It was business as usual at Johnny’s IceHouse West on Thursday.
Twelve hours prior, the Chicago Blackhawks claimed the No. 1 seed in the West, Columbus’ victory over the Anaheim Ducks assuring it. But there was no big celebration over it, no “look what we did” moment, other than a quiet understanding.
“It’s a good feeling on our team; we feel good about accomplishing that,” Patrick Sharp said. “But as you guys know, we’re playing for much bigger things.”
The Blackhawks like getting the No. 1 seed; don’t get them wrong. After two seasons starting the playoffs on the road, and in distant locations, home ice throughout the playoffs is a beautiful thing. But that’s all they’ve secured at this point. And the Blackhawks know that.
“We’re still moving forward,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “We’re in a pretty good spot there. We were hopeful (grabbing No. 1) would be achieved, whether it was us doing it or someone else (helping). But we still want to keep moving forward, whether we’re looking at Pittsburgh or still looking at how we play.”
The Pittsburgh part is about the Penguins, and how both they and the Blackhawks are still racing toward the Presidents’ Trophy, given to the team with the most points (best record) in the league. So, you see, they’re still not done.
“Q said something about that I haven’t been putting much into that. Once the season’s over, you look at who we play and that’s about it,” defenseman Brent Seabrook said. “You look forward to getting into the playoffs and try to get on a roll.”
The Blackhawks have rolled this season because their attitude hasn’t changed throughout it: play your best every night, roll four lines, help each other out and don’t be satisfied. There has been no settling for anything, no being happy with the status quo, regardless of how good that status quo has been. Perhaps that nine-game winless streak still resonates with the players, most of whom are back this season. This season, the Blackhawks haven’t had anything longer than a two-game losing streak.
And it’s also the fact that they want to be playing their best at the time of year it counts the most.
“It’s still full speed ahead,” Daniel Carcillo said. “You look right ahead to the playoffs. You can’t have a letup. We need to be playing our best.”
Are the Blackhawks happy they’re in first place? Absolutely. Is the job done? Hardly. They’ve achieved so much this year by not backing off a relentless pace. That won’t change in the final six games.
“It’s a good feeling to have first in the West, especially in a short season like this. We’ve had such a great year that, with six games left, we’re in that position,” Patrick Kane said. “But the big thing now is to try to be the best team throughout the season. That’s just a goal in mind. For all of us in here, we just want to keep getting better and win games the way we have and roll into the playoffs as best we can.”