The Chicago Blackhawks have started off the 2013 NHL season like a house of fire. Going into a lockout shortened season, I'm sure every team has a lot of questions as to what level the team could perform at. Many of the players had been playing in other countries but I would imagine that conditioning played a role for all players. Being rusty to start this season would almost be expected. Not for Chicago. The team has come ready to play since the first puck dropped.
Through 19 games the Blackhawks have accumulated 35 points and also set the record for most games without a regulation loss to start a season. The record continues to grow after last night's 1-0 win over Edmonton. Their record currently sits at a robust 16-0-3. The Hawks 16 wins are most in the NHL and 3 more than any other team. The next closest team in the West is the Anaheim Ducks with 27 points and a record of 13-3-1.
*The Blackhawks are 8-0-1 at home in the United Center and 8-0-2 on the road.
It was common knowledge that Blackhawks had a plethora of talent since their Stanley Cup victory in 2010. The problem has been staying consistent. Especially in the net. This year it has all changed. Not only has the goal tending been great but the third and fourth lines have been playing great. Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford has done an outstanding job tending goal this season. He is second in the league in both goals against (1.50) and save percentage (.941). Crawford has missed some time early on this season but Ray Emery has done a solid job in his stead. Emery has posted a 2.08 GAA and a .927 save percentage. The team GAA is only 1.79 and that is best in the NHL. In addition, Emery's save percentage is currently good enough for 7th in the league. Pretty nice when you have 2 top 10 goalies in save percentage on one team.
The Blackhawks have given up the second fewest goals (37) and scored the third most (61). The only team to allow fewer goals is the Boston Bruins (34) and that is only because they have played 4 fewer games than the West leading Blackhawks. The great effort on both sides of the puck has given the Blackhawks the best goal differential in the league at +24. The next closest team is the Penguins at +17.
Another key for the Blackhawks success this season has been the depth of the lineup and the contributions from all positions. Patrick Kane currently leads the team in points with 25, goals (10), & assists (15). Early on Kane is the MVP of this team but the scoring has been spread out. Five players have double digit points through the first 19 games. In the past the Hawks have struggled to get consistent play from the non-stars. So when the stars did not produce the Hawks struggled greatly. Hence the 13 game losing streak last season. This season the stars are playing great and the complimentary players have performed just as well.
The key for the Hawks moving forward will just be to keep it up. Continue the strong goalie work and continue the consistency. Marian Hossa should hang a sign above his locker that simply reads "Consistency". I fully expect the Blackahawks to remain atop the Western Conference for the remainder of the season and they should be the Stanley Cup favorite heading into the playoffs. One thing I can safely predict is that the Blackhawks will not break the record for most consecutive games without a regulation loss. That record belongs to the 1979-80 Philadelphia Flyers and a remarkable 35 straight games recording a point. Before the recent accomplishment by Chicago, I had no idea how impressive the Flyers record is. That basically seems impossible. The good news for the Blackhawks is they Flyers went on to win the Stanley Cup that season so could be a sign a great things to come in the "Windy City".
Written By: Craig Kibler