The only thing hotter than the Blackhawks right now are the temperatures in the Chicagoland area. And, just like the temperature, the Blackhawks show no signs of cooling off anytime soon.
Can we look at one aspect of Chicago's game to find out why they're on such a red-hot streak? No, not really, because right now they are a sum of all their moving parts, and this is a finely-tuned machine we're talking about. So let's take a look at some of these parts.
It always starts from the top, so that's where we'll start. A lot of names were bandied about leading up to the NHL trade deadline, and the name GM Stan Bowman added at the cost of a couple of draft picks was Johnny Oduya. Many responded with "Johnny Who?" Well the Blackhawks struck gold with this move. Not only is he the fleet-footed
defenseman they thought he'd be, he's been a great shutdown D-man with enough offensive prowess that he is very comfortable on the power play.
Last week I wrote that coach Joel Quenneville and his staff deserve a lot of the credit for what's going on here and that still holds true, especially the way they have handled the goaltenders. It's not easy to pull a goaltender and then have to worry about how he'll handle it down the road, but as my mom and Freddy Neitzsche used to say "that which does not kill you makes you stronger" and that has certainly been the case for Chicago's two netminders, both winning NHL Star of the Week honors the last two weeks.
I've already talked goaltenders, so let's get on to the players. Every player to a man has stepped up in the absence of captain Jonathan Toews, but maybe none more so than Patrick Kane. After a pretty average first half to the season, not only is Kane supplying the offense you'd expect, but he's been a valuable asset in his own zone and in the face off circle. Take a look at his takeaways the last three weeks, and you'll see that Kane is a man on a mission.
Add Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp, Dave Bolland, Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith to
the list of leaders who have found another gear without number 19 in the lineup.
I won't spend a lot of time on the rookies, but when you have Nick Leddy (not really a rookie but only 21 years old) Marcus Kruger, Andrew Shaw, Dylan Olsen and Jimmy Hayes pulling down important minutes and making huge contributions, you see why the Blackhawks are on a 7-1-1 run.
Here's hoping they stay as hot as the temperature in Chicago.