he got hurt
— ChiTownSports (@ChiTownSports) March 19, 2015
The Blackhawks are finished without Patrick Kane? Think again.
The Hawks are 7-2-1 since Kane broke his collarbone on February 24. But as only the Blackhawks can do, they simply keep moving forward. Other stars are picking up the slack, including Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp. The Blackhawks have enough depth to overcome the loss of Kane. Other teams who lose such a critical part of their team may not be so lucky.
The Kane element will add even more motivation for Chicago to do well in the playoffs, hoping they buy enough time for their start to make a dramatic return in the playoffs. Kane’s timetable for a return was said to be 12 weeks. That would mean no earlier than the conference finals. But Kane has said he’s hoping to be back sooner. We shall see.
One player the Blackhawks simply cannot lose is goalie Corey Crawford. He has been a workhorse for the Hawks this season, and he’s improving as the season winds down.
In his last seven games, Corey Crawford is 6-0-1 with a 1.13 GAA and .964 save percentage. Two or fewer goals in each. #Blackhawks
— Mark Lazerus (@MarkLazerus) March 18, 2015
One of the biggest boosts in recent weeks is the emergence of backup goaltender Scott Darling. He’s allowing starter Crawford to get a few games off and rest before the playoff grind begins.
Darling had an impressive victory against the best team in the NHL last week. Playing in the second of a back to back, Hawks Coach Joel Quenneville trusted Darling to start on the road against the New York Rangers. The rookie goaltender managed to shut out the blue shirts on the big stage of Madison Square Garden.
As many teams and NHL fans watch from an outside perspective, the Blackhawks seem to have it all figured out. They know when to turn things up in time for the playoffs. So many teams leave their blood, sweat and tears on the ice in the regular season, only to not find that same success and results in the playoffs. The Blackhawks leave their blood, sweat and tears on the ice in the playoffs, and the results are immense.
The Hawks may get beat during the regular season. They may suffer some bad losses and give up some bad goals. However, don’t expect them to be too bothered by these setbacks. This is a team that is full of mentally tough players built to care when the pressure is at its highest, and that’s not during a regular season game.
Earlier in the season, Elliotte Friedman from Hockey Night in Canada called it a sense of boredom. The Blackhawks are simply bored in the regular season, they’re just waiting for the real season to start.
The real impression I got talking to people around the organization, and even some of the players, is their biggest battle is almost sometimes boredom.
They may not have had the prettiest or most dominant season in the past few years, but despite their bumps along the road and now without one of their stars, the Chicago Blackhawks may still end up winning the Central Division. By now, that shouldn’t be a surprise to many hockey fans.