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Blackhawks will reach playoffs this season, DeBrincat says

Kane also sees big improvement for Chicago, which hasn't qualified since 2017

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

CHICAGO -- Alex DeBrincat said the Chicago Blackhawks will qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs this season.

"That's a little bit different over the past few years," the Blackhawks forward said at the NHL Player Media Tour on Friday when asked to predict the biggest surprise in the League this season. "We're going to come back and be a really good team."

Chicago failed to make the playoffs the past two seasons, missing by six points last season and 19 in 2017-18.

 

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The Blackhawks reached the playoffs the previous nine seasons, winning the Stanley Cup three times (2010, 2013, 2015), but haven't won a playoff game since defeating the St. Louis Blues in Game 6 of the Western Conference First Round in 2016. They were swept by the Nashville Predators in the first round in 2017.

But DeBrincat wasn't alone in saying the Blackhawks are good enough to get back to the postseason, even in a loaded Central Division that had five teams reach the playoffs last season, including the Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues.

"I don't even know if that would be much of a surprise," Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane said. "I think we should make the playoffs with the team we have and with the experience (coach) Jeremy [Colliton] has now. We're so much better than we were on paper last year."

This offseason, Chicago added goalie Robin Lehner and forward Ryan Carpenter in free agency, and traded for defensemen Olli Maatta and Calvin de Haan, and forward Andrew Shaw.

The Blackhawks were 6-6-3 and on a five-game losing streak (0-4-1) last season when Colliton replaced Joel Quenneville, who guided the Blackhawks to their three championships this decade, on Nov. 6. Chicago went 30-28-9 under Colliton.

Video: CHI@LAK: DeBrincat opens scoring with tap-in goal

"I think as [Colliton] gets more and more experience he's only going to get more and more comfortable and better as a coach," captain Jonathan Toews said. "I'm looking forward to the start we can have as a team with him behind the bench this year."

Colliton was 33 when he was hired, becoming the youngest coach in the NHL.

"That's not an easy thing to do, at his age coming into our locker room last year when Joel is as revered in Chicago for what he's done," Toews said. "That's a high-pressure situation, and I was really impressed with how he dealt with it, just his preparation."

The Blackhawks lost Colliton's first two games and went 3-12-2 with an eight-game losing streak (0-8-0) in his first 17. They went 27-16-7 the rest of the season, and their 61 points from Dec. 12 to the end of the season were the fourth most in the Western Conference.

"Now he's got a full training camp," Kane said. "He's put some work in with (general manager) Stan [Bowman] to get the roster he wants, the roster he wants to coach. … I'm excited to play for Jeremy again."

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