After a light practice Thursday and a night off before their game on Friday against New Jersey, many members of the Blackhawks are heading home to take part in one of their newest hobbies: watching other teams’ results come in.
“Every day you check the standings to see where other teams are, even the teams in seventh and eighth place,” said Patrick Kane
. “It’s that time of year where everyone’s scoreboard-watching and keeping an eye on the standings.”
The Hawks’ win against San Jose on Wednesday gave them a two-point edge over Vancouver with 10 games to go for both teams. But the tightness of the race for the Western Conference’s fourth seed, which the Hawks seemed to control just a few weeks ago, has led players and coaches to watch the competition much closer than before. Aside from the Canucks, both Columbus and Anaheim are making strong pushes to move up in the standings.
“You watch those teams a lot, especially nights that you’re not playing - you’re watching other people’s scores and flipping channels regularly,” said head coach Joel Quenneville. “You do that all year, but this time of year you pay a little more attention to it.”
“Obviously you have to keep an eye on those teams and watch their movement in the standings,” said Kris Versteeg. “We’re not locked into any position in the standings and there are a bunch of likely playoff matchups if and when we make it. We just have to be ready for any challenge that awaits us.”
Though constantly watching the standings can be stressful, the players know that winning meaningful games in the regular season can translate to winning big games in the postseason.
“It’s the time of year right now where we have to get ready for the playoffs,” Kane said. “There are a lot of young guys on our team who have never really played in a playoff-type atmosphere. We have to get ourselves up right now for the stretch of games ahead.”
“Being this close to Vancouver and Columbus is good for us,” said Niklas Hjalmarsson
. “Instead of having ten points on them, we have to really fight for each game. Every night is a big challenge.”
They may have one eye on the postseason, but the other is focused on taking care of the Eastern Conference’s hottest team tomorrow night.
“[New Jersey] is going to be ready for our game tomorrow; they’ve had a couple of days off and they’re well-rested,” Quenneville said. “We went [to New Jersey] in a tough environment and it was a pretty competitive game, but we saw why they’ve been a top team in the second half of the season. They’re a dangerous team and that’s what makes tomorrow’s challenge one of the tougher ones we’ll have.”