The Chicago Blackhawks are looking like the best team in the NHL, with some of their best performances coming in the new year
The Chicago Blackhawks are turning it up at the right time. The Western Conference seemed a lot closer about a month ago, but some teams have started to pull away. With how well the Minnesota Wild were playing, the Blackhawks not only weathered the storm, but now sit atop the Central Division with a five point lead.
A lot of their success has come in the second half of the season. After going 7-6 in January, the Blackhawks followed that up with an amazing run in February. They went 9-1 throughout the month, with seven of those games on the road. Needless to say, the Blackhawks have found their rythm and look like a scary team moving forward.
No Anisimov, No Problem
The Blackhawks had a great unit with Artemi Panarin, Artem Anisimov, and Patrick Kane for the first few months. Not only did the chemistry seem off during the second half of the year, but Anisimov struggled with injuries, and is set to miss the new three to four weeks. In his absence, several players have stepped up.
Nick Schmaltz, Ryan Hartman, and John Hayden are embracing their roles in the NHL. Hayden has only two games under his belt, but the young forward has looked good in both games. At 6’3”, Hayden brings plenty of size and skill to the Blackhawks roster.
Schmaltz and Hartman have a bit more NHL experience under their belt, and have maintained top-six roles in the process. While the offensive consistency may take some time, their ability to play at both ends has helped them maintain top line roles.
Resurgence of Jonathan Toews
Jonathan Toews is unquestionably one of the best players in the NHL. He is arguably the best two-way center, but has seen his overall offensive production dip over the last few seasons. However, in 2016-17, Toews seems to have found his footing once again. In 62 games, Toews has 18 goals and 33 assists, but has really taken since the start of the new year
Since January 1, Toews has seven multi-point games, including a ridiculous 13-point run in six games. His offensive game is certainly coming back, and his output is a key reason for the Blackhawks success. With 11 games left, and 18 points needed, Toews could surpass the 70-point mark for the first time since 2010-2011 with an exceptional finish. With some of his multi-point performances, this seems a lot more realistic than it should.
Overall, the Blackhawks look great at both ends, and have the experience to continue this trend. They are riding a four-game winning streak, and could see that extended when they take on the Colorado Avalanche this evening.
With solid goaltending, and their skaters coming together, do not be surprised if the Blackhawks make their way to Stanley Cup contention by season’s end.