Chicago Blackhawks Simply Never Quit

The Chicago Blackhawks have had what some have felt was an underwhelming performance as they went through the first 20+ games, especially on the back of a Stanley Cup Championship season. However, as is usually the case, the Blackhawks are right where they want to be. Quietly inching their way into the playoff picture, as they pick up points along their first extended road trip.

Patrick Kane has maintained his current point streak that has now ballooned to 18 games, tying the American record set by Phil Kessel, and former Blackhawk Eddie Olczyk (with the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs, respectively). A record Kane will likely attempt to best on Saturday evening in Los Angeles against the Kings.

Getting It Done

Not only are the Hawks stealing points on the road, but Kane has been about as close to unstoppable as any player in the NHL right now.

“He could be the best American player of all time, and he’s still young. But he continues to do so many things and be that sort of game changer he’s been his whole career.” ~Corey Crawford (via Tracey Myers)

In addition, Conn Smythe winner Duncan Keith returned early and has not missed a beat as he has crafted his own little streak since his return.  Suddenly, a team that struggled to get wins on the road early on is back on top of their game. They even stole a win from the hapless Ducks, in spite of being down 2-0 with just over two minutes to go in the third period. A time when most teams would be thinking about packing it in, yet the Hawks just dig deeper and gut out a win with a couple of well-timed passes and perfectly placed snipes.

Brent Seabrook contributed three assists in the last four minutes (including overtime); Keith ripped a shot through with assists from Seabrook and Kane, and Artem Anisimov put a bow on it with a pretty pass that he slipped by John Gibson in overtime. It was a solid team effort apart from the first five minutes or so, but the Hawks dug in when the game was on the line. They did what they do best, they went to work in a tight game and took advantage of a bad penalty by Ryan Getzlaf. Earning them their second straight victory on their annual circus trip, and their seventh point thus far.

Closing Out

There are few teams that have the poise, and stamina to close out games when they are behind, the way that the Blackhawks do. Sure there are a few who can do it on occasion, but the Blackhawks have the ability to withstand even the most insurmountable attacks and come away with the points when they really need them. A feat they have mastered on even the biggest of stages.

They have done it during the regular season, and they have done it in every stage of the playoffs, in fact, many would go so far as to say that the Blackhawks have perfected the come from behind victory. There is no quit. There is rarely that hint of concern or doubt. For the Blackhawks, there is just that attitude of ‘get it done’. Come hell or high water.

The best examples of this come from their unequivocal leaders, Jonathan Toews, Kane, Keith, and Seabrook. There are literally hundreds of examples of each of them putting their teams on their backs to get the win, and their message has caught fire. There isn’t a single player in that locker room that hasn’t bought into this mentality; Even the new players know that it is battle tested, and the team has the Cups to prove its merit.

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Anisimov is having a banner year and has already eclipsed his goals scored stats from last season (7) in thirty fewer games. Clearly, Stan Bowman got his man in Kane’s new center, and they have found a bit of magic with Artemi Panarin as well. There is little doubt that this very well could be the best year of each of their careers if they can continue to trap the lightning in a bottle that is the chemistry they have found together.

As of Friday, Anisimov has racked up ten goals and 16 points, while Brandon Saad has nine goals and 15 points with his former team, the Columbus Blue Jackets.  The Blackhawks fans never wanted to see Saad go anywhere, but Anisimov’s play and his contributions to what has been the teams, and arguably one of the league’s best lines has softened the blow significantly.

Corey Crawford is another player who has continued to play big when his team needs him the most.  Sure, he can let in the occasional softy, but when the Blackhawks have their backs up against the wall, he has a tendency to stand on his head for them.  If you polled the Hawks locker room, it is doubtful that there would be a player or coach that would want anyone other than ‘the Crow’ in their crease with everything on the line.

Back-up netminder Scott Darling has his own cape, after his first round heroics last year against the Nashville Predators, as well.  What the Hawks have in spades, is a whole lot of heart and the drive to push forward when the games are tight.  They can make mistakes, but they very rarely take the time to dwell on them, as they all know there is a job to be done, and they are never finished until that final buzzer sounds.

Almost Home

With one more stop on their road trip to visit the Los Angeles Kings, the Blackhawks are saving their toughest opponent for last.  They will face off against a conference rival, and the team that sits atop the Pacific Division. Though the two teams have nearly identical records with the Hawks at 13-8-2 and the Kings at 13-8-1, there is a marked difference in the competition level between the Central and Pacific Divisions. The Central being the league’s heavyweight division on a yearly basis.

If the Blackhawks can pull off one more win on Saturday, they will wind up their road trip with nine out of a dozen possible points.  Results that the organization will surely be pleased with as they head back to the Madhouse on Madison to face divisional rival Minnesota to kick off December.  They trailed the Minnesota Wild last week in the wild card slot, but with a pair of wins they have opened up a gap that the Blackhawks would love to extend further.  A win in LA and a win on home ice to start the month of December would certainly accomplish that task and set the right tone for the Blackhawks going forward.

This will not be a simple task, but as any Blackhawks fan (or rival) can tell you, this team is generally always up for a challenge.