SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Jeremy Colliton is keeping things in perspective.
The Chicago Blackhawks are starting to get better results under the first-year coach, having won two straight games and five of their past six. But to Colliton, they are going in the right direction regardless of the outcome when the Blackhawks play the Boston Bruins in the 2019 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic at Notre Dame Stadium on Tuesday (1 p.m. ET; NBC, SN, TVAS).
"If we lose, it doesn't mean we're not on the right track," Colliton said Monday. "If we win, it doesn't mean all the problems are solved. But if we win, the standings will look prettier in the morning. It's going to be a great test for us to see where we're at, but I think we've shown that we can compete with excellent teams over a long period of time here. It's been several weeks where we've been playing better, and tomorrow's another opportunity to prove it."
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Chicago (15-20-6) is 9-14-3 since Colliton was promoted from Rockford of the American Hockey League to replace Joel Quenneville, who was fired Nov. 6. But the Blackhawks are 5-2-1 in their past eight games following an eight-game losing streak. They are eight points behind the Dallas Stars for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference.
"I just think guys are have really started settling into their roles on the team and lines have been pretty consistent," captain Jonathan Toews said. "Everyone is just doing their job a little bit better, and focusing in on small details, getting pucks deep. And when teams are coming at us hard, we're not giving them too much. Just making their life a little bit tougher, even when you are having an off night, you give yourself a chance to win. It's the little things that matter that are making a difference for us right now."
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The Blackhawks have kept their forward lines more consistent. They have tightened up on defense, allowing two or fewer goals in five of their past six games. Goalie Collin Delia, recalled from Rockford when Corey Crawford sustained a concussion against the San Jose Sharks on Dec. 16, is 3-0-0 with a 1.67 GAA and .957 save percentage (Cam Ward will start against Boston).
Forward Patrick Kane is on a seven-game point streak (13 points; seven goals, six assists and has 50 points (22 goals, 28 assists) in 40 games this season. And forward Alex DeBrincat is on a five-game point streak (seven points; four goals, three assists), giving him 33 points (18 goals, 15 assists) in 41 games.
Chicago also has been much better at the start of games; during the eight-game losing streak from Nov. 27-Dec. 11, it allowed the first goal each time. In some games, the Blackhawks trailed by two, three, even four goals before scoring. But general manager Stan Bowman said that, even during those struggles, he felt they could turn things around.
"It was tough," Bowman said. "But I think one thing is, we really did stick with it. Guys competed hard and the frustration was from the lack of results. It wasn't from the effort. We would play 55 minutes of a game and then we'd find a way to lose it. Once we come out the other side and we win some games, I think you start to get some confidence. The biggest thing now is just we look more like a composed team."
And as a result, the Blackhawks are believing they can be in the thick of the playoff race.
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"We've be able to put some good games together against some very good teams and as long as we're growing as a team, you never know what can happen," Ward said. "There's still a lot of hockey left to be played, and we've still got that belief in one another and the coaching staff and the players that if we can get on a roll we can right back into this thing."
The Blackhawks weren't getting the results in Colliton's first few weeks as coach, but they're feeling like that confident group of not so long ago.
"We really feel it in the locker room," said Toews, a center who won the Cup with Chicago in 2010, 2013 and 2015. "Guys are having fun being around each other. It's just a whole different feel once you start winning games. The confidence it definitely there right now."