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.