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updated: 3/20/2017 11:43 AM

With playoffs clinched, Blackhawks chasing Presidents' Trophy

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  • Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews says earning a ninth-straight postseason playoff spot is a "huge accomplishment" for the franchise.

      Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews says earning a ninth-straight postseason playoff spot is a "huge accomplishment" for the franchise.
    Patrick Kunzer | Staff Photographer

 
 

Many longtime Blackhawks fans remember the franchise's Dark Ages -- that 10-season stretch from 1997-2008.

During that time, there was one playoff appearance, the stadium was often half-empty and ESPN deemed the franchise the worst in pro sports. It's a period no fan wants to live again.

Sunday night was a reminder of how far the Hawks have come since then when they clinched a ninth-straight postseason berth after the Kings fell to the Flames.

"There's no given that you're going to make the playoffs every year," Jonathan Toews said after the Hawks beat Colorado 6-3 at the United Center on Sunday. "You've seen teams like Winnipeg, Dallas and Colorado that have made good runs, made the playoffs one year and then don't make it the next year. …

"For us in this day and age to get to that number is a huge accomplishment, and I think there's a lot of pride in this room that that's the time of the year that matters most to us."

Movin' on up:

Not only did the Blackhawks clinch a playoff berth, but they also:

• Increased their lead in the Central Division over Minnesota to 7 points.

• Are suddenly in a fierce battle with Washington, Columbus and Pittsburgh for the Presidents' Trophy.

The rapid climb up the standings is a result of the Hawks going 17-3-0 since Feb. 2.

Some players may be scoreboard watching, but others are adamant they aren't focused on what Minnesota or any team is doing.

"It's always better for us if they lose," Niklas Hjalmarsson said of the Wild, "but I don't really care too much about that. I'm just worrying about the way we're playing."

Slap shots:

Despite allowing 3 goals on 25 shots Sunday, Scott Darling still leads the league in save percentage. His 0.93121 mark is slightly better than Columbus' Sergei Bobrovsky (0.93116). Darling's goals-against average of 2.12 ranks third. … Artemi Panarin is on a six-game points streak (4G, 4A) and also has at least 1 point in 12 of the past 14 games. … Hawks opponents have averaged just 1.7 power-play opportunities over the past 10 games. The Hawks have killed off 16 of those 17 chances to increase their PK rate to 78.0 percent, good for 24th overall.

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