If the Blackhawks continue with their winning ways, the Cubs, White Sox and Bulls will have no worries on how they start and finish their seasons. Heck, Phil Emery could draft a punter with his twentieth pick in a few months, just as long as the Hawks keep winning. OK, maybe not so much the case with the Bears, but you get my point.
The young and speedy Edmonton Oilers made their way to the United Center last night, and, for a stretch in the third period, gave Hawks' fans images of this historic streak of 18 games without a regulation loss to start an NHL season, coming to an end. That is until Viktor Stalberg poked the puck in the five hole, beating former Hawks goalie Nikolai Khabibulin.
Eventually, the game went to overtime, the eighth such time for the Hawks this season (5-0-3), until Marian Hossa was able to stretch across Khabibulin and flip in the winner, off a Patrick Sharp miss at the 1:44 mark. Light the lamp, queue up "Chelsea Dagger," give Pat Foley a lozenge, and let's all head to the WestEnd!
The Blackhawks looked a little better last night, especially Stalberg, who appears to be getting better with each game, and not to mention Marcus Kruger moving up to the second line in replacing the injured Dave Bolland (upper body). The previous night's game versus Columbus, the worst team in the league, showcased a Hawks team that seemed to lay back and move at about 75 percent.
Don't get me wrong, resting through the season is key, especially this season with only 48 games. Not to mention, this is a team that is already 12 points ahead in the Central Division at almost the halfway point.
However, if we are going to nitpick, then this is it. And I understand coach Joel Quenneville has the advantage of mixing up his lines, but can we please keep Brandon Saad at the one line with Toews and Hossa, and NOT move around Daniel "Car Bomb" Carcillo? Sorry, I know he's fast and scrappy, but every time I hear his name, I can't help be reminded of Game 2 of the Cup Finals when he laid out Jeff Carter instead of Tomas Kopecky.
Up next should be a good one this Thursday evening. After a tremendous home stand for the Hawks (their longest of the season - 6-0-1), they now hit the road for a quickie in St. Louis to face the hated Blues. Winger Alexander Steen leads the team with 16 points and will be well-rested after beating the Blue Jackets 2-1 this last Saturday.
The Blues are third in the Central with 22 points, and currently sit as the five-seed in the West. But let's not forget that these two franchises and fan bases do not get along. Yes, the Red Wings are public enemy number one, and the Canucks have been a thorn in the Hawks' side for the past five or six seasons. But the Blues are just as hated, and you can bet that head coach Ken Hitchcock would like nothing more than to keep this streak from reaching 20 games.
No word on injuries yet, but Bolland might sit yet another game. Emery has been the go-to for back enders on two games in a row, so Corey Crawford might make a return between the pipes, with Emery going the next night back at home against the Blue Jackets. Steve Montador is also still out, dealing with concussion symptoms.
There's no doubt that luck has played a role in the Hawks' streak, such as the Hossa game-tying goal with three seconds left in regulation against Calgary. Right place, right time, plus skill and a few bounces in your favor make for streak like this. Not to mention a killer power play defense, which Johnny Oduya and Niklas Hjalmarsson have excelled, along with Nick Leddy and Michal Rozsival. However, a better place and time for a streak like this will look better come May and June.
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