With tonight’s victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Blackhawks are now 5-0-0 to start their season. This ties their best start to a season in franchise history. The only other time that they have started a season with 5 straight wins was in 1971. Hard to believe, right?
Through their first 5 games, all 4 lines of the Blackhawks have played well. They have played so well that they are drawing comparisons to the 2009-2010 Hawks team that won the Cup. Over the last 2 seasons, the Blackhawks relied way too much on their top players, both offensively and defensively. In the NHL, you can’t do that and expect to win. You need all 4 lines to contribute if you want to have a successful team. I’m not saying that they don’t need to count on their top dogs to produce, but they shouldn’t put 100% of their faith in them. Having said that, the top players on the Blackhawks (Toews, Kane, Hossa, Sharp) are all off to hot starts to the season. Hossa already has 5 goals through the first 5 games, Kane has 2 goals and 7 assists, Toews has 3 goals, and Sharp has 6 points (2G, 4A).
The special teams of the Blackhawks have been coming up big as well through these first 5 games. Their powerplay is ranked tenth in the NHL, going 6/24, and their penalty kill has only allowed 1 goal in 17 times shorthanded (94.1%). This is a huge turn around from last season, when the Hawks were ranked in the bottom five in the NHL in both categories. Successful teams always have good special teams play, so hopefully the Hawks can continue playing well in those areas from here on out.
Corey Crawford has been another positive so far for the Hawks. He is 4-0 with a .923 save percentage and a 1.99 GAA. You could argue that the only reason the Blackhawks didn’t advance past the Coyotes in last year’s playoffs was because of Crawford’s poor play in net. It was no secret heading into this season that he needs to play much better if they want to be successful. So far, he is playing with a ton of confidence and is making all of the “must make” saves, as well as some highlight-reel ones.
One thing that was very evident in their game against the Stars on Thursday night was the speed of the Blackhawks. You would be hard pressed to find 2 other teams in the NHL with comparable speed to the Hawks right now. They made the Stars look like they were skating in slow motion, which led to numerous great scoring chances (41 shots on goal). If it wasn’t for the incredible play of Kari Lehtonen, the Hawks could have had at least 6 goals that game. Instead, they scored 3 unanswered after going down 2-0 in the second period. The third goal came in overtime after a beautiful, no-look pass from Kane to Hossa for a one-timer goal.
All in all, this team is simply clicking on all cylinders at the moment. Tonight was not a pretty game against the Blue Jackets, but they still found a way to win. The Hawks have that “never quit” attitude to them. It seems as though they are never out of any game. Regardless of the score, they are going to keep coming at you with everything they’ve got. They have a certain feeling about them that I have only felt one other time, and that was with the 2009-10 Hawks. It’s hard to describe that feeling, but you just know when you feel it. While I don’t want to get over-hyped about the Blackhawks, it is hard not to get excited about what this team has the potential to do this season. If they can avoid suffering any big injuries to key players, this could be a memorable spring for the Hawks.