DALLAS — The Chicago Blackhawks couldn’t have had a better trek through Canada on their annual circus trip.
They’re on a four-game winning streak, picking up all possible eight points on their northern-neighbor teams. Some came convincingly (please see Edmonton), others came with just a touch of drama (last night in Calgary). Whichever way you cut it, the Blackhawks are 4-1-0 on their circus trip heading into the final two games.
But before we get to the weekend back-to-back, and before everyone delves into a day of turkey, tryptophan hangovers and football, let’s visit some random musings on the Blackhawks’ last few games.
1. Congratulations to Antti Raanta on his first NHL victory. The rookie won Rockford teammates and coaches over with his affable personality and strong work ethic, and he’s doing the same with the Chicago group. Raanta didn’t have to be dazzling against the Calgary Flames on Wednesday night, although he did show flashes of brilliance on the point-blank shots Calgary threw his way. Will he play again vs. Dallas? As coach Joel Quenneville often says, “we’ll see.” With the back-to-back against the Stars and Phoenix on Friday and Saturday, it’s possible. Even if he doesn’t, Raanta showed the Blackhawks that, despite having little North American experience heading into training camp, he’s a quick learner.
2. The one guy possibly more thrilled than Raanta last night may be Corey Crawford, who didn’t have to relieve on a scheduled night off for the first time since Oct. 24.
3. Why are we still surprised when Patrick Kane does what he does? We know the Blackhawks right wing has a bottomless bag of tricks when it comes to his shots, and he grabbed two more out of that on Wednesday in Calgary. Yes, the first one was as lucky as lucky can be; even Kane admitted that. But Kane has two assets that every great NHL scorer has: great hands and the penchant to take a shot — any shot. Hey, you saw the results. He extended his point streak to 12 games, a career best, and we wouldn’t be surprised if he tacked on a few more games to that.
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4. Speaking of point streaks, Kane is just six games away from tying the record for point streak by a U.S.-born player at 18. The two other U.S.-born players who have done it: Phil Kessel and former Chicago Blackhawks player/current broadcaster Eddie Olczyk.
5. Marian Hossa said he “felt good for missing so much (hockey) lately” after Wednesday night’s game, his first since the Blackhawks played Winnipeg on Thursday night. Back after attending to a family emergency that thankfully got better, Hossa once again wondered how his timing would be. Shockingly enough, it was fine. Strong on the puck, making plays, it was like Hossa never missed a shift. His teammates don’t even question his readiness. “He always talks about timing and rust but I’ve seen him take weeks off and step right in and be a top player,” Patrick Sharp said. “There are no worries with Hoss. We’re just glad he’s back.”
6. Niklas Hjalmarsson just quietly goes about having a great season for the Blackhawks. The defenseman has said the past few seasons he wanted to add more offense to his repertoire. This season he’s doing it; he recorded two more assists on Wednesday and now has 12 points in his first 26 games. He had 10 points in the 2012-13 regular season. Hjalmarsson admitted he’s extra motivated by the possibility of making Sweden’s Olympic roster. You have to think he’ll be heading to Sochi this winter.
7. Remember when the Blackhawks struggled to score third-period goals? Yeah, neither do we.
[WATCH: Quenneville happy for Raanta following his first win]
8. The Blackhawks are making November their quick-strike month. Three times this month they’ve scored twice within a minute: last night at Calgary (Kane and Sharp in 56 seconds), Saturday at Vancouver (Andrew Shaw and Marcus Kruger in nine seconds) and Nov. 9 at Dallas (Hossa and Hjalmarsson, who had an empty netter, in 34 seconds).
9. The Dallas Stars, Chicago’s next opponent, had their own quick-strike moment on Tuesday, scoring three goals in 53 seconds in a 6-3 victory over the Anaheim Ducks. Friday could be a goaltender’s nightmare.
10. Remember when the Blackhawks couldn’t score power-play goals? Yeah, neither do we.
11. Duncan Keith has been among the game stars lately, and rightfully so. He’s been a beast again this season and has to be in the Norris Trophy talk. It’s a tough field — Wild defenseman Ryan Suter’s going to be in the mix again and so should Oliver Ekman-Larsson, who just quietly goes about his business in Phoenix. But there’s a lot of season left; and if Keith keeps this up he deserves strong consideration.
12. Brandon Saad needs to be selected for Team USA. We’re going to keep harping on this until it happens. And if it doesn’t happen we’re going to harp about that.
13. We love the cause that Movember represents but let’s be honest: there are some odd and creepy mustaches growing out there. Here’s to a clean-shaven December.
14. Before we enter our own turkey-induced coma we wish you all a very happy and healthy Thanksgiving. See you back at the rink on Friday.