Coach Joel Quenneville was asked about the Chicago Blackhawks’ first month-plus of work. A day after the team’s White House visit, it was his own state-of-the-union address.
“We try to make point of emphasis that getting off to a strong start puts us in a good place,” he said. “We’re not pleased with overtime record but we’ve gotten points. We’re not totally pleased with where we’re at but we’re fine.”
The word “decent was also used. Regardless of the words, it sounded like he was kind of happy with the Blackhawks’ start thus far, but not completely. A few hours and a 4-1 victory over the Winnipeg Jets later, he was sounding a little better about the situation.
“Maybe better than decent,” he said with a small smile. “Obviously, last year’s standard is impossible to achieve but we’ve been relatively pleased with where we’re at right now.”
The Blackhawks should be pleased with how they’ve started this season, a 10-2-4 record heading into their Saturday tilt in Dallas and their Sunday game here against Edmonton. One of the questions I’ve gotten from radio and TV recently is how the Blackhawks are handling the so-called Stanley Cup hangover. It’s pretty evident they’re handling it just fine.
Perhaps it’s not quite as tremendous as last season’s start but, as Quenneville admitted on Wednesday night, that would have been pretty damn hard to repeat. Let’s keep in mind what the Blackhawks were facing entering this season: they had a ridiculously short summer compared to the extra-month hiatus they had in the lockout-shortened season. They traded away some, let others go to free agency, and replacing some proved to be more difficult than originally expected. Some of their veterans were, or are, dealing with injuries, hence some roster shuffling and call-ups.
Yet through the early-season adjustments, the Blackhawks have come out on the better side of OK. The penalty kill is getting readjusted and working better. The top liners are playing like top liners. Everyone else is following suit. Some nights the checking line takes center stage. In Winnipeg on Saturday, the fourth line provided most of the offense. Defense is helping score goals on one side as much as it is preventing them on the other.
Maybe everyone thought this team was going to pick up right where it left off last season. Again, it wasn’t really feasible. But getting off to a solid start, one that kept them among the top teams in the Western Conference, was very possible. Thus far, they’ve achieved that.
Yes, the Blackhawks are off to a decent start. Better-than-decent start, actually. Their standards are high, especially coming off another Cup-winning season. But so far, it’s all pretty good. And sometimes, pretty good is not too bad.