BLOOMINGTON, Minn. – Duncan Keith didn’t consider it a Chicken-Little concern by any means when the Blackhawks had a few recent hiccups.
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“I didn’t think we were playing bad, when we lost those games in the third period. It was a couple breakdowns; it just came down to a couple plays at the end,” Keith said. “We’ve done a lot of good things. It’s just a matter of everybody on the same page playing the right way. When we do that, we have a good chance.”
Back on the same page, the Blackhawks have had more than a chance recently. They’re back to playing solid, complete games, up to and including those third periods that caused a minor tremor in their otherwise rolling-right-along season.
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Here are five reasons why the Blackhawks are 4-0-1 in their last five games:
1. Shot scarcity. Sure, some goaltenders don’t mind being peppered with a million shots a game. Still, if you don’t have to be bombarded, even better. The Blackhawks’ team defense has been stellar lately, giving up a manageable amount of shots. In four of their last five games, the Blackhawks have given up 22 shots or fewer (27 shots in the remaining game).
2. Goaltending gold. Corey Crawford has had a hiccup or two, but still maintains a Top 5 2.01 goals-against average. But Ray Emery has been really tough to beat. He’s recorded three shutouts in his last five starts and has an overall mark of 15-0-1 and 1.90 GAA. Coach Joel Quenneville has had no problem going back and forth between the two, and will probably keep doing that through the regular season. As far as what happens in the playoffs, as Quenneville would say, “We’ll see.”
3. Healthy returns. Marian Hossa came off his shoulder injury last week. Patrick Sharp returned from his on Tuesday night. Outside of Dave Bolland, whose lower-body injury has kept him out the last three games, the Blackhawks are regaining their health. With nine games remaining in the regular season, Hossa and Sharp could be at full and dangerous speed just in time for the playoffs.
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4. Four lines are back. Sure, there may be some switcheroos here and there recently. When you’ve already clinched a playoff spot, you can tinker a bit. But the Blackhawks are back to four-lines-contributing mode. Against Nashville the other night, the third and fourth lines set the pace early. The top line finished things off. The depth is showing itself again.
5. Confidence. The Blackhawks are back to the mindset they had during their 24-game unbeaten streak: Throw anything at us; we can handle it. We’d call it swagger, but that gives the connotation of arrogance. That’s not there. Confidence is. So are the results.