Marian Hossa was the face of the Blackhawks Sunday. He looked not unlike Errol Flynn at his Robin Hood finest, snatching a puck from mid-flight, treating it like a yo-yo as it dropped on a string with suspended animation and finishing the cartoon flickers by scoring without puck kissing ice for the slickest swordplay this season in Chicago.
Wile E. Coyote couldn't have done it better. But as much as the Blackhawks are re-imagined characters from the golden age of TV with their Hoss resurrecting the days of Bonanza when brothers bled like Patrick Kane did one moment and rode high the next as Hossa did, I have to contend these Blackhawks should be best known as a faceless conglomeration.
To give you a precise definition, they are a sum total of many heterogenous things, just a mass of miscellany. If you prefer a less hi-falutin' breakdown, they are The Blob, growing ever larger as they devour the NHL one scary piece at a time and assume proportions seldom seen in these parts from your hockey heroes.
The Blob is nothing if not faceless. It's unstoppable. It's cancerous. It's a good-looking tumor of terror.
Individual Hawks are succeeding, but no one has stood out singly more than others. The mug shot has been replaced by the mass hysteria of team harmony, where the monster lumbers and looms ominously as one.
If that's a cliche, so be it. But the Hawks are a collective nightmare with a very diverse group of stars coalescing rather than being a star-driven team that needs a few guys to be at their best or else fail day after day.
That's why there should be no goalie controversy now or ever this season. It matters not whether it's Cristobal Huet or Antti Niemi in goal, because the team defense rules. It matters not that Dave Bolland and Adam Burish are healing, the defense is driving the momentum game-in, game-out.
Do we miss Bolland and Burish? Hell, yeah. But the tumor of terror waits for no man.
Put them together and Cris and Andy spell C-Andy in net, but they aren't as sweet as Tony Esposito or even the demented Ed Belfour by themselves. They don't have to be. They have help unlike previous Blackhawks' clubs where it was every man for himself.
And these two C-Andy strippers are better than Nikolai Khabibulin alone as a result.
The Blob can eat and spit out numbers like a glutton. But one supercedes the rest. And the statistic that tells you all you need to know about the Blackhawks is 2.06. If they can be dialin' that number the rest of the season, greatness awaits and Bobby Hull will fill that Jumbotron endlessly with blissful smiles of elation.
Defense is the hallmark of this group as much as the defense that allowed the Bears to win the 1985 Super Bowl. Limiting opponents to just over two goals a game is nothing short of sensational.
Jim McMahon was just an OK quarterback, remember, in 1985. His defense allowed him to be star material. The media got sidetracked by McMahon distractions, but it was the defense that allowed him to be a prima donna and moon helicopters trying to take his picture.
That shot was ass backwards, as usual. McMahon was just part of the machine.
The Blackhawks have some superior talent such as Hossa and Kane, but the defense is what directs the nightly flow forevermore, not Hossa or Kane or whatever else the media finds with their off-ice actions to amuse itself.
And we aren't talking just defensemen Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Nik Hjalmarsson, Brian Campbell, Cam Barker, Brent Sopel. Defense is a team responsibility and the forwards throw their bodies into this fray as well, even offensive geniuses such as Hossa and Kane.
Defense has allowed the Blackhawks to succeed without a consistent power play. That's why fans at United Center have witnessed only 6 power play goals this season, compared to the meager 10 scored by the Hawks. It's a tightrope from which a team could fall over time if there is the least slip-up, but so far these acts of daring are going Chicago's way based strictly on their defensive determination.
Imagine if the Hawks' power play ever connects as it should. The wins would be easier when that day comes.
Washington has scored 59 road goals, but it has given up 51. San Jose has scored 61 road goals, but allowed 52. Pittsburgh has scored 46 road goals, but permitted 48. These are major variations from Chicago. More offense, but not as good on defense.
The Hawks have scored just 37 goals on the road this season. Normally, that would show us why they might not be doing well. Instead, they have allowed just 24 road goals, allowing their defense to offset the tepid attack and be a major force on enemy ground as well.
The New Jersey Devils, a rather strong historical standard, statistically are the most similar to the Hawks. The Devils are 37-26 in goals for/against on the road. If the Hawks can continue to be compared to these Devils, talk of a Stanley Cup becomes reality and not fantasy.
John Madden will be happy to tell you all about that. It's no accident the Devils are the closest to the Hawks in goal-against at 2.16.
The Devils have a 49-41 goal differential on home ice, a close match to the Hawks being 52-40 in that category at United Center. To draw out comparisons, Washington is 56-41, Pittsburgh 55-43 and San Jose 47-35.
This is a nice neighborhood the Blackhawks are living in at long last. It's nice to look next door at what the other guys have and compare it to what we have.
St. Louis and Boston are the next two UC opponents, coming up Wednesday and Friday, and low-scoring affairs can be predicted. The Blues have scored just 35 times in road games, while the Bruins have done so 28 times.
Sounds like Chicago defense should carry the night.
But these club's road differentials tell a different story. It's 35-31 for the Blues and 28-34 for the Bruins, two of the lower goals-against averages on the road. So don't sell either one short.
The Hawks could have a battle on their hands this week. With the defense, though, there's every reason to expect a positive outcome.
The stars will change week-to-week. The defense hasn't so far.
And what do they say wins championships? Yeah, the Hawks can make you fall in love with cliches all over again.