On the Brink of History

161923285_slideWith Sunday’s 3-2 win over the defending Stanley Cup champion L.A. Kings, the Blackhawks made it 15 straight games to start the season without a regulation loss. The 2006-2007 Anaheim Ducks set the all-time record for consecutive games to start a season without a regulation loss at 16 games. If the Blackhawks can avoid losing to the Canucks in regulation tomorrow night, they will tie that record.

The only 2 teams in NHL history to make it at least 15 games without a regulation loss (1984-1985 Oilers and the Ducks) both won the Stanley Cup. While that is an interesting statistic and one that bodes well for the Hawks, it really means nothing. There is a lot of season left and then the playoffs, so a lot can still happen.

Right now, the Blackhawks are 3 games into their 7-game homestand and are 2-0-1 in those 3 games. In their first home game of this 7-game stretch, last Tuesday against the Ducks, the Hawks lost 3-2 in a shootout. They had a 2-1 lead heading into the third, but then allowed the Ducks to score with only a few minutes left in regulation, which sent the game to OT.

Friday night against San Jose, the Blackhawks dominated from start to finish and won 4-1. Even though the Sharks were, and still are in the midst of a free fall, that was a good win for the Hawks against a Sharks team that started the season 7-0. Jonathan Toews really helped to set the tone in that game by fighting a much bigger and much tougher Joe Thornton.

Yesterday, the Hawks continued their winning ways by defeating the Kings 3-2. The Blackhawks looked great through the first 40 minutes of the game, but then let their guard down in the third period and allowed L.A. 2 powerplay goals.

If there has been a weakness of the Blackhawks this season, it has been their recent trend of letting teams back into the game in the third period. Last Tuesday against the Ducks, the Blackhawks really controlled much of the first 2 periods. Then came the third period, and the Hawks seemed to resort to strictly playing defense and clearing the puck out of their own zone. It looked as though they had no interest in burying the Ducks with a huge third goal, and instead were intent on defending their own net for the last 20 minutes. As a result, the Ducks tied the game and won in a shootout. Yesterday was the same story.

After absolutely dominating the defending champs through the first 2 periods and leading by a score of 3-0, the Hawks backed off again in the third, took a couple bad penalties, and before you knew it were only up by 1 goal. If it wasn’t for the clock running out at the end of the game, I am sure that L.A. would have tied it had they had another 2 minutes to play. The Hawks were lucky to get out of there with a win, and only because the Kings ran out of time at the end of the game.

Moving forward, the Blackhawks are going to need to develop and consistently display that “killer” instinct of putting away their opponents when they have a late lead. They cannot continue to let other teams gain momentum in the third period and steal games from them that the Hawks should have won.

Having said all of that, the Blackhawks are still 12-0-3 and lead the NHL with 27 points. They have beaten many good teams already this year and are showing no signs of slowing down. Their powerplay has picked up a couple of goals now over the last few games, which is encouraging, but their penalty kill gave up 2 third period goals yesterday to the Kings. I guess you can’t always be perfect.

keslerTomorrow night will be another big game for the Hawks as they welcome Vancouver to town for the first time this season. The Canucks have played pretty well lately and just got Ryan Kesler back from injury. On top of that, their whole goalie “controversy” seems to have evaporated as both Luongo and Schneider are playing very good as of late. Although the last meeting between these two teams wasn’t as physical as most fans would have expected, all it takes is one little spark to set off the always-present hatred between the two sides.

Interesting stat: Since acquiring Johnny Oduya at last year’s trade deadline, the Blackhawks’ record is 24-2-7 with him in the lineup.

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