The Chicago Blackhawks captured their fifth straight win on Sunday night after they defeated the Minnesota Wild at the United Center. The series of wins has come after the Hawks went through a rough patch at the end of November. Among those five straight losses were key games to Central Division rivals, like the Nashville Predators and the Dallas Stars. The Hawks ended up quickly falling in the standings as a result of their losses and needed to start off December on the right foot. Though they struggled at first, losing to teams like the Los Angeles Kings and the Washington Capitals, they got back on the winning track against the Buffalo Sabres. Since then, they have also beat the Arizona Coyotes, the Florida Panthers, and the Winnipeg Jets.
Perhaps the best game the Hawks have had recently was their win against the Jets. The Hawks had a rough season against the Jets last year, winning only one matchup out of five. They knew that they had to change things around this year and Thursday was the first matchup of this season for the two teams. The Hawks were able to get things started with a bang, tallying three goals in the first period. With the fact that they were at the Bell MTS Place, where the Jets had recently tied the franchise record for most wins on home ice, as well as longest point streak at home, the Hawks had no room for lacking confidence. Tallying those three goals killed off any confidence the Jets had and by the end of the game, the Hawks managed to put up a winning score of five to one.
It has also been a huge help to the Blackhawks with the way Patrick Kane has been stepping up lately. The winger has three assists and four goals in his past five games, including two goals against the Wild. His 299th goal notched his spot as fifth in all-time franchise goals, pushing him past Dennis Hull. Prior to the streak he is now on, Kane had been looking to step up his game, knowing that he is a huge producer for the team. Having him step up has clearly injected some confidence into the team and their style of play.
Kane has also helped to bring out some of the scoring from the rest of the team. Tommy Wingels, whom the Blackhawks signed to a one-year deal, has had a fantastic run as of late. He has a goal in four of his last five games and has done a great job of getting into tough areas and to the net. Vinnie Hinostroza has also done some damage against other teams since being called back up from the Rockford IceHogs. He tallied the opening goal against the Jets on Thursday, followed up by Wingels’ game-winner.
Corey Crawford continues to be the stellar backbone for the team, making spectacular saves left and right. He now has sixteen wins on the season and the team has really picked things up since gaining him back after a minor injury took him out for a few games. Crawford has started all five of the winning games and made 28 or more saves per game. Despite facing so many shots, he has only let in two goals or less in each of those five games.
The Blackhawks are still looking for production on the power play, which has suffered long into the season. They had six opportunities against the Wild, but were unable to capitalize on a single one. Chicago has now had 128 opportunities with the extra-man advantage, yet they have only been able to capitalize on 19 of those chances. Whether it is better passing they need to work on or getting more quality shots on the goalie, they need to figure out a strategy that works soon because they are letting too many chances slip through their fingers. Many games have been determined with extra time, but the Blackhawks need to use those two minute chances to get both of the points available per game, without handing their opponents any freebies.
Playing against the Jets and the Wild were both huge tests that the Blackhawks passed, but they have some more upcoming games that need to be won. They’ll take on the Dallas Stars on Thursday night, a team that they’ve already dropped two games to this season. Both of those games headed into extra time, so the Hawks will want to keep things short and simple this time around. They’ll also face the New Jersey Devils, the Vancouver Canucks, and the Edmonton Oilers, before they close out the year with a New Year’s Eve game against the Calgary Flames.
The Hawks are currently fourth in the Central Division and with such a tight knit group, they really don’t have time for a lot of losses. If they can keep this streak going until at least the new year commences, they’ll put themselves into a great position for the month of January. Picking up those points against Dallas will be crucial, especially since the Stars are only one point below the Blackhawks in the standings, so Thursday night’s game will be a huge battle. The team will need to give it all they’ve got and hopefully they will be able to keep their streak alive and well.