Hidden behind the excitement of Brendan Perlini’s first career NHL hat-trick – against his former team, the Arizona Coyotes, to boot – was Jonathan Toews’ 30th goal of the season, giving him the third 30-goal campaign pf his career.
With it, Toews became the third 30-goal scorer on the Hawks this season, joining Patrick Kane (41) and Alex DeBrincat (37). For perspective, just two other teams have three 30-goal scorers – the Colorado Avalanche, who are currently in a battle with Chicago for a playoff spot, and Tampa Bay Lightning, because of course.
The last time the Blackhawks had three 30-goal scorers was in 2000-01 when Tony Amonte, Steve Sullivan and Eric Daze all hit the mark. And if DeBrincat scores at least three more goals by the end of the season, the Blackhawks will have their first pair of 40-goal scorers since Jeremy Roenick and Steve Larmer managed to do so in 1990-91. On top of that, the Blackhawks could finish the season with three players reaching the 80-point plateau, something only the Lightning and Calgary Flames are otherwise on track to accomplish.
It’s hard to believe that even during their dynasty years, the Blackhawks never managed to finish the season with more than two 30-goal scorers. They were close in 2010-11 when they nearly had four players hit at least 30 goals, but Kane and Marian Hossa fell just short of the mark.
Kane, sitting second overall in NHL scoring with 98 points, will hit 100 very shortly, while Toews and DeBrincat should be able to reach the 80-point mark. The crazy thing about the trio? At least as of late, the big three have played on different lines, with the line of DeBrincat, Perlini and Dylan Strome making up one of the best third lines in the NHL. Brandon Saad, on pace to score 25 goals for the second time in his career, has shown some nice chemistry with Toews this year, too.
Kane is a definite Hart Trophy candidate in what is proving to be one of the best seasons of his incredible career. And if Toews keeps this pace for the remainder of the season, his resurgent campaign could see him finish with 85 points, besting his previous career high of 76 in 2010-11.
But for a team that hasn’t had issues scoring goals this year, the Blackhawks still sit five points out of a wild-card spot, with a six-point spread separating six teams in the race. Given that they’re seventh in goals for in the NHL, how are they still struggling?
One issue has been the reliance on goaltending by committee, which hasn’t worked in the least. A concussion in December took Corey Crawford out of play for two months, this in the wake of the Blackhawks’ starting goaltender missing 47 games with a head injury last season, too. But after an eight-game losing streak prior to his concussion, Crawford has won four of his past five games to give the Blackhawks hope late in the season. It may be too small a sample size, but Crawford is starting to look like his old self again.
In recent weeks, Chicago’s play has steadily improved with coach Jeremy Colliton behind the bench, and other new additions to the squad have performed well enough to add scoring depth down the lineup. Strome is sitting just shy of a point-per-game pace in 45 games since being acquired by the Blackhawks in late November, and Perlini has been playing some of the best hockey of his career of late. With the season winding down, it seems like the Blackhawks are finally starting to run on all cylinders as a group.
Their late-season miracle run may not mean much in the end, however. The battle for a spot in the playoffs is still an uphill climb, and tough games against top teams such as San Jose, Winnipeg, St. Louis, Dallas and Nashville before the season comes to a close won’t do them any favors. But with a three-game streak giving them a bit of momentum late in the season – and with the difference between the eighth pick and the 17th pick in the NHL draft being rather minuscule in terms of talent – the Blackhawks don’t have a lot to lose right now, especially with much of their core closer to retirement than their prime.