The Chicago Blackhawks continued their historic point streak on Wednesday night, improving to an astounding 21-0-3. That’s 24 consecutive games without a regulation loss to begin a season, adding to their NHL record. Going back to last season, the Blackhawks have now earned a point in 30 consecutive games. It’s been 347 days since Chicago’s last regulation loss, and they continue to achieve success through late-game heroics.
The ‘Hawks were down 2-1 going into the third period at home against the Colorado Avalanche before a shorthanded goal from Captain Jonathan Toews tied it up at 2. The point streak would have continued even if the contest had remained tied at the conclusion of the third frame, but the Blackhawks never sat back. With just 50 seconds to play, agitator Daniel Carcillo scored his first goal of the season to give his team their 11th straight victory. How are the Blackhawks getting it done?
Chicago is fourth in the NHL with 3.12 goals per game. They stand amongst just five other teams that can display three goals or more per game, and trail only the likes of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Anaheim Ducks. On the other side of the puck, Joel Quenneville’s pack is tops in the NHL, allowing just 1.79 goals against. No other team in the league really stands close to this mark.
Chicago owes this to a goaltending tandem that has been absolutely stellar. Starting goaltender Corey Crawford (11-0-3) is second in the league with a minuscule 1.53 GAA and a .940 save percentage, both shy of only Ottawa Senators netminder Craig Anderson. Number 50 in Chicago’s crease has dispelled any preseason notions that he would be unable to perform as a number one goaltender. Crawford has padded those impressive statistics with two shutouts this season.
Crawford’s complement in Chicago’s net is no slouch, himself. Ray Emery is a perfect 10-0-0 this season, the first goalie in NHL history ever to start a season with ten straight wins. The second-stringer has maintained just a 2.02 GAA and a .925 save percentage. Somewhat of a journeyman in his career, combinations of disciplinary issues and inconsistent play have caused Emery to shuffle between NHL, AHL, and KHL teams. Yet, at each stop, Emery has shown flashes of brilliance. Still just 30 years old, Emery has looked anything but inconsistent this season. The “backup” goaltender possesses top 10 numbers through the first half of the season, rivaling many of the league’s elite starters.
To no one’s surprise, the Windy City offense has been lead by the usual suspects. Patrick Kane has certainly returned to form since being moved back to his full-time slot on the wing this season. Kane leads the way with 12 goals and 15 assists for 27 points. The former first overall pick is fifth in the league in both goals and powerplay goals, where he has netted five. Skating more than twenty minutes on ice a night, Kane sports a +10 rating.
Captain Toews leads all forwards with a +12 rating. The 24 year-old center added a shorthanded goal against Colorado to give him 10 goals on the season, tied for second most on his squad. Toews’ 21 points are second to Kane, and he’s winning faceoffs at an incredible 59.4% clip. That’s leading by example.
With 18 points apiece, the third-leading scorers in Chi-Town are Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp. Hossa was a late gametime scratch against Colorado, and Sharp left the game rattled with a possible concussion. The ‘Hawks surely hope that both will return to full strength, but have no shortage of secondary scoring from the likes of veterans Viktor Stalberg, Bryan Bickell, and Dave Bolland to youngsters Andrew Shaw, Brandon Saad, and Marcus Kruger. Though each are just +3 to this point, defensemen Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook have chipped in offensively with 12 and 10 points, respectively.
The ‘Hawks powerplay may be rather pedestrian this season compared to some of their other numbers, but their penalty kill is the best in the West. The PK unit has killed off 89.0% of infractions this season, second only to the Boston Bruins. The ‘Hawks also boast a ridiculous five-on-five ratio of 1.67 goals scored to every goal against. The next closest team is the Montreal Canadiens, a whopping 0.32 goals behind.
Having put the 1977-78 Canadiens in their rearview mirror, the ‘Hawks can now look ahead to only the 1979-80 Philadelphia Flyers and their 35 consecutive game points streak. Whether or not they get there, a fraction of such a streak would have been an accomplishment in itself. It’s fitting that the road ahead for Chicago dictates their potential record-breaking game would be March 20th at Anaheim, against the second-best team in the NHL. There are still points to be earned before then, but it will remain one of the most-anticipated matchups of the season.