I wanted to wait and see how they would respond to the 5-day ‘bye week’. As trending, the Blackhawks lost their first game after the mandatory 5 day break. They won the next three, but they are now 7-1 in their last 8 games. In 6 of those games, they have scored 5 or more goals.
Of course, as I am writing this, there is some concern about defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson who left the game after only 5 shifts. Hjalmarsson has an apparent “upper body” injury that coach Quenneville was aware of prior to yesterday’s contest with the Arizona Coyotes. The Hawks ended up dispatching the ‘yotes, fueled by goals from Hartman, Schmaltz, Rozsival, and a hat trick from Patrick Kane. It was Kane’s 3rd career hat trick.
The ‘Hawks biggest challenge now seems to be staying focused defensively vs lesser competition. They had some defensive breakdowns last night, that lead to the three goals they gave up. Factor in Hjalmarsson losing time, and this could make things tougher. It also could make an easier decision for GM Stan Bowman, who might seek to bolster the defense.
Toews, Schmaltz, and Panik have finally gelled and are showing the production they are capable of. As a line, they have combined for 35 points over their last 9 games. I’m not going to anoint Schmaltz or Panik the second coming of Brandon Saad, but they most certainly will have every opportunity to prove themselves over the remaining 22 games. I’m hoping they ride this consistency right into the first round of the playoffs.