Hello hockey fans and readers. Happy New Year to one and all! This edition of The Wrap Around is a bit overdue, but it should be a good one because the Blackhawks are rolling. This week Kristi gets us started.
Well Rick, the Blackhawks are the only team that have yet to lose in 2016, and are riding an eight-game winning streak. There have also been a couple of big milestones since our last update.
- Coach Joel Quenneville recorded his 782nd win to tie the great Al Arbour for second on the NHL’s all-time wins list. One more win and he’ll take over the second spot.
Quenneville is climbing the all-time wins list. pic.twitter.com/TDq8Piikrc
— NHL on NBC (@NHLonNBCSports) January 13, 2016
- In addition to the milestone, Coach Q and the Blackhawks just agreed to a 3-year contract extension worth $2.75 million per year. That will keep him in Chicago through the 2019-2020 season.
- Both Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook have reached the 800 games played threshold.
- Lastly, a quick Happy Birthday to the great Marian Hossa, who has recorded two goals and two assists in his last two games. He turned 37 on Tuesday.
Since a rough patch right after the Christmas break, the Blackhawks have not lost a game. They have officially kicked the standard January slump to the curb to start 2016, and it’s been paying dividends. Overall, the first half of their year has been great.
Keeping the streak alive!! pic.twitter.com/dymabaY7fx
— steve (@Steve_C19) January 13, 2016
Since the start of 2016, the Dallas Stars, Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators, and St. Louis Blues have stumbled, and as such has left the door wide open for the surging Blackhawks.
As of this writing, the Blackhawks sit two points behind the Stars, while the Blues, Wild and Predators are three, eight and fifteen points behind respectively. Okay Rick, this leads me to my questions for this week’s Wrap Around:
Do you think the Blackhawks will catch the Stars and end the season first in the Division and/or Conference?
What one thing do the Blackhawks need to improve upon in the second half?
Greetings Kristi. Yes the Blackhawks certainly are on a roll. They are getting contributions from all lines and all players, which is critical for their continued success.
As for Coach Q, I am not sure what additional superlatives need to be said. All he has done since coming to Chicago is win. Despite salary cap challenges and roster turnover, Coach Q continues to guide his teams deep into the playoffs.
— NHL on NBC (@NHLonNBCSports) January 13, 2016
As for Hossa, after enduring the longest goal scoring drought of his career, he sure is playing much younger than 37. If only I could remember who recognized that he continues to age and perform like a fine wine….
Turning serious for a moment, the defensive duo of Seabrook and Keith are nothing short of amazing. I truly believe they are among the top 5 defensemen in all of the NHL. It is too bad neither made the All Star team this year. It doesn’t matter to the Blackhawks brass, as they clearly recognize their value and leadership. I look forward to seeing Duncs and Seabs in the Indian Head sweater and patrolling the Blue Line for years to come.
Do I think the Blackhawks will catch the Dallas Stars? Yes I do. Do I think the Blackhawks will win the Central Division and Western Conference? Again, yes, I absolutely do believe it. It is not me being a homer either. The Blackhawks are the most consistent team through the first half (plus) of the season, and are only getting stronger. The team has a great blend of veterans and youth who seem to be feeding off each other. They also have four dangerous lines, even if Coach Q hits puree on the Q Blender from time to time. Their defense is great, power play is lethal, and goal tending is stellar.
As you have already mentioned Kristi, Dallas is coming down to earth after a terrific start, though you can never count out a team that has Tyler Seguin, Patrick Sharp and Jamie Benn. If St. Louis can ever find its game, they may pose a threat to win the Division as well. Otherwise it’s between the Blackhawks, Stars and L.A. Kings for the regular season Western Conference crown and home ice advantage throughout the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Speaking of home ice advantage, this becomes even more important as the Blackhawks continue to hover around .500 away from the United Center. I believe that is where they need to find the most improvement in the second half. Everyone knows they are tough to beat at home, but in the past they have also proven resilient and clutch on the road during the playoffs.
While you and I enjoy sharing our wisdom and insights, it would be great to hear what our wonderful readers think. Please drop us note via Twitter to Kristi @LoucksKE or Rick @HawksStrength and let us know your thoughts. Until next time, here’s to hoping the Blackhawks keep streaking. Thank you for reading!
Rick and Kristi