After their season long seven game road trip and 6-1 record on the trip, the Chicago Blackhawks finally return home on Tuesday to face the Dallas Stars for the second time in three games. But, we learned a lot about the defending Stanley Cup champions on their annual
“circus” road trip and here are the top three things we learned:
1. This hockey club has not skipped a beat after winning the Stanley Cup.
After winning the Stanley Cup, many NHL analysts believed the Hawks would suffer a very similar decline like they did after winning the Cup in 2010. But that has proven false as statistically, the Hawks have continued where they left off last year. Everyone is clicking including their stars which was key to start the season. Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp, and Duncan Keith, among others have showed their leadership by leading the team in most statistical categories and have been instrumental in leading this team to a league best 20-4-4 record to begin the season. The Hawks have looked dangerous with most of their roster from last season.
2. The goaltending situation has figured itself out.
Corey Crawford has answered most of his haters so far this season by compiling a stellar record of 17-4-3 and has looked fantastic so far. Crawford has bounced back any little hiccup so far this season and has shown that he can play in consecutive games with little rest. With Nikolai Khabibulin starting the season as the backup, many including myself were very concerned how the 40-year-old goaltender would perform and Khabibulin did not perform well during his starts. Even though Khabibulin has a 1-0-1 record in five starts, he has a 5.00 goals against average and looked very shaky in net. But, Khabibulin suffered a lower body injury and since then, the Hawks recalled rookie goalie Antti Raanta and it has been the best decision the Hawks have made. The rookie goaltender has looked great in his two starts on the road trip and has shown that he can perform in hostile road trips. If Crawford stays healthy and keeps performing and Raanta is there to give him some rest, I like the Hawks’ chances moving forward.
3. The momentum has continued.
When the Hawks start winning, it seems like they can never lose again. I know the Hawks will lose at some point soon unless they pull out a streak like they did last season. But, after going 6-1 on a tough road trip and sweeping the Canadian part of the road trip, the momentum in the Western Conference is clearly with the Hawks. With stars on the team performing well and other players such as Saad, Shaw and Versteeg stepping up and contributing to the team, all aspects of the team seem to be clicking. The Hawks look very strong especially in the tougher games such as Phoenix and Vancouver.
This road trip was something of a beauty to watch and the Hawks look as if they have total control in the Western Conference. But it is still somewhat early in season so the Hawks need to keep pushing throughout the schedule, as every team wants to beat them on any given night. The Hawks will play against the Dallas Stars on Tuesday at 7 p.m. (Central) and can be seen nationally on TSN2 and NBCSN and locally on CSN-Chicago.
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