(CBS) As they so often do, the Blackhawks are playing some of their best hockey of the season as they playoffs near.
Chicago has amassed 25 points in winning 12 of its past 15 games, with an overtime loss included, and vaulted to the top of the Western Conference with 100 points. So, what’s the Blackhawks’ secret for often playing well later in the season?
Much of it is simply the passage of time that allows for continuity to be formed, general manager Stan Bowman said. Such a season arc is by no means unique in the league, but it’s particularly notable with the Blackhawks because the team so often has large roster turnover in the offseason when facing a salary cap crunch that stems from previously doling out large contracts to Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and other stars.
That leads to plenty of new faces, such as in this season in which the Blackhawks have used seven rookies. It’s those youngsters who have stepped up late, such as winger Ryan Hartman (29 points) and forward Nick Schmaltz (23 points).
“It’s really the evolution of this team,” Bowman said Thursday morning on the Mully & Hanley Show on 670 The Score. “Every team is a little bit different, the composition.
“First-year NHL players, it takes them some time to get comfortable. At the beginning of the season, they’re just trying to get acclimated to the NHL. It’s the best league in the world. Whether they were in college or junior hockey or in the minor leagues, they weren’t used to playing against this caliber of player. Everything is different for them. It’s a learning process the first couple months.
“In the process of all that happening was our younger players starting to get more confident. I think now, they’re not rookies anymore. I guess they are technically on the scoresheet, but they’ve played 60, 70 games, so they’re just playing like everybody else. They’ve got more confidence. I think that’s the biggest reason you’ve seen our team come together.”
Listen to Bowman’s full interview below.