To a man, the Blackhawks insist they are still in the Western Conference playoff race.
To make the playoffs they know they need to be at the top of their game every night and Wednesday that's exactly where they were as the Hawks hammered the Columbus Blue Jackets 7-2 before a crowd of 14,918 at Nationwide Arena.
The Hawks' biggest offensive output of the season—including a four-goal explosion in the first period—improved their record on this seven-game trip to 2-2-2, 25-25-6 overall. Eleven Hawks earned at least one point in the victory and five had two.
"We came right out of the gates hungry and ready to go," said winger Dustin Byfuglien, who scored two first-period goals. "We needed a win to turn things around and everything's looking positive right now."
The Hawks scored early and often with four goals on their seven first-period shots.
Patrick Kane started things with a power-play goal at the 3-minute-55-second mark. Kane took a pass from James Wisniewski and shot it past Columbus goaltender Fredrik Norrena to snap an eight-game streak without a goal.
"It's a good feeling," Kane said. "Especially against an opponent like Columbus, a division rival and they're in the playoff race too. It's good to take two [points] from them and get two for us."
Brent Seabrook made it 2-0 when he scored his seventh goal of the season 1:32 later on a breakaway. Seabrook scooped up the puck just inside the Columbus blueline and beat Norrena with a back-hander.
Byfuglien scored the next two to give the Hawks a 4-0 cushion. At 14:09 the winger outbattled Blue Jackets defenseman Kris Russell for the puck, skated in on Norrena and scored his 10th of the season.
That was enough for Columbus coach Ken Hitchcock as he replaced Norrena with Pascal Leclaire, who had been slated to start before falling ill earlier in the day.
Byfuglien added his second when he knocked in a rebound of a Brent Sopel shot past Leclaire at 2:54.
Norrena returned to start the second and, after a Dick Tarnstrom goal, Martin Havlat made it 5-1 at 7:59 with his seventh of the season. Havlat snuck a shot between the post and Norrena for his first goal in 11 games.
"We had a great start and played a great forechecking first period," Havlat said. "And we were able to keep it like that until the end. We have trouble scoring [so] it's great to have one like this."
Conventional thinkingThe Hawks officially announced their inaugural Chicago Blackhawks Convention will be July 18-20 at the Chicago Hilton.
"I think this is going to add another dimension to our franchise," Hawks President John McDonough said. "It gives our fans an opportunity to experience something they may have witnessed before with other teams but now they're going to have one of their own.
"It's going to bring the majority of the current players together with the alumni and some future players. It will be the ultimate celebration of the allegiance of our fans to the Blackhawks."
Weekend passes will be $50 and will go on sale Feb. 21.
Prez and the commishMcDonough recently met with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and pitched the idea of hosting an outdoor game in the successful mold of the Winter Classic on Jan. 1 in Buffalo.
"I just presented to him that it would be something I would ask him to consider and he promised he would," McDonough said.
"I'm sure there are others vying for it. I think it would be great for the franchise, the city of Chicago and the NHL to do one here in the Midwest."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun