Being busy. It can have a bad connotation at times, bringing about a feeling of being overwhelmed or having too much on your plate.
For the Blackhawks, however, being busy usually brings out their best. That’s good, because after competing a busy stretch prior to the Christmas break, they’re going right into another one coming out of it.
The Blackhawks have 17 games – including three back-to-backs – over the next 31 days, beginning with Sunday’s game at the United Center. That means a lot of busy nights and very few practices – if you listen carefully, you can hear the players cheer that last part. It’s going to be an incredibly busy stretch, and the Blackhawks will have to be ready for it.
[SHOP BLACKHAWKS: Get your copy of the One Goal III book]
But busy doesn’t seem to bother the Blackhawks much. No matter the year, they’ve usually taken hectic stretches and gotten into a rhythm. It happened this season. In a 10-game, 17-day stretch heading into Christmas, the Blackhawks went 7-3-0. You could argue they started finding their niche, their chemistry with each other on the lines.
Corey Crawford was also playing at his best, mainly because he was as busy during games as he was starting them. In his last nine starts, of which he won seven, Crawford faced an average of 30.8 shots per game. Crawford has admitted in the past that, when he doesn’t see shots on a consistent basis, he can lose focus. He didn’t have time to lose focus on that latest run, and he wouldn’t.
The Blackhawks will enter Sunday’s game third in the Central Division. Dallas and St. Louis play on Saturday night but no matter who wins or loses, it won’t change where the Stars (first) or the Blues (second) fall in the division. The Blackhawks could be getting Marian Hossa back; Hossa missed the final two games prior to the break with an upper-body injury. It’s unknown whether or not Rob Scuderi, who took a redirected puck to the mouth, will be ready for Sunday’s game.
It took a while for the Blackhawks to find some rhythm and some lines – outside of the second one – that could play together for several games. They should exit this break with confidence, knowing that they no longer have to figure out the four-line puzzle that was an issue for some time early this season.
Right now the Blackhawks just need to keep pace. If they’ve learned anything from these long postseason runs it’s that you get in and go from there. It’s not about catching the Stars right now; it’s about gathering up as many points as possible and keeping pace in a very competitive Central Division.
The Blackhawks are going to be busy again starting on Sunday. A nonstop schedule has usually benefitted them. It has to again now.