CHICAGO — At the moment, the NHL standings can be looked at two ways.
Going by the points, it looks better for the Blackhawks. At 49 points, they currently sit five behind the Vancouver Canucks for the final Wild Card spot in the Western Conference. With 29 games remaining, that’s not an insurmountable deficit to overcome.
But at the same time, they’ve got a lot of teams ahead of them. Five teams currently sit directly behind the Canucks and ahead of the Blackhawks for that last spot in the playoffs, so there is a lot of things that need to happen for Jeremy Colliton’s team to make the postseason.
Yet it’s good to even think about the playoffs considering the significant changes that came to the team early in the season. Joel Quenneville was let go after a decade and a new coach was brought in, leading to an adjustment period that included winless streaks of eight and five games.
Finally, it appears the team has gained a bit of rhythm and momentum following that last streak which occurred in early January. The team got two-straight wins over strong Eastern Conference teams Washington and the New York Islanders, then followed it up with back-to-back triumphs over the Sabres on Friday then the Wild in overtime on Saturday.
That’s the longest winning streak of the season with the shot to make it five-in-a-row on Tuesday night against the Oilers in Edmonton, a game you can see on WGN-TV.
“I think we’re playing a more complete game as a team,” said forward Brandon Saad of the four-game winning streak. “There’s been stretches in the past where we’re still playing some pretty good hockey but we haven’t strung it together and we seem to be doing that lately.”
Of course, the continued strong play of Patrick Kane has sure helped.
After being the Blackhawks’ lone representative at the All-Star Game, the right winger has come out on fire again, scoring five points in the two wins over Buffalo and Minnesota. It’s put him at 31 goals and 45 assists on the season, and keeps Kane in the MVP conversation while also nearing career-highs in each category.
“Obviously he has his games where he gets four points – he’ll do that – but he’s finding a way to bring it every night, finding somehow to have an impact on the game” said Colliton of Kane at the team’s Tuesday morning skate .
Should he do so again, the Blackhawks could take another small step forward on a still long road to a postseason berth.