Barely a week ago, the Chicago Blackhawks were toast. They were dead in the water.
A losing streak that would end up reaching nine games caused most fans to question their expectations, question their general manager, and question whether or not Joel Quenneville would survive as head coach to see another win.
There’s no doubt, it was a miserable streak. It doesn’t matter how dedicated of a fan you are, nine losses in a row will make you seriously question quite a few aspects of any team. But, yet, here we stand.
The Blackhawks are now coming off of their fourth consecutive win. They haven’t been the prettiest, but we’re seeing a new energy from the Blackhawks that was rare last year, at least prior to the postseason.
Perhaps more impressive than the way they’ve managed to recover from their free fall is who they’ve done it again. Three of the four wins have come against top tier teams in the NHL, with the leaders of both conferences, the New York Rangers and Detroit Red Wings, being two of those.
And even on Tuesday, against Detroit (winners of six straight), without Jonathan Toews, the Blackhawks were able to dig deep after an early deficit and let a couple of youngsters lead them to victory. Sure, the Wings were without Pavel Datsyuk, but one could make the argument that Toews is more important to the Hawks than Datsyuk is to the Wings. Depth.
While four wins in a row isn’t the most incredible feat in the world by any stretch, it has helped erase some of the doubts that many had about this team, even prior to the nine-game skid.
One of those doubts is/was Corey Crawford. The embattled Hawks goaltender has been stellar in his last four starts, allowing just five goals on his last 120 shots. His confidence seems to be building every night, and it’s showing on the ice.
But don’t sleep on the defense playing in front of him, either. Somehow, without Niklas Hjalmarsson, the Hawks’ blue line has found a way to improve. During this little streak, the Hawks haven’t surrendered more than two goals in a game, and they’ve allowed just one in three consecutive games.
Duncan Keith has recovered from his mid-season struggles and Brent Seabrook has remained as consistent as he’s been all season. Dylan Olsen has been pretty solid in his first real NHL action and even Sami Lepisto is finally starting to get some playing time, and taking advantage of it.
The penalty kill has also seen a drastic improvement of late, having allowed just a single power play goal in their last four.
The biggest change, though, is the energy that we see from the Hawks on a nightly basis. It started when they ended the streak in New York and has continued through these last two games, both of which saw them go down early by a goal. A Hawks team from last year or from some stretches this year might not have stuck with it and put up little fight, but the energy and perseverance is certainly there for this team.
Obviously, the Blackhawks are not without their flaws. They could use some more depth at the trade deadline and the power play is still a complete and total disaster.
Again, it’s a small sample space to say that this team is beginning their ascent back to the top of the Western Conference. But should they continue down this road and play the type of hockey that we have seen they are capable of, they are going to be right in the middle of everything when the postseason rolls around.