Chicago Blackhawks are Already a Team for the Ages

chicago-blackhawks-1Last year the Chicago Blackhawks were a mediocre team with goaltending issues. And these issues would haunt the Blackhawks as they were bounced out of the playoffs in six games by the Phoenix Coyotes.

However, this year’s Blackhawks literally can’t be beaten since they’ve gone 21-0-3 en route to taking firm control of the Western Conference. Chicago currently holds a 10-point lead over second place Anaheim and has outscored opponents by 32 goals this year. Their overall performance has been so successful that even NBA superstar LeBron James had to show some love by tweeting:

Hey Chicago Blackhawks, u guys are AWESOME!!

Perhaps more important than all of this though is that the Blackhawks have smashed the previous NHL record for the best regular season start after scoring in 24 consecutive games. This being said, it doesn’t matter if Chicago fails to win the Stanley Cup because they’re already a team for the ages. Based on their record-setting run so far, it’s worth looking at what’s changed for the Chicago Blackhawks from last year to this season.

corey-crawfordUnbelievable Goaltending

As mentioned in the introduction, the Blackhawks struggled with keeping the puck out of the net. The goalie duo of Corey Crawford and Ray Emery combined to allow over 2.7 goals per game last season and were constantly interchanged in an effort to fix the problem. But looking at this season, both goalies have been outstanding.

Crawford is allowing a league-leading 1.53 GAA, while Emery has a very respectable 2.03 GAA. Furthermore, Crawford is also leading the league with a 0.940 SV% while Emery is fourth with a 0.925 SV%. The latter has gone an unblemished 10-0 thanks to these numbers, and Crawford is 11-0-3. We know these guys can’t go undefeated forever, but what they’ve done up to this point definitely deserves some respect.

Shot Blockers

Crawford and Emery can’t take all of the credit for their undefeated records because the defense has prevented a lot of shots on goal. Three Chicago brent-seabrookdefenders rank within the top 15 in blocked shots as Brent Seabrook (57 BS), Niklas Hjalmarsson (55 BS) and Johnny Oduya (50 BS) has all chipped in major contributions.

And it’s not just the actual defenders who are helping the cause since some of Chicago’s offensive players have shown strong puck-stopping skills as well. Toews has especially been good with a team-best plus-12 rating and 59.5% faceoffs-won.

High-Powered Offense

Chicago’s offense have given the goaltending plenty to work with when it comes to winning games. Nobody has disappointed in this offense since RW Patrick Kane has 27 points, C Jonathan Toews has 21 points, RW Marian Hossa has 18 points, C Patrick Sharp also has 18 points, and LW Viktor Stalberg has scored 13 points.

patrick-kaneIt’s not always common to see the puck distributed so evenly when you have this many good offensive players. But Chicago has found a way to get the job done and keep everybody happy.

Road Warriors

If ever there were a team that would set the NHL record for most consecutive games with a point to open the season, you wouldn’t have bet on the Blackhawks. That’s because Chicago began the year by playing 10 out of their first 12 games on the road.

Once they got through this stretch with an undefeated record, people knew that something special was going on. Chicago has since added road victories against tough teams in Detroit and St. Louis.

How Long will the Streak Continue?

The Blackhawks had to pull out a come-from-behind win over the Colorado Avalanche last night, and had many people wondering how long they can keep their incredible streak up.

Odds are that the run will end some time within the next week and a half. After all, Chicago goes back on the road for five out of the next six contests and two of these games are at Colorado. As if this isn’t bad enough, the road trip ends at second place Anaheim’s Honda Center – a rink where the Ducks have only lost once this season.

Of course, the Chicago Blackhawks have already done the unthinkable again and again. So what’s to prevent them from coming out of the next six games with a perfect record too?

NHL Power Rankings for February 19th, 2013

chicago-blackhawksWhen the lockout-shortened NHL season opened, many people were talking about the New York Rangers and defending champion LA Kings competing for the Stanley Cup. However, it’s been all about the Chicago Blackhawks and Anaheim Ducks in the early season. On the other hand, the Rangers and Kings have struggled and are currently fighting just to be among the playoff teams. These teams may not have lived up to expectations, but there are plenty of other clubs that are doing quite well so far and here’s a look at them.

1. Chicago Blackhawks (12-0-3) – The Blackhawks are not only playing better than any other NHL team this season – they’re on the brink of starting better than any team in history! Chicago will be going for an NHL record-tying 16th straight game with at least one point vs. the Vancouver Canucks. Their streak was in jeopardy last game against the Kings; however, a Patrick Sharp goal proved to be the game winner.

2. Anaheim Ducks (11-2-1) – Anaheim is a team full of road warriors since they’ve gone 7-1-1 on the road this season. Furthermore, they just capped off a lengthy 5-1-1 road trip, which ended with a victory over Nashville. Now…if only the Ducks weren’t in the same conference as the Blackhawks. Ironman winger Teemu Selanne (15 points) is once again having a fantastic season in his 20th year.

sidney-crosby3. Pittsburgh Penguins (11-5) – Pittsburgh’s year started pretty mediocre with a 2-2 record; however, they’ve been on a roll ever since and have won 8 out of their past 11 games. Sidney Crosby (24 points) is so good that he’s become unpopular among fans while LW Chris Kunitz (18 points) and C Evgeni Malkin (17 points) are providing plenty of offensive punch as well.

4. New Jersey Devils (9-3-4) – We’re not sure if it’s the Penguins or Devils who rule the East right now. However, we have to rank the Devils a spot lower than Pittsburgh after they lost 5-1 to the NY Islanders. But this by no means defines a team which made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals last year. Goalie Johan Hedberg is doing a great job minding the net with a 1.72 GAA.

5. Boston Bruins (9-2-2) – With Pittsburgh and New Jersey’s recent success, it’s easy to overlook the Bruins. But it’s also impossible to overlook the fact that they’ve gone 7-2-1 lately. If this team can get some more offensive firepower going, we could easily see the Bruins competing for the Eastern Conference title.

6. Montreal Canadiens (10-4-1) – Following four straight wins, the Canadiens have bolted up the league standings. They’ve also landed in our top 10 power rankings thanks to strong play from C Tomas Plekanec (12 points), D Andrei Markov (10 points) and LW Rene Bourque (10 points).

daniel-sedin7. Vancouver Canucks (8-3-3) – Vancouver has struggled to hold onto leads this season and is definitely lagging behind Anaheim and Chicago in the West. Just like Boston, the Canucks have gotten off to a subpar start offensively – Daniel Sedin leads the team with 13 points. However, Roberto Luongo has been one of the NHL’s top goalies thus far with a 1.63 GAA.

8. Carolina Hurricanes (8-4-1) – Carolina is definitely a formidable team this year after going 7-2-1 over their past 10 games. Eric Staal has been Mr. Clutch this season after scoring 17 points and netting four game-winning goals. It also helps that Dan Ellis is keeping just about everything out of the net with a 1.75 GAA and .943 SV%.

9. St. Louis Blues (9-5-1) – The Blues have been pretty up and down this year, but mostly up. They’ve won three road games in a row and are back on track to move up the Western Conference standings. LW Alexander Steen (15 points) is off to the best start of his career and has dished out 11 assists.

10. Nashville Predators (7-4-5) – Nashville may have dropped their last game, but they are 6-2-2 over the past 10 contests. This team doesn’t score a ton of points, but Colin Wilson (10 points) provides a nice boost, while Chris Mason has been unbelievable in the net with a 1.45 GAA and .952 SV%.