The talk of “the streak” went through the locker room on Sunday afternoon.
It was another victory, a tight 3-2 victory over the Los Angeles Kings, another step closer to the matching – and perhaps besting – the 2006-07 Anaheim Ducks’ record of 16 games without a regulation loss to start the season. But when it came to the talk of that mark, the Blackhawks were turning deaf ears to it.
“What is it, 15 games into the season?” said captain Jonathan Toews, as the Blackhawks improved to 12-0-3. “What’s important to us is getting home ice advantage, making the playoffs. Once you get there, the real season starts. When you get there, nobody remembers these streaks at the start of the season.”
Well, the postseason certainly is the “real” season. But if and when the Blackhawks get there, and if they get one of those top seeds and home-ice advantage, it will be in large part because of this start.
Brent Seabrook, Toews and Patrick Sharp scored, and the Blackhawks withstood a furious Kings rally to keep their regulation loss-free streak alive on Sunday afternoon. No, it wasn’t pretty at the end; the Blackhawks took four penalties in the final 20 minutes, and the Kings turned two of them into power-play goals (Mike Richards on both). But eventually the Blackhawks did what they’ve done all season: they found a way.
“We had a great first 40 minutes, they got momentum off the power-play goal in the third and a great third period,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “We had a great 40, they had a great 20 and the clock ran out, which was nice.”
[Related: Early momentum once again pushes Hawks past Kings]
The Blackhawks are now one victory or overtime/shootout loss away from tying the Ducks. Patrick Sharp reiterated that they’re not looking at that mark.
“It’s really not an issue in our locker room,” said Sharp, whose goal today ended a 10-game goal-less streak. “We’re just playing hard, trying to get better every game. We’ve noticed other teams are getting better. We’re trying to do the same.”
The Blackhawks took some lumps in this one, from Johnny Oduya taking a skate around his face to Seabrook taking a shot to his, well, lower body. For the Blackhawks, it’s all part of the sacrifice.
“Yeah, we’re having fun, we’re playing hard. Whatever it takes, is what we’re saying in here,” said Seabrook, who had five blocked shots on top of his goal and assist. “And we’re having a fun time doing it.”
Said Toews on Seabrook, “it hurts to look at your teammate and see how much pain they’re in when they block a shot like that. But it motivates you and gets you in the right frame of mind of what we need to do to win. When you have a teammate like that laying himself on the line, it inspires your teammates.”
Ray Emery stopped 25 of 27 in this one and was on his toes down the stretch when the Blackhawks got into penalty trouble. Oduya was in the box with 1:04 remaining, but the Blackhawks held off the Kings’ final power-play opportunity.
“Over the course (of a game), every team will have momentum and zone time. They certainly had it,” Quenneville said of the Kings in the third. “You try to keep it, but it’s tough to have 60 minutes like we played the first 40 minutes.”
The Blackhawks are playing inspired hockey right now, even if they have a few hiccups now and then. They’ll revel in each victory then move on. Their goal is making the postseason, and getting a high seed in the process. This winning streak is certainly nice, but the Blackhawks aren’t going to fuss much about it.
“It’s always fun when things are going your way and your playing well to be able to match records or beat them or whatever,” Toews said. “But the main thing is we’re having fun, we’re playing well and we have to keep improving off that.”