A playoff berth has been clinched. So has the Central Division crown. Not a bad collection for a Chicago Blackhawks team that still has eight games remaining in its regular season.
The Blackhawks are happy with what they’ve done, but they’re not satisfied. Their checklist, as it were, isn’t quite complete:
They’d like to win every game, if possible. They want to compete at their highest level, regardless. Keep that penalty kill running well. Get that power play producing, pronto. The Blackhawks haven’t settled all season, haven’t figured they’re work is done no matter what they’ve accomplished. And that hasn’t changed.
“It’s a nice achievement, but we still want to finish first in other categories until the end of the year. That’s our motivation,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “Let’s keep pushing forward and look for more consistency in our game.”
They’ll look to do that again on Sunday morning when they face the St. Louis Blues. Dave Bolland, who’s missed the last four games with a lower-body injury, will travel with the team to St. Louis today. That will bring the Blackhawks back to full health with eight games remaining.
And with those eight games, the Blackhawks want to keep pushing.
“It’s really good, but it’s just another goal of ours. We still want to capture first place (in the West),” Corey Crawford said after the Blackhawks’ victory over Detroit secured the division. “We’ll keep going game by game. That’s the way it’s been all year. Can’t change it now.”
There’s no reason to change the approach. Not when it’s led to the Blackhawks’ 31-5-4 record and an NHL-best 66 points and plus-47 goal differential. But if they can tighten things here and there, get the power play going, tinker just to see options and keep the success going, then that’s the plan.
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In fact, improving that power play is probably atop the list. It started off solid this season but has once again dropped to anemic production levels and is ranked 21st in the NHL.
“We’ve got to find a way to score on the power play,” coach Joel Quenneville said Friday, after the Blackhawks went 0 for 3 on it vs. Detroit. “We had a couple in the first that were pretty effective without production -- we’ve been saying that a lot – but I didn’t like the one in the third. We have the personnel and we’ve got the chances now. The finished product is something we’re looking to cash in on.”
Otherwise, the Blackhawks want to just keep on doing what’s worked for them. And at the highest level they can do it.
“We’ll keep going,” Jonathan Toews said. “We have our division (title), we have home ice in the playoffs, but we just keep going. That really shows we’re hungry and we’re really motivated to improve every single night.”