It became official with a Chicago Blackhawks victory and a Los Angeles Kings defeat: The Blackhawks are heading back to the Stanley Cup Playoffs
What a strange Sunday night for the Chicago Blackhawks. On the back end of a two-games-in-two-days stretch, they fell behind 3-1 at home to the lowly Colorado Avalanche after two periods.
Everything changed for the better after that, however. The Minnesota Wild lost their fifth consecutive game, the Blackhawks piled up five goals on the Avs in the third period, and the Los Angeles Kings dropped a decision to the Calgary Flames.
That last item may seem out of place, but when pairing it with the Blackhawks’ win, it put the team in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the ninth consecutive season.
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The Blackhawks followed the Washington Capitals and Columbus Blue Jackets into the postseason by bouncing up to 99 points with 10 games to play. The Los Angeles Kings, currently the first team out of the Western Conference playoff picture, has 75 points, so the Blackhawks are no longer in danger of falling out.
Impressive Run No. 1: Playoff streak
First, let’s take a look at ongoing league-wide Stanley Cup Playoffs streaks. The Blackhawks will have the second-longest run in the league, as the Detroit Red Wings’ run of 25 straight seasons will not be hitting 26 this year.
However, the Pittsburgh Penguins are currently on the verge of qualifying for the playoffs for an 11th consecutive season. Besides those two teams, only the New York Rangers (six seasons going on seven) have an active playoff streak that began before the year 2010.
Of course, there has been little doubt the Blackhawks would make this season’s playoffs, as they’ve been comfortably tucked into one of the Central Division’s top two spots most of the regular season.
Impressive Run No. 2: Crazy rate of wins
However, it’s worth noting the Blackhawks are on an incredible run since the beginning of February as well. Chicago won nine of 10 games in February, scoring four or more goals in every single one.
They’ve mostly continued that success in a busy March. The Blackhawks have taken eight of 10 games this month, tallying four or more goals in five of those triumphs.
Those are some incredible statistics. This team seemed entirely ready to coast into the postseason based on some success in October and November. But as soon as the calendar hit February, it’s like a light bulb went on for this team.
Of course, some of this has to do with youngsters getting better incorporated into the lineup and more comfortable with the NHL style. Some of this has to do with guys like Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews going off, and guys like Corey Crawford and Scott Darling being really good at their jobs.
As a result, the Blackhawks are very suddenly in a position many wouldn’t have imagined 1 1/2 months ago: atop the Central Division and Western Conference.
The Minnesota Wild are spiraling down right now, sitting just a point clear of second place in the West after leading it for quite some time. The Blackhawks have abruptly opened a seven-point division lead, too, and seem poised to capture that honor.
For now, however, we’ll enjoy the Blackhawks officially getting back into the postseason ahead of Tuesday’s game against Vancouver at the United Center.