Chicago Blackhawks Rising Back To The Top

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Earlier this season, it looked as if the Chicago Blackhawks would be scraping the bottom of the barrel in the playoffs. Losing strong players to contractual problems, salary-cap restrictions and a staggering number of injuries, the season started looking bleak, before the season even began.

Somehow, at some point, time knocked some sense into the defending champs and now they are second in the division, only five points behind the Red Wings.

“They’re still the champs,” Red Wings’ defenseman Niklas Lidstrom acknowledged. “I know they’ve had a couple of injuries that have hurt them but they’re still a tough team, especially in their building [United Center].”

The way both teams are playing lately, and due to recent injuries on the Red Wing’s behalf, it wouldn’t be too big of a shock to see the Hawks give the Wings a run for their money.

By Harrini Krishnan

Even with two of their key players sitting out a few games on injured reserve, the Hawks picked up momentum, preying on the Predators tiring defensive lineup, establishing a three-game winning streak.

Immediately after returning to the ice, Hossa led the Hawks to another incredible 4-1 win over the Blue Jackets, matching their longest winning streak of the season. After missing almost a month, Hossa didn’t skip a beat, setting up the first two goals of the game, with an assist to Sharp’s fifth game-winning goal of the season.

“It felt pretty good,” Hossa said. “The game timing wasn’t there as good as I would have liked, but it was the first game back, and condition-wise I felt pretty good. But timing-wise, I need to play a couple more games.”

A couple more games, and the Hawks could be back on top. Datsyuk with a broken wrist and Cleary with a broken ankle spells trouble for the Red wings, with two of their top four forwards now out of the game. Although the Red Wings’ offensive line-up is quite good, the Hawks are but determined competitors and will put up a good fight.

The Hawks are, in fact, the deepest team in the league, offensively speaking, with nine players with 20+ points this season. With the Wings’ recent struggles, they could potentially make their move to the top within the division, especially with Kane soon to be back on the ice.

Even defensively, they’re making great strides. Goalie, Corey Crawford holds a 10-1-1 in his last twelve starts, starting to pick up the once mediocre goal tending.

“Guys are making it easy,” Crawford said. “They’re pushing guys to the outside. A lot of the shots I’m seeing are from the outside. Whenever that happens, it’s good for me.”

Defense, defense, defense. Admittedly, the Hawks have been having a lot of trouble with their lack of defensive drive. But recently, as coach Quenneville noted, they’ve been making “noticeable changes”.

“I measure our team game in what we give up.” Quenneville told reporters, speaking in regards to scoring chances. “If we keep giving up what we’ve been giving up lately, we’re really going in the right direction.”

Coming out of the holiday season, the Hawks really have to push it. Sixth in the Western Conference standings, with 43 points, they go neck and neck with the rest of the lower half.

But if they keep up the way they’re playing, they might actually live up to their name as defending champions.

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