Unfortunately for the rest of the NHL, it appears the Chicago Blackhawks are hitting their stride. After handily beating two bad Canadian teams, they will begin another back-to-back series against the Dallas Stars and Edmonton Oilers.
The Stars are certainly not a bad team, and are making progress as a team, going 5-3-2 in their last ten games. Their physical style of play should cause the Blackhawks a bit of problems. While teams like the Winnipeg Jets doubled the Blackhawks in hits, they were dominated by the puck possession of the Blackhawks.
The Stars offense is better than that of the Jets, and Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen ranks third in Goals Allowed per Game, and fifth in Save Percentage. This combination will certainly prove to be difficult against a Blackhawks defense, which may have a key piece not at 100 percent.
Niklas Hjalmarsson left Blackhawks practice early today and has an undisclosed upper-body injury, meaning he will not be his normal self, but will still see plenty of ice time and be assisted on the penalty kill by the Stars, who rank 23rd in the league at 13.5 percent.
While the penalty kill for the Blackhawks still remains last in the league, the power play and even strength offense continues to get better, and is currently being led by Captain Jonathan Toews. Toews has four goals and six points to go along with only one penalty in the last five games, only bolstering the top line which has propelled the Blackhawks performance to the level fans are accustomed to.
Now on the top line, Marian Hossa also has six points in his last five contests, although his +/- is a respectable four to Toews astonishing +6 rating.
To compliment Hossa and Toews, Patrick Sharp is once again playing at the astonishing level he is capable of. Three goals on 20 shots in his last five games complete a top line, which can shred even the best defenses in the NHL if this pace continues.