Through the first two thirds of the season, most of the attention on the central division was on the Minnesota Wild, who seemed finally to put together all the good things they had in house: High priced veterans, developing youngsters and a deep AHL team. Bruce Boudreau had prevented the typical mid-season swoon that has plagued the team for the last half decade. Well, it turns out, Boudreau and his charms only managed to delay the swoon until the spring.
Undoubtedly, Minnesota’s collapse made Chicago’s rise to the top of the division much easier, but the Blackhawks certainly had a few things to say about their surge as well. Consider that just in the last 10 games, including their win tonight against Columbus, that the Blackhawks are 7-1-2. They are unstoppable at home, and now have home ice, at least in the West, all locked up.
Nobody in the West can hold a candle to the Blackhawks right now. There are three squads in the Metro that can match Chicago’s 100+ points: Washington, Columbus and Pittsburgh. Thanks to their playoff history, nobody fears the Capitals. Because of their franchise history, nobody fears the Blue Jackets. The Penguins are feared, however their recent doldrums don’t engender the same degree of opponent angst as they may be accustomed to.
The Blackhawks have recent Cup success, a talented roster and are on a hot streak. You had better believe that the entire Western Conference is keeping a wary eye on the Blackhawks right now.
Chicago only has 4 games left in he regular season, and they have an important decision to make. They have home ice locked up until the Stanley Cup Final. Do they want to keep their best players healthy and fresh for the playoffs? Or do they want to go for the President’s Trophy? More importantly, do they want to keep this hot streak going all the way into the playoffs? I suspect that answer is a definite “yes”.