Now that the All Star Game is over, and Patrick Sharp has a new car and pretty trophy to flaunt, the Blackhawks need to quickly regroup and focus on the most important stretch of games on the calendar.
In February, the Hawks have 13 games scheduled with the first six coming on the road. The Hawks are only home for four contests in the month, and the schedule is loaded with crucial games. Looking at the schedule, the Blackhawks must leave February with at least 19 points (0f a possible 26).
- Feb. 1 – @ Columbus
- Feb. 4 – @ Vancouver
- Feb. 7 – @ Calgary
- Feb. 9 – @ Edmonton
- Feb. 11 – @ Dallas
- Feb. 12 – @ Phoenix
- Feb. 16 – vs. Minnesota
- Feb. 18 – vs Columbus
- Feb. 20 – vs. Pittsburgh
- Feb. 21 – @ St. Louis
- Feb. 24 – @ Nashville
- Feb. 27 – vs Phoenix
- Feb. 28 – @ Minnesota
Looking at this schedule, the Hawks play three back-to-backs, with two of them involving travel in between. Five of the 13 games are against teams currently ahead of the Blackhawks in the Western Conference – Vancouver, Dallas, Nashville, Phoenix (twice) and the only Eastern Conference team on the calendar is Pittsburgh, which is currently fourth in the East.
However, there are games in February the Hawks must win.
Calgary, Columbus, St. Louis and Edmonton are the bottom four teams in the Western Conference. If the Blackhawks want to at least maintain their playoff position, if not improve it, they must take at least eight of 10 possible from the five games against those teams.
What could be most interesting is how the two games against Minnesota play into the standings at the end of the season.
The Wild came into Chicago before the Break and handled the Hawks easily, and sit only one point behind the Hawks with one game in-hand. As important as it is for the Blackhawks to beat the bottom feeders and made up ground on teams in front of them, the cluster of five teams with 55 or 56 points – Chicago, San Jose and Colorado at 56, Minnesota and Los Angeles at 55 – is where the attention of the team must be.
February is a busy month, and the trade deadline is coming quickly. When March arrives, where will the Blackhawks be in the standings? And what will the roster look like? A lot could be determined in the next four weeks.