Chicago shows strength in Central crucible

Updated: January 16, 2012, 2:20 PM ET
By Craig Custance

The room wasn't filled with the usual air of disappointment that typically accompanies a loss to a rival. The Chicago Blackhawks had just battled back to earn a road point in a 3-2 overtime loss to the Red Wings during a Saturday matinee, and the page was quickly turned by the time the media entered the room for questioning.

"We're not going to beat ourselves up about it. We have another game tomorrow against another tough team," captain Jonathan Toews said.

Chicago played back-to-back games against the Red Wings and Sharks in a weekend that provided a fantastic glimpse of exactly where this team is right now. They've battled inconsistencies this season, they're playing without Patrick Sharp and still could use another defenseman and center. But this group knows how to win these games and proved it.

"You have to play smart hockey. We've been progressing," Toews said. "These games you can't expect anything less or else you're not going to win."

On Sunday, the Blackhawks beat the surging Sharks 4-3, solving Antti Niemi thanks to a dominant performance from their top line of Toews, Patrick Kane and Viktor Stalberg. Said Sharks coach Todd McLellan to reporters: "Their big boys had the puck the whole night."

It could turn out to be the most crucial weekend of the Blackhawks' season.