With only 18 regular season games remaining for the Chicago Blackhawks things are currently tightening up in the NHL Western Conference. With the up-to-date playoff picture we have, I wanted to take a look at and point out some of the positive things that have come together for the Blackhawks as of late. These positives will need to develop in order to help keep the puck rolling into the Stanley Cup Playoffs. As we all know the sprint to the finish has only just begun and it will most likely go to the final wire before we have a set seeding.
Brian Bickell knows it as well as everyone else does, you have to get the puck to the net one way or another to score. When he is playing scrappy with his 6’4” 233lb frame in front of the net, he frustrates the defensemen and the goalie. As a result he usually finds the back of the net or sets someone up for the goal. Coincidently enough, it seems that he has redeveloped after Joel Quenneville decided to give Bickell a wakeup call, via a healthy scratch at the end of January. Bryan Bickell has scored 3 goals in his last 8 games since and his checking with a purpose is starting to come around again. His confidence will be restored as a result and also the trust of his coach with additional ice time.
Andrew Shaw is another physical grinder who found success during the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs, playing gritty and witty when they needed him the most. Shaw had been held goalless for 11 games until Thursdays 2 goal game vs. the Columbus Blue Jackets. He made a statement on the Toews and Saad line out on the ice, matching Jonathan Toews 2 goals that same night. Quenneville recently has mixed up the lines trying to create a different spark while they are forced to play without Marian Hossa, one of their key players. So keep an eye out on this unit in the stretch, I think that they are a great pairing for success.
Jonathan Toews, the Captain of the Blackhawks, has found his groove since the Olympic gold medal game and has really excelled on both ends of the ice. He has scored 5 goals in his last 3 games. If you include the Olympics, make it 6 goals in his last 4 games. The team really needs his production to continue in order to help make up for the loss of Marin Hossa for at least a couple of weeks until he is able to play again. Toews will be a great shoulder to lean on for Shaw and Sadd. Not only will the ice time with him increase experience, taking in the knowledge of the game in the locker room and on the bench helps young players when the situation arises in a game. Take for example, Shaw’s 3OT game winning goal during game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals.
Be sure to take note on the Chicago Blackhawks strategy before the trade deadline. They didn’t make any drastic moves but instead added small pieces to the puzzle. Picking up former Blackhawk Kris Versteeg from the Florida Panthers brings more depth at forward. He also brings help to the special teams unit which seems to struggle at times. The other move made by Stan Bowman was a trade with the Islanders to fill in more depth at center. The Blackhawks acquired Peter Regin and Pierre-Marc Bouchard only giving up a 2014 4th round draft pick.
Heading into the NHL Playoffs these are all things to take note of and follow as they develop. In the past Stan Bowan has backed his trade deadline moves or lack of moves with Championship teams. If you have any comments or additional thoughts please feel free to share. The playoffs are around the corner so be sure to head back and check out the exciting articles written by the staff here at Blackhawk Up. LET’S GO HAWKS!