NBCSN’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with Tuesday’s matchup between the Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks. Coverage begins at 6 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.
The Blackhawks are hoping to extend their impressive, surprising winning streak to eight games when they face the Bruins on Tuesday.
While a four-point lead in the standings is larger than it might seem thanks to teams being in Chicago’s way and how many games go to overtime, it’s also understandable that Blackhawks fans are dreaming bigger with each consecutive victory.
Of course, the last-place Ducks and Kings are the same four points behind the Blackhawks. That thought brings up a lot of observations (especially if you need to back up claims about the West’s lower ranks being putrid), but this post focuses on the road ahead for Chicago.
Some schedule notes
The Blackhawks play five of their next seven games at the United Center, and Tuesday’s upcoming game against the Bruins also comes with Chicago being lucky that David Pastrnak won’t be available for the Bruins.
Feb. 12: @ Boston
Feb. 14: vs. New Jersey
Feb. 16: vs. Columbus
Feb. 18: vs.Ottawa
Feb. 20: @ Detroit
Feb. 22: vs.Colorado
Feb. 24: vs.Dallas
So far, the Blackhawks have played 28 games apiece at home versus away, so they have 13 of each remaining this season. They’ll likely hope that the Avalanche don’t figure things out anytime soon, as they face Colorado three more times in 2018-19.
So you’re saying there’s a chance …?
It’s interesting to see where the Blackhawks fall according to various models, but optimism is limited even where it’s most abundant.
Chicago has a shot, but would beat some odds. It’s also easy to forget that the Blackhawks lost seven of eight games before going on this seven-game winning streak.
Potential stumbling blocks
Even by the standards of a seven-game winning streak, Chicago’s on fire.
With 81 points in just 55 games, Patrick Kane already has more points than he had last season (76 in 82 games), and he’s undoubtedly boosted Alex DeBrincat and Dylan Strome along the way. Strome’s close to a point-per-game since joining Chicago, with 30 points in 32 games.
Kane’s tied for second in scoring with Connor McDavid, so it’s fair to bring up some Hart chatter, but what if he gets hurt or merely cools off? Chicago might not have the scoring support to keep this surge going.
There are pretty obvious scenarios where the Blackhawks’ brief goaltending surge topples over.
Extending Collin Delia was reasonable enough, but he still only has 14 games of NHL experience, so that streak could wear off. Cam Ward currently has a .939 save percentage in three February games after failing to reach .900 in any months this season, and often being a disaster over the last — decade? While Corey Crawford getting what seems to be a clean bill of health is fantastic news, there’s no timetable for his return, and no guarantee he’ll be sharp when he can come back.
With a friendly upcoming schedule, the magic might last — at least for a while. There are pretty obvious signs that it may eventually wear off, but either way, Blackhawks fans should enjoy the ride.
John Walton (play-by-play) and A.J. Mleczko (‘Inside-the-Glass’) will have the call from TD Garden in Boston, Mass. Pre-game coverage starts at 6 p.m. ET with NHL Live, hosted by Kathryn Tappen alongside Jeremy Roenick and Mike Johnson.