What do you know?! The Chicago Blackhawks have won five consecutive games and secured 10 more important points in the standings. It’s not always pretty, but they’re getting it done. They still have a rough road ahead to make the playoffs, but they’re taking care of business on their end with wins.
The Blackhawks currently sit five points outside of the final wild card spot, but guess what? Other teams are right there with them, and they keep winning, too. The Hawks can’t afford to rest on their laurels. Every game is a must-win. So let’s touch on some of the difference-makers and wallow in last week’s three victories real quick before we move on.
Blackhawks’ Week 24 Matchups
Vs. Arizona Coyotes, Mon. 3/11, Win 7-1
@ Toronto Maple Leafs, Wed. 3/13, Win 5-4
@Montreal Canadiens, Sat. 3/16, Win 2-0 (Shutout!)
Overall Record: 32-30-9, 73 points
One can’t exactly write about the Blackhawks right now without bringing up Brendan Perlini. The 22-year-old acquisition from the Coyotes this past November took a while to get his feet under him with the Blackhawks. But boy has he made up for it lately. Perlini has five goals and two assists in the last three games, including a hat trick last Monday night against his former team. If you take it back even further, he’s notched eight goals in the last seven games.
It’s been fun to watch Perlini’s confidence grow. As his play has progressed, he’s moved from a frequent healthy scratch in a bottom-six role to being promoted to the second line with Dylan Strome and Alex DeBrincat. Perlini has added another dynamic to this line. He’s a big body who’s been skating hard and winning puck battles. He’s also been awfully good at finding the open spots on the ice.
When you do the right things, you’ll get rewarded. Here’s my favorite of his last five goals. Sure, it was a bit of a soft goal let in by goaltender Frederik Andersen, but Perlini puts himself in the right spot and aggressively shoots his shot. Watch this nifty move around Leafs forward Nic Petan. Oh, and that smile when he comes back to the bench.
Sikura so Close
Dylan Sikura has suited up for 25 games this season, and he still doesn’t have his first NHL goal. Nonetheless, things are starting to look up for him. Last week we discussed how head coach Jeremy Colliton changed up the lines to try to provide a spark after the Hawks lost four-of-five matchups. Sikura was placed on the first line with Jonathan Toews and Brandon Saad, where he’s been deployed for the last four games.
He’s slowly but surely progressing and finding ways to contribute. In his first game on the top line (against the Dallas Stars), Sikura was only given 9:24 minutes of ice time. He was charged with a giveaway and managed only one shot on goal. But versus the Coyotes he played 14:30 minutes and was credited with two shots on goal, one takeaway and two blocked shots. Against the Leafs, Sikura earned a helper on Saad’s goal, giving him seven assists on the season. He was also credited with a team-high five shots on goal to go along with one blocked shot.
But probably his best game as a Blackhawk came against the Canadiens on Saturday. He looked noticeable all night long. According to Charlie Roumeliotis of NBC Sports Chicago, Sikura recorded six shots attempts, four shots on goal and one takeaway. He was on the ice for 13 scoring chances for his team and only five chances against. One of his shots even hit the goalpost, prompting captain Jonathan Toews to come over and give him a big hug. Oh, so close!
If Sikura keeps working hard, that elusive first NHL goal will come sooner rather than later.
I know, I know. You’ve all been waiting for me to get to this. Netminder Corey Crawford has been back in the fold for seven games now since sustaining a concussion in December. It took him a bit to shake off the rust, but he’s been stellar in his last four tilts. He only allowed one goal in the each of the first three of said games. And in his hometown of Montreal, he pitched a shutout. But it wasn’t just your regular ordinary shutout, if there is such a thing.
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) March 17, 2019
Well, Crawford shouldn’t have to make that many saves, but he did. And did you see this highlight reel stop?!
To be fair to the rest of the team, Crow only faced 27, 25 and 18 shots in the previous three tilts. Which is about as it should be. But it’s safe to say Crawford is looking sharp and should be a huge asset in the remaining matchups.
Blackhawks’ News and Notes
- The Hawks have killed off six-of-seven power-play attempts in the last three games. Add that to two-of-two kills in the previous two tilts, and I’d say the penalty kill units are doing their job.
- The power play, of the other hand, is 0-for-3 in the last three matchups and 0-for-11 in the last five games. This must change if the Blackhawks want to keep winning.
- Toews notched his 30th goal of the season against the Coyotes last Monday night. The Blackhawks now have three players with 30-plus goals on the season.
- It hasn’t been all roses and unicorns for the Blackhawks defensively. While playing better in this area of late, they allowed 29 shots in the third period against the Leafs, and 48 shots overall against the Canadiens. They must tighten up even more in this department.
- It should be mentioned the Blackhawks have 28 and 24 blocked shots in the last two tilts. It would be nice if they could thwart the opposing offense before that, but this is certainly a step in the right direction.
The Playoff Picture
It’s hard to keep up, because it changes every day. But let me see if I can make this as simple as possible. The Coyotes are currently in the final wild card spot in the Western Conference, with 78 points. The Minnesota Wild earned a point Sunday night with an overtime loss. They now have 77 points. The Colorado Avalanche won on Sunday giving them 74 points, right in front of the Blackhawks’ 73 points. It bears noting these teams have all played one more game to get to this point (the Wild played two more games).
The Blackhawks host the Vancouver Canucks Monday night, who will be on their second half of back-to-back games. Time to take advantage. The Philadelphia Flyers come to town on Thursday. Depending on how the Hawks fare in these two tilts will determine the importance of the weekend, where they have home-on-home matchups against the Avalanche. Yes, the very same team that sits directly above them in standings.
Buckle up, everyone. Here we go!