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It appears the Chicago Blackhawks have gained immense momentum over the last couple of weeks in the wild, wild West.
Coming off a solid victory over the Los Angeles Kings, the Blackhawks used goals from Marian Hossa and Jonathan Toews and a brilliant effort from goaltender Corey Crawford in a 2-0 triumph over the top-ranked Anaheim Ducks on Wednesday. Talk about sending a message.
Given Anaheim has spent the season establishing itself as a legitimate Stanley Cup contender, that successful night proved there truly isn’t a winning horse in this race just yet. From another perspective, it could’ve also offered a nice preview for what could be an epic conference final.
“The last handful of games on this trip, we’ve got back to the way we need to play,” Toews told the Associated Press. “That’s a tough team to do that to, and we have to feel good about what we were able to accomplish.”
Maybe Chicago didn’t enter the Olympic break the way it wanted to, flopping in a 2-0 loss to the Phoenix Coyotes on Friday, but there’s no denying this group’s firepower with just 22 games remaining in the regular-season slate. A victory in the hostile Honda Center offers enough proof.
If you choose to dissect the Blackhawks even further, start with Crawford. The 29-year-old notched his first shutout against the Ducks; he has amassed 22 wins and a respectable 2.36 goals-against average this campaign.
“(Crawford) made some key saves, and we had some breaks and some fortunate bounces,” Chicago coach Joel Quenneville told the AP this week. “(Anaheim) had that run there, 19 of 20, but I think this trip really put us in a spot where we’re back in the mix. We played the right way, and we’re getting some good points.”
Offensively, there’s no debate that the Blackhawks are the most feared club in the league. They have netted 207 goals on the year – 15 more than the second-best St. Louis Blues. Toews, Patrick Kane (who missed last night’s game due to personal reasons) and Patrick Sharp spearhead an attack that should prove to give opponents fits come playoff time. Even blue-liners Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook provide some punch.
In fact, Chicago has scored five or more goals (not including the goal awarded for a shootout win) in 21 of 60 games this season, per NHL.com. It’s the most times the Blackhawks have scored five or more goals in a game since 1995-96, when they did it 26 times. Chicago’s franchise record for most five-goal games in a season is 39, a feat it accomplished in an 80-game schedule in 1985-86, according to the report.
Let’s not ahead of ourselves here, though. The Blackhawks have to deal with Anaheim, St. Louis, San Jose, and even Colorado before thinking about capturing a second straight Cup title and third in five years.
“We take every game one at a time,” Crawford told ESPN. “Our job is to win the game and really focus on that. We can’t control what they’re doing. For us, it’s a matter of staying within the game we’re in and make sure we’re playing at our best and trying to get two points every night.”
Sounds like a winning formula.
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