About two weeks ago the Blackhawks were frustrated, the inconsistencies they developed in October carrying over to early November. But things have been looking up lately. Following their 4-1 victory over the Florida Panthers on Saturday night, the Blackhawks are now 4-1-1 in their last six games.
Are the Blackhawks finally putting things together? That remains to be seen. Until this develops a little more, let’s look at what’s worked for the Blackhawks in their recent successful run.
1. Corey Crawford is still being Corey Crawford. Crawford has had one bad game this season, the 7-5 loss to the New Jersey Devils on Nov. 12. Outside of that he’s been outstanding. There’s no doubt the Blackhawks leaned on him too much earlier this season, and he did well despite not getting much scoring on the other side. Now he’s getting the necessary support.
2. Special teams are working. The Blackhawks were already enjoying a strong penalty kill again, and it’s continued to be rather successful in their last six games (three goals allowed on 20 opportunities). But the power play is also improving. The Blackhawks are just getting back to simplicity on that, avoiding unnecessary passes and shooting the puck more. As a result, they have six power-play goals on their last 22 advantages.
3. Top lines are waking up. You could’ve picked a name out of a hat and selected a Blackhawks player who was struggling to score. Some, including Patrick Kane and Artem Anisimov, have broken out of their doldrums the last few games. Brandon Saad’s goal against Florida, part of a seven-shot first period against the Panthers, was just his second since Oct. 10. Jonathan Toews’ goal on Saturday, part of a three-point night, was his third this month. The Blackhawks need everyone on board but especially their top six forwards. Perhaps this is the beginning of more production.
4. Staying calm. On Nov. 11 the Blackhawks didn’t panic when they were down 4-2 to Carolina, and they came back to win. On Nov. 18 they didn’t freak out when Pittsburgh scored a short-handed goal to tie them 1-1, as Anisimov scored 21 seconds later. Too often this season if the Blackhawks gave up a goal or made a mistake, it snowballed into more bad results. Now they’re starting to keep their wits about them. That’s more like them.
5. Team stability. Be it the forward lines or the defensive pairs, the Blackhawks have avoided the blender lately. Sure, that usually happens when they string victories together. But it’s allowed the Blackhawks to get more comfortable with where they are in the lineup and, where necessary, helped them build chemistry. Blackhawks players usually say they don’t mind who they play with but leaving things alone has yielded the right results.