Everything going Blackhawks’ way as they push for playoff spot
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A season in which the Blackhawks felt like everything was working against them, all the way down to their travel schedule, suddenly has flipped.
In an obvious leaguewide conspiracy to get them in the playoffs, the Hawks are catching breaks left and right as they rise through the Western Conference wild-card chase.
Despite going into Boston on Tuesday and getting blasted 6-3 in a performance coach Jeremy Colliton criticized as unenthusiastic, the Hawks ended the night no worse off in the playoff hunt. They’re still four points out, thanks to the Wild blowing a 3-1 lead and allowing two late goals in a home loss to the Flyers.
‘‘We’re much better than that,’’ Colliton said of the loss to the Bruins. ‘‘That’s not us. We need to respond. There’s no time. We’ve got to get back playing well.’’
The Hawks’ season-high seven-game winning streak is done, but they’re well-positioned to launch a new one with games against the Devils, Senators and Red Wings — the bottom three teams in the East — in the coming week. The Devils visit the United Center on Thursday without reigning MVP Taylor Hall, who is working his way back from an injury.
The Hawks won’t face a current division leader until their game March 3 at the Sharks and won’t see their next one until the Jets come to town a month after that. Eight of their next 12 opponents are outside the playoff field, and several of those don’t seem interested in getting there.
That buys the Hawks just enough time for goalie Corey Crawford to return. It’s all going according to script.
Speaking of Crawford’s comeback, it might be soon. The Hawks made a seemingly inconsequential roster move Wednesday by putting center David Kampf on injured reserve, but they could have done that anytime in the last week because he’s out long-term. They left Kampf on the active roster because there was no urgency to clear a spot. Perhaps now there is a need.
Crawford went through his first full practice Saturday, saying he felt back to normal and wanted to get in net as soon as possible.
While the Hawks certainly did their part to get back in the race by winning seven in a row, they’ve gotten plenty of help. As they made their move, nearly everyone else in the cluster of seven teams jockeying for two spots stumbled.
Only the Blues, now the hottest team in the league with a string of seven victories, have been better than the Hawks. The other teams — the Wild, Canucks, Coyotes, Avalanche and Oilers — went a combined 16-23-11 in their last 10 games.
The Wild, who had a divisional seed in hand at the All-Star break, have one victory in the second half. Captain Mikko Koivu tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee last week and is out for the season.
The Avalanche looked like a playoff team early in the season, but they’ve won three times since New Year’s Day and had a blowup on the bench last month between star Nathan MacKinnon and coach Jared Bednar.
It’s all coming up Hawks, and it has reached a point where it will be a shame if they can’t finish the turnaround by sneaking into the playoff field.
Colliton, of course, wouldn’t buy any of this. He thinks it all comes down to whether the Hawks resume the performance that helped them go 14-6-4 from mid-December until Tuesday or revert to when they were the worst team in the NHL.
‘‘Play well, play well, play well,’’ he said, ‘‘and we’ll get our wins.’’