Familiarity breeds success for Blackhawks

Familiarity breeds success for Blackhawks
February 18, 2013, 8:45 pm
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Time to toss in a couple more ingredients to the Blackhawks' recipe for success.

It’s probably accurate to believe the lack of off-season roster movement has helped the team get off to this near-record-setting start.  Except for the current sixth/seventh defensemen, the rest of the blue-liners, and all the forwards, had some degree of playing with each other prior to the rushed, week-long training camp, but there’s also the maturity factor at the NHL level.

When you look back at the team three years ago, their effective depth was filled out by guys who had the equivalent of one to three years’ experience.  Count Versteeg, Brouwer, Burish, Byfuglien and Eager as players who entered that season with between 81 and 195 games-played at the highest level.  Even Andrew Ladd (who I still personally thought was the toughest to see go the following off-season) technically had just under three full years’ worth of NHL games (238), despite winning a Cup in Carolina as a rookie who got called up midway through that season.  “The Light” seemed to go on for all those guys.

Entering this year, Marcus Kruger (22 years old) had 78 games of NHL experience, Nick Leddy (21) had appeared in 128 games, 26-year-old Bryan Bickell had 172 games and Viktor Stalberg (27) had 196 games under his belt.  By their standards, 21-year-old Andrew Shaw is a baby (37 games last year).  But they’ve all been effective, thanks to a familiarity with one another, and a greater familiarity with the league and the day-to-day grind.  Remember, the big stars have remained the same.

Throw in the ability for Joel Quenneville to have strong, puck-moving defensemen on all three pairs (Keith, Oduya and Leddy) to get the offense moving and skating, and those are a couple more subtle reasons for this team’s 12-0-3 record heading into Tuesday night’s game versus Vancouver -- a team that’ll be anxious to apply the first blemish.  They came close to doing that two and a half weeks ago, and now have Ryan Kesler back, and possibly David Booth – both absent from that first meeting.

Special teams will be an interesting watch as the Canucks have scored five power play goals in the past five games and the Blackhawks look to bounce back from a game in which they allowed more than one in a game. The Hawks’ power play has re-ignited a bit with goals in each of the past three games, but the Canucks have killed off all but one short-handed situation over the past four contests (but still at just over 80 percent on the season).

And while Roberto Luongo has played better versus the Blackhawks of late, the bigger-picture concern in the Hawks’ net should be what Corey Crawford is like when he returns.  He was in such a good groove over his first 10 appearances, it’ll be curious to see if he can pick up where he left off when he gets that green light.