Chicago Blackhawks fans, you didn't doubt them for a moment ... did you? With last night's win over the Minnesota Wild, the team has vaulted all the way up to the fifth seed in the Western Conference playoff race, though tied with the Los Angeles Kings. (Both have 74 points a piece.) They've won five in a row and gone 7-1-2 in their last ten games. Here are three Blackhawks-related items to take forth unto this glorious Tuesday:â†µ
1. Jonathan Toews is YOUR "First Star" of the Month.The beloved center was the NHL's leading scorer last month, slapping in six goals along with 15 assists for 21 points. Someone got hot at just the right time. Interestingly enough, the "Second Star" for February was none other than ...â†µ
2. ... Antti Niemi, who has received a contract extension.The former Blackhawks and now San Jose Sharks goalie has also been red hot. He boasts a .934 save percentage, lays claim to three shutouts in 13 game appearances and, overall, sported a 10-2-0 record in February.â†µ
And to toss a cherry on top of that sundae, Niemi said "Yes!" to a four-year, $15.2 million contract extension today. His loss hasn't been quite as acute as that of, say, Dustin Byfuglien -- especially since Corey Crawford has stepped it up -- but one can now safely say that Niemi's success in last year's Stanley Cup playoffs was no fluke. Or so the Sharks hope.â†µ
3. NHL Power Rankings looking, well, better. Our SB Nation mothership hasn't updated their power rankings to reflect play over the last seven days (hey, there was a trade deadline), so let's look at a few others. ESPN has the Blackhawks ranked ninth, between the Phoenix Coyotes and the Pittsburgh Penguins -- a seven-place jump from their 16th place finish last time around. Fox Sports places the team 12th, between the Wild and the Dallas Stars; a five-place jump. And CBS Sports concurs with ESPN, putting the Blackhawks ninth, between the Kings and the Coyotes, for the biggest leap forward of all -- eight spots from the previous week. Suffice to say: Confidence is high. Let's keep it that way, shall we?