With the most points in the NHL, the Chicago Blackhawks have undergone a transformation in a short time – from a struggling offensive team, to an elite Western Conference contender. Though the Blackhawks are tied for the most games played in the league and have yet to play all the elite teams in both conferences, it is safe to say they have a great shot of winning their second cup in three years.
But the key is consistency.
It might have only been about a week since the Blackhawks were struggling but things seem to have changed in a hurry. Chicago recently lost three straight games but it could have been just what the doctor ordered, to help point the team in the right direction. A loss sometimes exposes a team’s weakness and it seems the Blackhawks caught their weakness at the perfect time.
Everything the Blackhawks had been doing wrong early on in the season has changed, for the better. A struggling powerplay has recently found its niche, the fourth line has become one of the team’s most effective lines and the defense is finally playing well together.
The offense was the big question mark early on in the season for the Blackhawks, as it simply had no spark in its game. Coach Joel Quenneville decided to mix up the lines and it has seemed to do wonders. It might have taken a month, but Quenneville finally took Andrew Brunette off the first line and then put Marian Hossa on the same like with Jonathan Toews. Toews has been rejuvenated since the change, scoring four goals and adding two assists in the three contests.
As good as the Blackhawks offense has been their defense has been even better.
For a defensive corps that had two goals in their first 15 games, the Blackhawks blueliners – led by Duncan Keith, Steve Montador and Brent Seabrook – have managed six goals and 12 points in their last three games. Montador, one of the newest members of the group, has been the knight in shining armor for Chicago recently. He might have had a horrible training camp but that was two months ago. Since Quenneville decided to make him a quarterback on the powerplay, his confidence has been surging and has proved to pay dividends for the Blackhawks.
The Blackhawks are coming together at just the right time of the season. They have won three in a row and with their confidence through the roof, are now set for tough road trip through western Canada and California. It won’t be easy though. The trip kicks off against the defending Western Conference champion Vancouver Canucks, after which they head to Calgary. The following night Chicago will face off against the young Edmonton Oilers, who are one of the best turnarounds so far this season, before wrapping up the trip in San Jose, Anaheim and Los Angeles.
The trip will show if the Blackhawks can remain consistent, something that has plagued the team all season. If the train gets derailed, they could be right back where they started.
Photo Courtesy of The Associated Press.