Strong finish helps Blackhawks clinch a playoff spot for the 7th straight year
CHICAGO – A week before he said the Blackhawks couldn’t think too far ahead when it came to positioning for the Western Conference Playoffs.
“We’re in the playoffs right now. We don’t have anything solidified yet,” said Quenneville after practice at the United Center last Thursday and it was an issue with the team as close to the top as the bottom of the postseason race.
But an impressive seven days of hockey has now put the focus on home ice once again. A third-straight win has the team in “7th Heaven.”
A pair of third period goals helped the Blackhawks get past the Canucks for a 3-1 win at United Center to seal up a playoff spot for a seventh-consecutive season. That might not seem like a lot to a team with a pair of Stanley Cups and two West Finals appearances in that span, but getting in and they way the played to do so is still encouraging to this successful group.
“The last three games I definitely like the trend,” said Quenneville, who has made the playoffs every year in Chicago. “We had a stretch there where we were very ordinary even though we were picking up points in some games I knew we had to get better and knowing that if we’re satisfied with this we’re not going to be good enough.
“So if you look at the last three games playing the right way was definitely a points of emphasis and their play was exactly what were looking for.”
That came during a win in Winnipeg where Jonathan Toews' tipped goal with 30 seconds left was the difference and a 4-1 dismantling of the Kings a few nights later at home. This time it was the Blackhawks' finishing push that was most impressive and it once again started with Toews who pushed a twice-deflected shot past Eddie Lack for the go-ahead goal with 12 minutes to play.
Marcus Kruger added another 2:27 later when he stole the puck and went in for a short breakaway tally that put a competitive Vancouver team away.
The win also put the Hawks over 100 points for the season and got them within one of the Blues for second in the central division and three of first place Nashville.
"Things turned around quickly," admitted Quenneville of the last week. "But our guys like to find a way."
At the moment it's back in the playoffs and a guarantee that their season will go on for at least a couple more games.