Sidney Brown brings his weekly dispatches from the front lines of Blackhawks fandom every week during the hockey season.
With the Detroit Red Wings’ move to the Eastern Conference, the annual trips by the Chicago Blackhawks’ former division rivals to Chicago are warranted a little more hype than usual, especially since they only are to happen once a year now.
Wrapping up a tough week for the Hawks, this year’s visit by the Wings on Sunday salvaged some pride for a stretch that saw a so-so 2-2 record. Chicago took Sunday’s game by a 4-1 score and ended a two-game losing streak in the process.
In those two losses — to Colorado this past Wednesday and Nashville on Friday — a similar story resurfaced regarding how to beat the Hawks. What has looked like the most efficient way to beat the Hawks this season has been to slow them down and take away their space moving up ice along with being physical and playing strong defensively.
Against Colorado, the Hawks saw a very good defensive team that also has skaters who can matchup with the Hawks’ athletically, among them Matt Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog and Nathan MacKinnon. Give Avalanche head coach Patrick Roy credit for establishing a system in his first year at the helm that his players can succeed in and if Colorado (currently one point ahead of Chicago for the No. 4 spot in the Western Conference) should meet the Hawks in the playoffs, it would be an interesting match-up to say the least and the Hawks may not be a clear favorite.
The Nashville loss could be seen as a clear letdown to a team who will not see the postseason, but the Predators have been known to give the Hawks trouble in the past and they displayed some dominance early this time with a two-goal first period that the Hawks just couldn’t overcome. With a division title and first-round home ice advantage at stake, the Hawks can’t afford to leave points on the ice, especially against teams under .500.
In their remaining schedule for the month of March, four of Chicago’s games are at the United Center and seven of eight opponents are in playoff contention. Easy chances for points do not lie ahead and if home ice advantage is of any importance to the Hawks, they’d do right by picking up at least one point in each of their remaining games.
Winning within the Central Division will be crucial in this part of the Hawks’ campaign, so far this season it’s been a struggle with division leader St. Louis and Colorado playing consistently well against Chicago. Mark these dates on your calendar — March 19th and April 6th, the remaining dates coming against the Blues, each game will be at the United Center and will be crucial to the Hawks re-gaining any advantage in the Central, currently they are nine points behind St. Louis (101).
The victory over Detroit should be a sign of things to come for the Hawks and with St. Louis and Colorado remaining hot, the race is on for Western supremacy.
With two assists against Detroit Sunday night, Hawks defenseman Duncan Keith broke the 300 career point barrier with the franchise, he also notched the second 50-point season of his career. Keith joins a special group of Hawks Hall of Famers with both of those milestones.
Blackhawks Defensemen with 50 points in a season
Chris Chelios (1991, 1993 & 1996); Doug Wilson (1983, 1985 & 1990); Duncan Keith (2010 & 2014); Pat Stapleton (1969)
Blackhawks Defensemen with 300-plus career points (w/Hawks)
Doug Wilson (554); Pierre Pilote (400); Chris Chelios (395); Bob Murray (382); Duncan Keith (300)
The Week Ahead
Tonight — at Philadelphia, 6:30 PM; Wed., Mar. 19 — vs. St. Louis, 7 PM; Fri., Mar. 21 — vs. Carolina, 7 PM; Sun., Mar. 23 — vs. Nashville, 6 PM.
(All times Central)
Team Leaders: Goals — Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp (T-29); Assists — Duncan Keith (50); Points — Kane (68); Goals Against Average — Corey Crawford (2.29); Penalty Minutes — Brandon Bollig (69).
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