CHICAGO, IL – Before the all-star break, the Chicago Blackhawks weren’t where they wanted to be. They were dropping games, playing a sluggish style of hockey, and weren’t playing consistent enough to keep up with the Minnesota Wild, who were tearing apart the central division.
The Chicago Blackhawks celebrate after defeating the Arizona Coyotes 6-3 at the United Center on February 23, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Chase Agnello-Dean/NHLI via Getty Images)
Sluggish months like January come and go for many teams. It’s the time of year when the weeks go by slower and every game feels more tiring than the last. Consider it to be the dog days of the season, but much worse because of the physical fatigue players face.
The Hawks were 7-6-0 in January, dropping their previous three games entering the all-star break, being outscored 13-6. It was ugly, but the all-star break was something they needed to regroup and face the music.
As of right now, that’s all in the rear view mirror and the Hawks are stomping on the gas pedal, racing for first place in the central division. Since the all-star break, the Hawks have a record of 8-1-0, improving their goals per game from an average of 2.8 goals per game to 4.1 goals per game. That’s a large difference, as they’ve outscored opponents 40-22 and have taken a charge for the division lead.
However, none of this has been the result of a single-man scoring entity, but a two man-entity. Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews have been on fire, leading their team to victory and keeping them composed.
Kane (8G,6A) and Toews (6G,10A) have been leading the charge with 30 points and back to back hat tricks. Not to mention, they’re allowing their counter-pieces to do work as well.
Toews has been able to give linemates Nick Schmaltz and Richard Panik help with consistency, which is something the top forward line has been yearning for all year long. Schmaltz has had 3G and 5A for a total of eight points in his previous nine games, and Panik has had 5G and 5A for a total of 10 points in his previous nine as well. Toews has been able to formulate confidence along his line mates, which has been scarce all season long.
Kane however, has kept the ball rolling all year with the P.A.K line consisting of Artem Anisimov and Artemi Panarin. Anisimov, Kane, and Panarin have been the go-to line all season long, having a combined 63G and 54A for a total of 117 points. Anisimov and Panarin haven’t been averaging much since the all-star break, but they’ve been keeping the depth intact with Kane’s incredible abilities to score.
The Blackhawks have been rolling, but it hasn’t been possible without leaders like Kane and Toews leading the charge. Yes, a total team effort is in place here, but the Hawks two prominent forwards are to thank for 14 of the 40 goals scored. That’s a 35% difference, but it’s more than they’ve contributed at once all year, making them even more effective.
The Hawks currently sit with a 38-18-5 record with 81 points, just three points less than the Minnesota Wild with two more games played. If Kane and Toews can continue their success in such a tough time of the year, they’ll have no problem dethroning the Wild as the top seed in the west
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