CHICAGO – With 73 games still left to be played, it’s way too early to pass judgment on any team in the National Hockey League.

But it is safe to say that the Blackhawks have been much more competitive than many would have thought before the season through their first nine games.

They’ve won four contests so far, gotten a point by advancing to at least overtime in the last two contests, including a shootout defeat at the hands of the wild Sunday at the United Center, while two of their three losses have only been by a goal.

At the moment, the Blackhawks’ ten points have them third in the Central Division, which would put them solidly in the postseason. Again, way too early, but it’s been better than some might have thought for a team that deconstructed its roster this offseason to begin the rebuild.

A big part of their start has been two players who are quite familiar to the franchise and the fans as each begins what could be their final stretch with the team entering the final seasons of their contract.

Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews have enjoyed productive starts to the season as they’ve aided a competitive start for the Blackhawks. Kane has two goals and seven assists so far and has turned it up in the last five games as he has eight of his points in that stretch.

Toews is currently on a five-game point streak, having scored a goal in the shootout loss to the Wild on Sunday evening. The captain already has five goals in nine games after scoring 12 in 71 contests last season.

The Blackhawks have two home games this week against the Islanders (Tuesday) and against the Kings (Thursday) before hitting the road to face the Jets on Saturday afternoon.