NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2016-17 campaign tonight when the Chicago Blackhawks host the Arizona Coyotes at 8:30 p.m. ET. If you want to watch the game online, you can do so here.
From an offensive perspective, October through December was a relative quiet time for ‘Hawks captain Jonathan Toews. But when the calendar turned to 2017, something changed in his game.
He’s coming off an incredible five-point effort (three goals and two assists) in a win over the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday night and he’s now up to 24 points in 20 games since Jan. 5.
“I think for me the biggest change in my approach to the game is just my expectations,” Toews said, per the Chicago Tribune. “Just try to go into every game with no expectation, focus on the process, focus on playing well, playing the right way, staying in the moment, especially if things don’t go in or things don’t go your way. You’re just building one game after another to try and follow up good efforts and put weeks together, multiple games back to back.”
Toews has had the opportunity to play with guys like Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa, but believe it or not, he’s doing all this damage with Richard Panik and Nick Schmaltz on his wings.
The Blackhawks dropped their first game out of the bye (a 3-1 loss to Edmonton), but they’ve been able to rattle off impressive wins over Buffalo and now Minnesota.
Despite the win over their division rival, Chicago is still five points behind Minnesota for the Central Division crown. If the ‘Hawks are going to make a push up the standings, it’ll have to be sooner than later.
Arizona is in a completely different situation. They’re 15 points out of a Wild Card spot, so expect this team to look significantly different by next week’s trade deadline.
Pending unrestricted free agent Michael Stone was the first player to be moved, but Shane Doan, Martin Hanzal and Radim Vrbata might all find themselves on new teams by the start of next month.
On the ice, the Coyotes have actually been much better of late. They come into tonight’s game having won five of their last six contests.
Their latest victory came on Monday night, when they took down the Ducks 3-2.
The Coyotes had to overcome adversity in that one, as they lost goalie Mike Smith, who blasted the NHL’s concussion protocol after that game, to injury.
Arizona might not have anything to play for, but that’s what often makes teams more dangerous down the final stretch of the season. We’ll find out if Chicago and their red-hot captain can overcome the team trying to play spoiler.