Sunday, February 10, 2013
Blackhawks ace 6-game road trip
Anyone who glanced at the Chicago Blackhawks' schedule at the beginning of the season had to have a similar thought.
It went something like, "Whew, that's a rough beginning."
Ten of the Blackhawks' first 12 games had them on the road. That span included a six-game trip that would keep them away from Chicago for 13 days.
It wasn't a schedule lent to predictions of success. Even after the Blackhawks opened the season with a franchise-record six consecutive wins, there weren't many expecting them to continue their winning ways as they traveled from Minnesota to Canada to the West Coast to Tennessee.
But that's just what the Blackhawks did. Despite enduring a trip that included seven flights, five time-zone changes and spanned nearly two weeks, the Blackhawks went six games without being defeated in regulation. They closed their trip with a 3-0 win over the Nashville Predators on Sunday and finished 4-0-2. Chicago now leads the NHL with 22 points.
Plenty has to go right for a team to keep it rolling the way the Blackhawks did on the road. Here's a checklist of the Blackhawks’ achievements throughout the trip.
• Shutout? Check. On Sunday Corey Crawford recorded the Blackhawks' first regular-season shutout since March 23, 2011.
• Prevailing in tight games? Check. The Blackhawks began the trip with three consecutive overtime games. They held strong in each and forced a shootout. The team lost the first two shootouts and won the final one. Chicago won the final three games by a 14-5 margin.
• Winning a game they probably shouldn't? Check. The Calgary Flames were better in every way except for one against the Blackhawks in their Feb. 2 affair. That one was Blackhawks goaltender Ray Emery. He made a career-high 45 saves and stopped all three shootout shots in a 3-2 shootout win. The Blackhawks were outshot 47-19 in the game.
• Hot scorer? Check. Patrick Kane has been a mad man all season, but he took it to another level during the trip. He scored six goals to go along with three assists in the six games. He has scored in the past five games.
• Solid penalty kill? Check. The Blackhawks killed off 17 of the 19 power plays they faced on the trip. They have allowed three goals in 42 power-play chances this season.
• Strong goaltending? Check. Crawford and Emery combined to make 158 saves on 168 shots. Only once did they allow more than two goals in a game.
• Offensive depth? Check. Nine players accounted for the 19 goals scored on the trip. Brandon Saad scored his first career goal. Six goals were scored by players on the third and fourth lines.
• Creating more chances? Check. The Blackhawks only outshot their competition 170-168 over the six games, but that was mainly because of the Flames game. The Blackhawks outshot their opponents in four of the six games.