Starting on Wednesday night, the Blackhawks will play six games in 10 days on their annual Circus Trip. The venture will take the Hawks to Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, San Jose, Anaheim and Los Angeles before the Hawks return to Chicago for one last game in November against Phoenix at the United Center.
Each year, this trip is considered a good measuring stick for where the team stands against some of the more talented rosters in the Western Conference. It all begins on Wednesday night in Vancouver.
The Blackhawks are coming off a strong stretch of three games in which they outscored their opponents 16-7. While victories against Columbus and Calgary can be considered “expected” victories against inferior opponents, Sunday night’s dominating 6-3 win over an Edmonton team that entered the night in first place was impressive.
Vancouver will enter Wednesday night’s game coming off a win against the Islanders. The Canucks have 19 points (9-8-1), and Roberto Luongo has been pulled off the ice twice in 13 starts. However, the Canucks are the owners of the Hawks’ only regulation loss at the United Center this year, a 6-2 blasting that included five power play goals. Luongo won't start against the Blackhawks; the media initially reported he had a pulled groin, and then Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said it was an "upper-body injury." I'll let you decide how a groin and upper-body get mixed up...
The Blackhawks special teams will have to be better on the trip for the Hawks to be successful. In October, Chicago allowed three power play goals in 33 opportunities (91.7 percent PK). In November, the Hawks have already allowed 10 power play goals in only 19 chances (47.4 percent PK). Not only is that number embarassing and pathetic, but it will cost the Hawks games if it doesn’t improve.
Note: to the apologists that will point to the five PP goals allowed in one game, removing the Vancouver debacle still leaves the Hawks’ PK at 61.5 percent in November. That’s still terrible.
The top-tier players on the Blackhawks are really rolling right now. Patrick Kane (19), Marian Hossa (18), Patrick Sharp (16) and Jonathan Toews (15) have all be playing exceptionally well since coach Joel Quenneville put Hossa and Toews together and Sharp with Kane.
However, health will be a major concern as the trip begins. Between Brent Seabrook and Dave Bolland both being questionable for the start of the trip, the Hawks will need their depth players to continue filling the gaps.
Last year, the Blackhawks were 4-2-0 on the Circus Trip after starting the year 9-9-2.