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.

Ryan Hartman returns for Blackhawks vs. Penguins

Ryan Hartman returns for Blackhawks vs. Penguins

PITTSBURGH — Ryan Hartman has played on the right side of that line for most of this season. Now back in the lineup, he knows he has to stay on it.

Hartman will play after missing Monday's game as a healthy scratch when the Blackhawks face the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday night. Hartman took a few bad penalties, including an unsportsmanlike conduct, against the Florida Panthers last weekend, so he sat vs. the Tampa Bay Lightning. The rookie knows he has to get back to the more disciplined hockey he's played most of the season. 

"I don't change my game. I think you take the message and deliver the message," Hartman said. "Obviously, no one likes to not play, everyone wants to play games and no one likes to sit out games. It's definitely something that I took to heart. I'm just going to go out there and just try to play like I've been playing and get on the scoresheet. Just stay off it for the wrong reasons."

Coach Joel Quenneville said Hartman has to stay on the right side of the line.

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"Know there are boundaries and sometimes you get watched a little bit more," Quenneville said. "The way they're calling the game, the way it's being officiated, be respectful. You still have to be hard to play against and find that limit, how far you can push it but you get a good feel on that early in games."

The Penguins are on a three-game winless streak (0-2-1) and are dealing with some injuries. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that, while Evgeni Malkin (shoulder) is close to returning, he won't play against the Blackhawks.

Broadcast information

Time: 7 p.m.
TV: NBCSN
Live stream: NBC Sports app
Radio: WGN 720 AM

Blackhawks lines

Nick Schmaltz-Jonathan Toews-Richard Panik
Artemi Panarin-Tanner Kero-Patrick Kane
Ryan Hartman-Marcus Kruger-Marian Hossa
John Hayden-Dennis Rasmussen-Tomas Jurco

Defensive pairs 

Duncan Keith-Niklas Hjalmarsson
Johnny Oduya-Brent Seabrook
Brian Campbell-Trevor van Riemsdyk

Goaltender

Corey Crawford

Injuries 

Artem Anisimov (left leg)

Penguins lines

Conor-Sheary-Sidney Crosby-Bryan Rust
Chris Kunitz-Nick Bonino-Patric Hornqvist
Scott Wilson-Carter Rowney-Phil Kessel
Tom Kuhnhackl-Oskar Sundqvist-Josh Archibald

Defensive pairs

Brian Dumoulin-Justin Schultz
Ian Cole-Chad Ruhwedel
Cameron Gaunce-Mark Streit

Goaltender

Marc-Andre Fleury

Injuries

Evgeni Malkin (shoulder), Trevor Daley (knee), Daniel Sprong (shoulder), Jake Guentzel (concussion), Olli Maatta (hand), Kris Letang (upper body), Carl Hagelin (foot), Ron Hainsey (upper body)

Hawks Talk Podcast: What's the cause of recent struggles?

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USA TODAY

Hawks Talk Podcast: What's the cause of recent struggles?

On the latest Hawks Talk Podcast, Pat Boyle and Steve Konroyd discuss the latest slump and how much does Artem Anisimov's injury play a role in their struggles?

Konroyd tells us he was surprised by Ryan Hartman's benching in Tampa.

The guys play the game, playoff minutes or press box minutes?  They run through the players who are on the bubble when it comes to postseason play.

They also discuss the Hawks chances of overtaking Washington for the President's trophy.

Plus, Konroyd breaks down possible first round opponents: St Louis, Calgary and Nashville.