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FEATURE: As Blackhawks chase playoffs, Colliton has eyes on improvement

The Blackhawks head coach spoke to the media after practice on Tuesday

by Austin Siegel /

Jeremy Colliton was asked by one reporter if he would burn the tape. Defenseman Slater Koekkoek described the game as "not fun." 

The fact is, Chicago's 8-7 win over the Ottawa Senators on Monday night wasn't pretty, but it moved the team within a point of the last playoff spot in the Western Conference. For now, the game tape appears to be safe. 

"Haven't burned it yet," Colliton said. "There's some good and there's some bad. We try to keep the good and leave the bad."

As the Blackhawks head to Detroit for a quick one-game road trip, the mission remains the same: Beat a team currently stuck at the bottom of the standings and keep pace in an increasingly muddled Western Conference playoff race. For the Blackhawks to do that, Colliton identified a few things - the "bad" from Monday night - that he will look to correct. 

"I think there was a little bit of everything. A little bit of puck management and a little bit of D-zone awareness. Those are correctable and those are things that are in our control," he said. "We know we're not going to play a perfect game and we know we're going to make mistakes and give up some goals, but they should be a lot less."

Given the Blackhawks turnaround, from last place in the NHL to a point from the playoffs in just over a month, it's tempting to cast Chicago as Cinderella. But the team's turnaround began long before their late-season charge up the standings, as a scorching power play and improved offense kept Chicago within striking distance in the Western Conference. 

"I think we've kind of been that way for a while," Colliton said. "We have some strengths as a team and we have some weaknesses, but it doesn't mean you don't continue to work on your weaknesses. We want to keep the strengths and cater to our strengths, but we can still improve."

On Monday night, those strengths included the play of Alex DeBrincat, who recorded the fourth hat trick of his career. The performance gives DeBrincat the second-most hat tricks in franchise history before turning 22-years old (4) and led to one of the best quotes of the year from Cam Ward, currently playing his first season with the Blackhawks. 

"I asked him if that was his first hat trick," Ward said on Monday night. "He looked at me like I was an idiot. Sorry Cat, I wasn't here last year."

With Detroit on Wednesday and the trade deadline next week, any playoff chatter remains a blip on the horizon. That's just fine for Colliton, first-year head coach of a team that isn't supposed to be here.

"It's going to be an ongoing process," he said. "I don't see this being the finished product for some time."

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