It’s that time of the season again, when the Blackhawks pack their big suitcases and bid Chicago adieu for a few weeks. Considering how things have trended and how the Blackhawks have done on long road trips, the timing couldn’t be better.
The Blackhawks’ 11-day, six-game road trip begins Tuesday when they play the Calgary Flames. For the Blackhawks it’s a chance to refocus, regroup and, they hope, return to more consistent results.
These long trips have treated the Blackhawks well; they went 6-1-0 on the circus trip in November, 4-0-2 on their ice-show trip in 2013, not long after the lockout-shortened season began. So why have they been so good on long treks?
“We just take it game by game; we try not to look ahead. If you do that on a long road trip you can get the focus in the wrong place,” Corey Crawford said. “So it’s taking it game by game, and we’re able to build momentum off it when we do that. We’ve had some big games on the road, and it’s carried over. We have to look to do that again.”
The Blackhawks had a lot of big games on the circus trip, and outside of their rough start in Colorado it was a tremendous trek. The same goes for last season, when the Blackhawks played 10 of their first 12 on the road, including the ice-show trip. They simplify on the road; they’re less likely to break into that stylish, fancy game that sometimes emerges at the United Center. They’re going to need the non-frilly, effective game on a trip that includes Vancouver, San Jose, Los Angeles and Anaheim.
“Focus and consistency of team is one of our strengths. Our guys’ consistency in how they prepare is probably the best thing,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “When we’re having success on the road, we don’t change the way we play.”
Kris Versteeg said several factors lead to a good road trip.
“It’s camaraderie, I guess,” he said. “When I first got traded (back) here, that road trip for us was huge. It didn’t start off the way we wanted, but we finished strong. And on these trips you can’t ride your emotions. You have to take every game at a time. No matter what happens in the previous contest, we have to look forward to the next one and go from there.”
That last item hits home for the Blackhawks right now. Sunday marked their last game at the United Center until early March, and it was a forgettable ending in their 3-1 loss to the Winnipeg Jets. The Blackhawks want to wash the taste of that one from their mouths, pronto.
The Blackhawks usually do well on lengthy road trips. They bond, they simplify and they just play. The road formula’s worked for them in the past. They need it to work again now.
“It’s a good opportunity to get away, be with each other and there are not a lot of distractions. “We’re just playing hockey,” Patrick Sharp said. “Sometimes you get on a roll, things go for you. Hopefully we do that on this trip.”