It appears the new year has brought the right formula for a healthy Blackhawks roster.
The Hawks have been through stretches this year where they have struggled to get contributions from the core group of players that the organization was banking on to lead them back into the playoffs. Whether it was because of health or poor play, the only part of the Hawks performances that was consistent was… their inconsistency.
Since coach Joel Quenneville made some dramatic lineup alterations last week, the players have responded. The core is back to producing, and it’s showing in the standings.
Winners of six of their last 10, it has been the usual suspects that have been leading the way for the Hawks.
Patrick Kane has six points (two goals, four assists) in his last six games. Marian Hossa has five points (two goals, three assists) and is plus-four in his last four games. And Patrick Sharp continues to bolster his All Star resume with 10 points (seven goals, three assists) in his last seven games.
With his 25th goal on Sunday night, Sharp has tied Henrik Sedin for third in the NHL.
More importantly, both Kane and Hossa have looked fast, confident and healthy in their last two games. Where the two superstars had appeared tentative at times in the previous games after coming back from injury, the two weekend games saw both back at the elite level fans expect.
Corey Crawford has also stepped up his game, and continues to improve in January. With his shutout on Sunday night, Crawford has allowed 10 goals on 123 shots (.919 save percentage) and has an outstanding 1.99 goals against average.
While wins against the Senators and Islanders aren’t indicators of quality hockey, two wins against the Kings and a strong performance against the Predators in the last 10 contests are strong statements that the Blackhawks are starting to find their way as they get their players back on the ice together.
On Wednesday, the Blackhawks will play a crucial game against Colorado. The Avs sit just one point behind the Blackhawks, and have lost two straight (including a Saturday night loss to the Islanders that were thoroughly owned by the Blackhawks 24 hours later). The Avs host Detroit on Monday night before travelling to Chicago; any two-point outcome in that game helps the Hawks.