- Jon Greenberg, Columnist, ESPNChicago.com
- 0 Shares
CHICAGO -- As "Chelsea Dagger" played its Da-Da-Da and the euphoria in the stands roared at Stanley Cup decibels, a TV camera panned to Daniel Carcillo on the bench looking up at himself on the scoreboard. His piano-key smile briefly transformed the rugged forward from Hockey Menace to Dennis the Menace.
It wasn't over, but Carcillo and 21,531 of his closest friends knew he had just won the game, burying a rebound from right in front of the net with less than a minute to go. An unlikely hero to say the least. It was his first goal of the season.
With that goal, the Blackhawks extended their record points streak to begin a season with a 3-2 victory over the Colorado Avalanche.
What was Carcillo, who was playing only his ninth game of the season thanks to injury, feeling at that exact moment?
"I was happy," he said.
Duh duh duh.
"Yeah, I was happy to help this team win," he continued. "They were doing so well. You don't want to mess anything up. ... It's just a bit of an affirmation that I need to keep going."
Thanks to Carcillo, the streak(s) will keep going, too.
Chicago has gone 24 games without a regulation loss to start the season, or half the lockout-shortened 48-game season. Think about that for a second. Three shootout losses are the only blemishes to the first half of the season. Goaltender Ray Emery, who got the win Wednesday night, is 10-0-0.
The Blackhawks (21-0-3) have won a team-record 11 straight games. The casual Chicago fans who might have strayed since the Stanley Cup are hooked again, and this team has become a national story, not just a hockey sidebar.
Everyone loves a winner, and no NHL team has ever started a season like the Blackhawks. The 1979-80 Flyers' record of 35 games in a row with a point is still too far away, and no, I don't count last year's regular-season wins as being part of this current streak. I think this season's performance is enough to celebrate.
There's no sense in comparing this team to the Flyers, the streaking Miami Heat or anyone else, although it's always fun to debate. The core of the Blackhawks has held the Stanley Cup, so everything is building toward another run at that trophy.
But if you were at the United Center on Wednesday night, it sure felt like a playoff game. Fans across Chicago are living and dying with every goal, every rebound, every save. Who says regular-season hockey is meaningless?
The Blackhawks are being approached by waves and waves of reporters all asking the same, basic question: How are you doing it?
"I think we expect to win hockey games," defenseman Duncan Keith said. "We have a good team. ... There's no special handshake we do in the room here. There's no rah, rah, rah, anything like that. It's hockey."
Not surprisingly, captain Jonathan Toews agrees with that kind of sentiment.
"A lot of people might think we're pulling that game out of you know where, but really we're working for it," Toews said. "There's no special equation. There's no magic going on. It's just work ethic, the depth of our team kicking in. We're working for every chance we get, every little piece of offense. We're playing smart in our own zone. It's all those little details."
So, no special handshake, no magic, no equation. Got it.
Leave it to Carcillo, the meaty brawler who wants to be known as a complete hockey player, to go a little deeper. When Carcillo banged in Viktor Stalberg's rebound with 49.3 seconds left, he wasn't thinking just team, team, team.
Carcillo missed the first month of the season after injuring his right knee in the season opener in Los Angeles. He missed much of last season after tearing his ACL in his left knee last January.
"It's been a long, hard road," Carcillo said. "I try not to dwell on the past, but I know where I came from, and tonight's nice to finally get a bit of a reward for my hard work. I didn't have the best game, and neither did our team. But I just think that was meant to be tonight."
Fate isn't quite a four-letter word in the Blackhawks' locker room, but Toews said they're staying realistic about this streak, and instead of feeling pressure to continue it, they think their aggressive depth is forcing teams to fold late.
"In any situation, we're tough to play against," he said. "If we're down a goal in the third period, we can put a lot of pressure on the other team and really make them have to really survive the pressure we put on them."
It was Toews who provided the earlier heroics with a swooping tying goal early in the third period as the Blackhawks were on their penalty kill.
As much as he wants to stress that this team is focusing on improving and building toward the playoffs, he can't deny how much fun it is to win basically every night.
"We're pretty much cheering and almost laughing on the bench," Toews said. "It's just fun right now."
Eventually this streak has to end, and this game seemed as good a time as any. The Blackhawks didn't dominate Colorado, and by the end, they were short-handed at forward.
Chicago was without late scratch Marian Hossa (upper-body injury). Andrew Shaw, who scored the game's first goal by deflecting in a Brent Seabrook shot on the power play in the first period, and Patrick Sharp left the game with injuries in the second and third periods, respectively.
Sharp was seen leaving the bench grabbing his shoulder after getting slammed into the boards. He could miss some time, coach Joel Quenneville said. That's reality.
But for another night, none of that mattered. It was another special night for a team making history the right way.
"We never go away, we never give up, we keep coming at them," Toews said. "Whether we have guys injured and we only have three lines, we keep coming at them."
Halfway through season, the streaking Hawks are taking Chicago along for ride.