Last 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.
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.
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 defenders 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.
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.
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?