It has not always been easy for the Chicago Blackhawks, but the team is in great shape to make another deep run in the playoffs. That is a big achievement for a team that was forced to dump several of their star players in the off-season to get under the salary cap. The Blackhawks hit a rough patch a few weeks ago, but they are back to playing great hockey this week.
The Blackhawks started off the week with a home game against their bitter rivals from Nashville. The Predators were expected to compete with the top teams in the Central Division, but they are in the midst of a disastrous season. The Blackhawks took advantage of the leaky Nashville defense with first period goals by Artemi Panarin and Niklas Hjalmarsson to take a quick 2-1 lead. The Predators tied the game two minutes into the third period, but the Blackhawks would run away with the game in the final 10 minutes. Ryan Hartman scored three straight goals to record his first career hat trick and give Chicago the 5-2 win.
Two days after the big win against the Nashville Predators, the Chicago Blackhawks faced the Detroit Red Wings in another home game. These two teams used to have one of the best rivalries in hockey, but they only get the chance to play twice a season after Detroit moved to the Eastern Conference. Brian Campbell and Richard Panik scored goals 26 seconds apart to give the Blackhawks a two-goal lead heading into the first intermission.
Detroit did not let the early deficit discourage them. The Red Wings got goals from Andreas Athanasiou and Tomas Tatar to tie the game nine minutes into the second period. Both teams added one more goal each before the second intermission. The game remained tied at three goals apiece after an extremely tight third period. A penalty near the end of regulation let the Blackhawks start overtime with a power play, and it only took 38 seconds for Duncan Keith to give Chicago the 4-3 victory.
The Blackhawks are riding a four-game winning streak, finally looking like the team that entered the season 6-1 odds to win the Stanley Cup, best in the league, but they have two extremely tough games to finish out the week. Chicago will go on the road to face the Washington Capitals tomorrow. Washington is playing great hockey at the moment, which has helped them win their last seven games. Scoring on Braden Holtby will not be easy, so Chicago will need to find a way to shut down the explosive Washington offense if they want a chance to leave the nation's capital with a win.
The Chicago Blackhawks will then come back home to face the Minnesota Wild this weekend in a battle of the top two teams in the Western Conference. Nobody has given up less goals this season than the Wild, but they are susceptible to bad games on the road. This should be another low scoring game, but the Blackhawks have enough scoring power to pull out the win if they get a solid game from Scott Darling or Corey Crawford.
Halfstack Sports Writer
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