In the northwest suburbs of Chicago, a group of 90 or so people congregate for a weekly tradition known as bowling night. Throughout the course of a 30-week season, the “90” will consume roughly 8,000-plus beers, 690 pizzas, and watch about 83 hours of sporting events while trying to sort out who the best bowler is.
Few things attract the attention of the “90” during bowling night. Things like the announcement of the week’s “mystery pot” score, the start of play, and a rare bid for one of the “90” to bowl the elusive 300 game are things this group will immediately stop and want to witness for themselves.
On Thursday night something rare grabbed the attention of the group. Something they didn’t expect to happen during the course of the 30-week bowling season. Despite the rarity of such an occasion, this occurrence managed to unite the group of “90” in a moment of sports fan jubilation.
Jonathan Toews scored the game winning goal in overtime against the Canucks to push the Blackhawks’ win streak to six consecutive games.
With TV play-by-play commentator Pat Foley’s voice booming the phrase “What a move!” over the speakers of the bowling alley, the “90” cheered in excitement. None of them expected to be celebrating a win like this, let alone cheering for a team in unison like that (there’s a good mix of Cubs and White Sox fans).
From across the lanes, members of the group began voicing their astonishment in what they had just witnessed.
“That’s six wins in a row!?”
“Can you believe Toews made a move like that!?”
“How much fun is this!?”
“Holy sh*t... they’re only two points out of a playoff spot!?”
You see, Blackhawks fans were not expecting to be here in the beginning of February with at least a chance at seeing a playoff birth.
The Blackhawks fired one of the most beloved head coaches in Chicago sports history in November, star goaltender Corey Crawford is recovering from his second concussion in less than a year, and the core that has brought the city three championships is getting “older and slower” game by game.
But you see... things are a bit different than expected.
Head coach Jeremy Colliton, who is only 34 years old by the way, has brought in a new defensive system with various lineup changes and coverage options. His power play strategy has turned what used to be the laughing stock of the NHL into the best power play offense in the league the last six weeks. Couple that with the star power of Patrick Kane, a resurgence from Toews, and a budding Alex DeBrincat, and suddenly this team has a chance.
Isn’t that what we have been calling for this whole time?
It certainly feels like after “the sweep of 2017” at the hands of the Predators, we as fans have been grasping at the last few straws of the Blackhawks’ dynasty. All we have wanted is to see the same core of players that brought the franchise out of darkness in 2010 make one last run at a Stanley Cup championship. A sort of “gallop into the sunset” for our heroes in red and black.
Admittedly, last season but a big damper on those dreams and aspirations. It looked like the beginning of the end for Toews, lots of question marks surrounded the young talent acquired by the front office, and one of the best goaltenders in franchise history disappeared for half of the season with no answer of how to replace him.
Hope for the future seemed to be lost.
Yet here the Blackhawks are, with a spot in the playoffs within an arm’s reach. The team that most people wrote off at the beginning of the season has soared into contention with a six-game win streak. Kane is on a 13-game point streak, Toews has already surpassed his point total from last season and rookie goaltender Collin Delia is proving he can be the future in net. Even if for just a minute, there’s at least a chance we get to see this team pursue history once again.
So for those of us that didn’t think we would see the Blackhawks chasing after a playoff spot this season (like those of us in the 90), don’t jump start dreaming of a top draft pick just yet. This team might still have some magic left in them after all.