Six reasons the Blackhawks are 6-0-0

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Six reasons the Blackhawks are 6-0-0

The Chicago Blackhawks stormed the ice after defenseman Nick Leddy clinched another victory, this one in overtime. A 6-0-0 start, an impressive mark for any team, but a franchise record for the Blackhawks.

So how did the Blackhawks get here? Whats been working en route to this impressive mark? Here are six reasons why the Blackhawks are 6-0-0:

1. Four lines rolling. The Blackhawks ability to roll four lines and three defensive pairs, for that matter had Marian Hossa reminiscing about the 2010 Cup team during opening weekend. The steadiness and reliability among the lines has given the Blackhawks the necessary energy to go 60 minutes. Another little mention here: minus a minor tweak here and there, the lines and pairings have remained the same. No, coach Joel Quenneville usually doesnt change things up when the Blackhawks are winning; but weve all see him change things, even in mid-game, if results werent immediate. Theres been none of that so far this season, and the set lines have led to success.

2. Corey Crawford. The goaltender had something to prove this season after a rough sophomore stint. So far, so good. Crawford just looks more comfortable in the net this season; his positioning is better, hes staying square in the net and not over-committing to one side or the other, and hes getting more rebounds out of harms way defense is helping him there, too. If his critics are still looking for something to complain about: no, Crawford still doesnt have a shutout. But he has a 5-0-0 record with a 1.78 goals-against average (sixth best in the NHL) and .933 save percentage (seventh in NHL). Not a bad collection of numbers.

3. Great condition. The biggest concern for every NHL team in this lockout-shortened season was how players conditioning would be out of the gate. How would they take those first few hits? More muscle pulls and injuries early on? Outside of Daniel Carcillos season-opening knee injury, the Blackhawks health has been fine. Coach Joel Quenneville gave full credit to the players, be it the ones who honed their games overseas, those who played in Rockford or the ones who skated three times a week at Johnnys IceHouse West those four months. The Blackhawks took care of themselves, which was pivotal in getting through those six games in the first nine days.

4. Special, special teams. Lets not mince words: the Blackhawks power play and penalty kill were hellish last season. Costly, brutal, bad, whatever the negative connotation, it fit. This year, theyve been stellar. The power play, which has tallied at least one goal in five of their first six games, is ranked eighth in the league (26.9 percent). Their penalty kill has been even better. Its nixed 22 of 23 power plays its faced including six against the Wings last night and is second in the NHL (95.6 percent).

5. Big guns, big results. We scribes have the coachs motto on a saveget key: your best players need to be your best players. And through the first six games, the Blackhawks best have been just that. Patrick Kane leads the team with nine points (2 goals, 7 assists). Marian Hossa, who looks to have benefitted from the extra down time after last postseasons concussion, has eight (5-3-8). Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp each have six points. Couple the top guys work with contributions throughout the lineup, and the Blackhawks are a complete package right now.

6. Familiarity. The team you see now is basically the team you saw last year, personnel-wise. So why the start this season? Other than the reasons listed above, theres one more: these guys all know each other now. They know each others styles, tendencies and arent adjusting to new teammates constantly, as they were over the last two seasons.

Theres still a lot of hockey to be played and you can never predict what could happen in an 82- sorry, 48-game season. But when many NHLers talked in the preseason, they said a fast start would be necessary in this shortened campaign. The Blackhawks have gotten that. Credit them all, and the right factors, for getting them here.

Jonathan Toews practices but won’t play vs. Flyers

Jonathan Toews practices but won’t play vs. Flyers

Jonathan Toews sounded somewhat frustrated but cognizant of the situation.

If it were the postseason there’s no doubt he would be playing right now. That’s not a surprise to hear, considering what hockey players put themselves through when the playoffs start. But this is early December. There are too many games remaining. And with it coming down to making sure he’s healthy for the long haul, it’s an easy call.

Toews practiced on Friday for the first time since being hurt, but he won’t travel to Philadelphia when the Blackhawks face the Flyers on Saturday afternoon. It will be the fifth consecutive game Toews has missed since he was hurt against the San Jose Sharks on Nov. 23. Still, him skating on his own and then practicing with teammates for a few minutes is a good sign that Toews is closing in on a return.

“Just come back and check in again [Saturday], see how it is and hopefully, I guess as they say, re-evaluate for Sunday,” Toews said on Friday. “It’s never fun to miss any time, especially when the team is playing as many games as they are. So nice to get back out there and move around and get going a little bit.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

Toews was placed on injured reserve on Friday, retroactive to Nov. 24, the day after he was injured.  Coach Joel Quenneville said he’ll see how Toews feels on Saturday and, “we’ll get a better idea going forward. But he’s not on the trip.”

“You gotta be fully recovered and want to make sure guys are 100 percent before they can play,” Quenneville said. “Jonny plays at a certain pace and it’s all out, so let’s make sure he’s more than ready when he’s coming back.”

Several have reported that Toews has a back injury, and the captain was doing several back stretches during Friday’s session. Toews left in the second period of the Blackhawks’ 2-1 loss to the Sharks, moments after he went down awkwardly. But Toews said he wasn’t hurt on that play. 

“I think it was just something that started to aggravate in the first period. I tried playing in the second and that instance right there, just went down like a ton of bricks,” Toews said. “I was trying not to aggravate the injury more than I already had. That wasn’t where I got hurt; [it was] probably the instance people were looking for to see what the explanation was.”

If this were April and the playoffs were about to begin, Toews probably wouldn’t be as patient with his injury. But it isn’t, and he will be. It’s not worth making worse. The Blackhawks have managed to get points in his absence, going 3-0-1 so far.

“It’s the type of thing most guys would be able to suck up and play if it were a playoff game and putting everything on the line. But at this point, with the amount of games left in the season, it’s not something you want to continuously deal with,” he said. “If you aggravate it, it’ll keep coming back to haunt you. It’s tough to hold back and do less than you know you can, but in the long run, trying to make sure I get back to 100 percent.”

BRIEFLY

- Trevor van Riemsdyk was activated off the injured-reserve list and is expected to play against the Flyers.

- Marian Hossa took practice off. He is expected to play.

-  Corey Crawford will start vs. Philadelphia.

Blackhawks Road Ahead: Feasting on the East

Blackhawks Road Ahead: Feasting on the East

Pat Boyle, Steve Konroyd and Jamal Mayers have the latest on Joel Quenneville's group in this edition of the Blackhawks Road Ahead, sponsored by Chicagoland NW Indiana Honda dealers.

The Blackhawks are once again taking care of business, going 3-0-1 with their captain Jonathan Toews on the sideline. They're also 6-2-2 against the East this year, and they'll get another chance to add to that record when they take on the Flyers this week.

Here's what our Blackhawks Postgame Live crew had to say about the team's upcoming matchups in this week's Honda Road Aehad.