Blackhawk fans have forgotten about the long NHL lock-out and for good reason. They have the best team in the league and have history on their side to prove it.
Last night the Hawks beat their arch rivals, the Vancouver Canucks, 4-3 after Andrew Shaw tallied the go-ahead score in the shoot-out.
The Blackhawks record is 13-0-3- tying an NHL record for getting a point in every game to begin the season. Coach Joel Quenneville commented on the accomplishment after the game, “It’s a remarkable start, were very happy and pleased the guys should be proud of this achievement, especially in a 48-game season.”
It was a wild start in the first period when five breakaway chances were stopped by the two goaltenders for Vancouver and Chicago. Vancouver’s Daniel Sedin managed to tally the only goal in that period.
The Blackhawks came back with more firepower in the second period. Two players considered to be in a slump scored goals. Patrick Sharp tallied the first goal for the Hawks and Marian Hossa scored twice, once on a power play and another unassisted goal as he danced along the goal line and slipped it past Canuck goalie Cory Schneider.
Hossa was on the receiving end of a nasty forearm to the back of his head by Vancouver’s Jannik Hansen in the third period. The Hawks winger had no chance as he was brought down from behind and crumbled to the ice. He left the game and did not return. Afterwards several Hawk players were very upset at seeing Hossa on the receiving end of another cheap shot.
It looked like the Blackhawks were going to win in regulation, but the Canucks came up with two goals in the waning minutes of the third period to tie the game at 3.
Patrick Kane and Andrew Shaw scored on their shoot-out chances and goalie Ray Emery was able to stop the Canucks. And as Pat Foley says “Hawks win, Hawks win!”
This incredible start has a number of factors:
The Blackhawk stars are being stars the leaders are leading and the young players are gelling with the team. There seems to be a sense that Patrick Kane has mature on the ice and the results are evident. Kane’s 22 points puts him among the league leaders. Jonathan Toews has done his share; he has contributed in all facets, wins the face-offs, gets his points and even gets tangled up opponents to set the tone.
The vast improvement on the penalty kill has been very important during this run. They were one of the worst “pk” units in the league the past two seasons, now they are near the top. Marcus Krueger and Michael Frolik have been instrumental in their roles on that unit.
The defense has been strong as it was in the 2009-2010 Championship season. Stalwarts Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook has been pivitol so far, and Nik Hjalmarsson, Johnny Oduya, Nick Leddy, Sheldon Brookbank have contributed solidly. They throw their bodies to block shots and have done a good job of controlling the puck. Seabrook sat out last night's game; he took a puck to his mid-section last Sunday.
The young players like, Leddy, Brandon Saad, Andrew Shaw and Corey Crawford have all made solid contributions too. Crawford's confidence has returned after dealing with “an upper body” injury.
It is a nice luxury for Quenneville to have so much balance on this team. It has allowed the Hawks coach to trust players and divide their minutes better. The only concern the Hawk coach may have is the injuries to Hossa, Crawford and Seabrook. The do expect to get Dan Carcillo back as soon as this weekend.
The Blackhawks marketing department aimed at getting the fans support back even before the season began. The Hawks lead the league for attendance at home and the road, which makes that effort by the Hawks marketing machine that much easier.
One third of the season is completed, goalie Ray Emery downplayed the historic start, “You want to see it at the end of the year when it counts.”
We are counting-- only 32 games to go.