Apr 6, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks left wing Patrick Sharp (not pictured) scores past St. Louis Blues goalie Brian Elliott (1) during the second period at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
The city of Chicago may be experiencing April showers but the Chicago Blackhawks are currently shining bright. While in the final push before the 2014 NHL Playoffs the Blackhawks have found themselves riding a 4 game win streak. Oh yeah, might I add that this 4 game win streak has taken place without the services of the Chicago Blackhawks top 2 players, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. The thought of the 3 game losing streak, probably fresh in the players’ minds, may have provided a spark and helped the team turn things around. Or maybe it was the comradery of the team coming together in the wake of their Captain Toews being forcefully taken out until the playoffs?
Whatever it was, I know it all started April 3rd against the Minnesota Wild, the Hawks 1st game without Jonathan Toews in the lineup. It was also Bryan Bickell’s first game back from injury since March 19 where he shined, scoring a goal and he also showed some physical presence in front of the net. We also saw a glimpse of Jeremy Morin with a nice assist on Bickell’s goal. The Hawks won that game in a shootout 3-2.
The Chicago Blackhawks following game vs. the Columbus Blue Jackets was even more of a thriller with both sides firing off at each other, punches included. This was a fast paced, hard hitting, back and forth game that literally went down to the wire. The Blackhawks game winning goal was scored with 3.7 seconds to play in the 3rd period! This was Ben Smith’s second goal in as many games played. In a role that would normally be filled by a healthy Patrick Kane or Jonathan Toews, the young guy came through and got one to slide through the pads for a game winning goal. He sure is heating up at the right time.
The Blackhawks then faced the St. Louis Blues for Sundays NHL on NBC game of the week. However, it was another walk away win from the Blues that ended 4-2. The player that caught everyone’s eye was Jeremy Morin for his 1 goal and 1 assist night. Patrick Sharp has been producing career highs this year and added another goal to make it his second in as many games. The empty netter scored by Ben Smith was his 3rd goal in his past 3 games, with two of them coming at the end of the game in important situations. He has found a role on this team and Quenneville is rewarding him with more ice time and a role for the playoffs. If the Blues continue to lose and the Avalanche continue to win, it is possible the Blackhawks could meet the Blues in the first round of the playoffs starting on the road.
On Wednesday nights final home game of the regular season the Blackhawks rallied from being down 1 goal, twice in the 3rd period. With the game in overtime the Hawks battled through and won it with a Patrick Sharp goal which now has him tallied for 1 goal in each of his last 3 games. Jeremy Morin found the score sheet once again adding to his breakout play as of late. Morin has recorded 3 goals and 2 assists over the last 4 games of this Chicago Blackhawks push to the playoffs.
Obviously during this 4 game win streak the backbone has been the consistency of our goaltending and the significance of the team helping the goalies by scoring more goals. It is also beneficial to have a backup goalie that can play a couple nights sporadically and win. This helps gain experience and eventually more playing time down the road. A perfect example was when Corey Crawford had the injury earlier in the year and Antti Raanta was called upon to jump in and take over as the starter. He jumped right in and was superb while keeping the Blackhawks afloat. Recently he has been called upon to give Corey Crawford a night off in order to keep him rested and ready for the long haul of the playoffs. Expect Crawford to be getting the starting nod and flashing his pads with the talent he has displayed these past few years.