Are Blackhawks for real? Big tests await after Red Wings

NBCSN’s protection of the 2020-21 NHL season continues with Sunday’s match in between the Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings. Pre-game protection starts at 6 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can enjoy the video game online and on the NBC Sports app by click on this link.

Heading into this weekend, and heading into March, the Blackhawks discover themselves in an unanticipated location: playoff position. By Sunday’s video game versus the Red Wings, the Blackhawks will have dealt with Detroit 6 times currently this season.

The Blackhawks require to fill up versus the Red Wings, since for those asking if Chicago’s really genuine … well, the genuine tests will start.

Let’s go into the Blackhawks’ current hot streak, and the tough March schedule that ought to inform us if this group is genuine (sorry, Red Wings).

What’s behind the Blackhawks’ hot streak

Heading into the weekend, the Blackhawks are red-hot thanks to blend of the anticipated and the unforeseen.

Anticipated: Patrick Kane‘s leading the way, scoring-wise.

Unexpected: Instead of being a huge weakness, the Blackhawks’ goalies have actually been a definite strength. Kevin Lankinen being the main goalie behind that run includes a bonus offer unforeseen. (Though it’s worth keeping in mind that Malcolm Subban‘s been heating up lately.)

Expected, at least if someone told you Chicago was off to a hot start: The Blackhawks’ power play has actually been lethal.

Unanticipated: They’re not delighting in insanely great shooting luck at even-strength. Rather, they’ve been more reputable when it pertains to winning the opportunities for vs. versus (high-danger and otherwise) fights than anticipated. A minimum of up until now.

[COVERAGE BEGINS AT 6 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

To the Blackhawks’ credit, they’re not getting too ahead of themselves. In a piece for The Athletic about the Blackhawks acquiring some hope back on Feb. 18 (sub needed), Mark Lazerus keeps in mind how the group and its coach stressed how they were developing something. This is a work in development.

“We’ve got to continue to have that mindset that we’re going to improve as the year goes on,” Jeremy Colliton stated. “We’re not a finished product, we’re not going to be a finished product. That’s how we’re going to get results. We believe we’re on our way to being an excellent team. But it’s not just going to happen. We’ve got to make it happen with our mentality and our work ethic.”

Keeping at it up until now is appealing. Remaining favorable through looming bumps in the roadway won’t be rather as simple, nevertheless.

March schedule presents huge obstacles for Chicago

Yes, this most likely encounters as moistening parades. However, in a year with such uncommon scheduling, groups can typically offer you the incorrect impression.

Again, after Sunday, the Blackhawks will have faced the rebuilding Red Wings six times. Lately, the Blackhawks have loaded up on a steady diet of those Red Wings, and also the wayward Columbus Blue Jackets.

If the schedule holds, the Blackhawks begin March with a stretch of three games in four days (March 4-7) against the Tampa Bay Lightning. In case you forgot, the Lightning crushed the Blackhawks by a combined score of 10-3 in Chicago’s first two games of the season.

That’s not the extent of Chicago’s games against the defending champs in March, either, as they’ll also take on Tampa Bay on March 18 and 20.

The Lightning are the type of team to really expose a team like Chicago: one that seemingly has been grinding out tight wins against shaky opponents.

In addition to those tests against the Lightning, there are four potential barometer games against the also-better-than-expected Florida Panthers. (At least in that case, it could be a test of both groups, as the Panthers still have something to prove.)

[2020-21 NHL on NBC TV SCHEDULE]

All things considered, the Blackhawks might cross their fingers that the Stars and Predators don’t have their games in order in March, as Chicago may be gasping for a break with that schedule.

Look, there’s no shame in taking advantage of lesser opponents. College football programs pave the way to mid-tier bowl appearances with that very practice.

The point is just that, while we only know so much about any NHL team this early in the season, it’s especially true with a team that’s generally dealt with lighter opposition, like the Blackhawks.

More NHL news

NHL on NBC: There’s no decreasing David Pastrnak The Buzzer: Overtime heroics and more from Saturday in the NHL Competitor or Pretender: Is it time to think in the Oilers?

James O’Brien is an author for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Are Blackhawks genuine? Huge tests wait for after Red Wings initially appeared on NBCSports.com

Jobber Wiki author Frank Long contributed to this report.