The Chicago Blackhawks might not be in one of the top three slots in the Central Division right now, but at least they’re in a playoff spot.
The ‘Hawks making the playoffs seems automatic, but as of a couple of weeks ago that wasn’t the case. Now, they’ve rattled off five wins in a row and they appear to be playing better. So, the question is, is this the start of a long successful run for them?
Let’s take a look at how the winning streak started. The Blackhawks rattled off three consecutive victories over Buffalo (overtime), Arizona, and Florida (overtime), who are three of the bottom four teams in the league right now. The wins weren’t necessarily too convincing, but they still managed to get the job done (as most hockey players like to say: “two points is two points”).
But the biggest win of the streak came in the fourth game, as they managed to take down the high-flying Jets in Winnipeg with a performance that Patrick Kane called their biggest win of the season. On Sunday, they extended their streak by beating the Devan Dubnyk-less Minnesota Wild.
They’re currently in the top Wild Card spot, and they trail the Jets by six points in the race for third in the division.
Why have they been so successful lately?
This positive run has a lot to do with (some of) Chicago’s best players playing at a high level.
You can’t ignore what Corey Crawford has done this season. He’s been terrific all year. Without him, they’re probably not in a playoff spot right now. The 32-year-old has been between the pipes for each of the wins during the streak. He has a 16-7-2 record with a 2.11 goals-against-average, a .935 save percentage and two shutouts. Crawford has also given up two goals or less in each of his last five outings. There’s no denying it, he’s their MVP.
Up front, the line of Nick Schmaltz, Artem Anisimov and Kane has picked up the slack. After going four games without a point between Dec. 2-8, Kane has accumulated seven points in his last four contests. Meanwhile, Schmaltz has four points in his last four games and Anisimov has three point during that span.
If only Jonathan Toews, Brandon Saad and Alex DeBrincat could get going, the ‘Hawks would be in even better shape. Each player on that line has two points in their last four games, but all their production came in the win over Florida.
On another positive note, Duncan Keith has looked a lot better over the last few games. He’s been paired with Jordan Oesterle over the last few games and the pairing has looked relatively solid since being put together. The duo has been together for four games, and during that span Keith has had a CF% and SF% over 50 percent in three contests (stats via Natural Stat Trick).
Things definitely won’t be easy for the Blackhawks over the next couple of weeks. Tonight’s game against the Dallas Stars will be their first of a six-game road trip (it’ll be broken up by the Christmas break). They’ll then travel to play the Devils, Canucks, Oilers, Flames and Rangers. Of all the teams currently in a playoff spot, only the Rangers have less road victories (five) than the Blackhawks (seven).
We’ll find out if they’ve really turned the corner.
Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.