After going 1-2-1 on their four-game road trip, the Blackhawks returned to the United Center on Thursday against one of the NHL's hottest teams in the Vancouver Canucks and were desperately searching for a victory. They were also looking to put forth a strong 60-minute effort to feel good about it.
And they accomplished that.
The Blackhawks jumped on the Canucks early, outshooting them 14-3 past the midway mark of the first period and going into the first intermission with a 2-0 lead. The Blackhawks shut the door the rest of the way, knocking off the Canucks 5-2 behind Corey Crawford's 36-save performance for just their third regulation win of the season.
But now the Blackhawks need to put together a run to make up for all the ground they've lost by stumbling out of the gates. Why? Because over the last six seasons, 76 percent (73-of-96) of teams in a playoff spot at American Thanksgiving have gone on to secure a postseason berth.
With a victory on Thursday, the Blackhawks are now at 13 points and find themselves seven points out of the playoff picture. They've got a lot of work to do before Nov. 28.
"We've got to play the same way," Dylan Strome said. "... Going into Pittsburgh, it's a tough building to play in obviously, but we've got to find a way to get two points. We've got to start stringing some [wins] together. We got a few losses in a row, so only way to get that back is a bunch of wins in a row. I think we've got the guys in here to do it."
If the Blackhawks want to do that, they must start the same way they did against the Canucks. They controlled the pace of play, they took advantage of a power-play opportunity and they got terrific goaltending from Crawford all night long. Giving themselves a two-goal cushion early on was a nice momentum builder.
"We just got to start the game well," Alex DeBrincat said. "It's tough when you go down one or two goals right from the start. I think if we put pressure on them right away it's good for our confidence, hard on the other team, it gets them a little bit worried about it."
The Blackhawks will take it one game at a time, but they also realize where they're at in the standings and the importance of actually carrying their positive play into the next game.
"Certainly we would like to find a way to string two, three, four, five games together," Colliton said. "That's what we need to get some momentum going. But I think there were a lot of good efforts tonight and guys can have a positive feeling going into tomorrow."
How do the Blackhawks do that?
"I think this team, we have to skate," Colliton said. "When we skate, we're excellent. So however we got to do that, get our minds to the point we understand that's what we need to do to have success."
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