The Blackhawks have already had their road tests in this early season.
Start in Los Angeles against the defending Stanley Cup champions, face the team that eliminated you from the postseason the next day (Phoenix), go against a pretty damn good goaltender, Kari Lehtonen, in Dallas, then grind it out against a Columbus team that outplayed them. Not easy. But the Blackhawks have found a way to top all those road challenges en route to their 6-0-0 record.
That’s good, because their biggest road trip is just beginning.
The Blackhawks embark on their six-game “Ice Show” road trip, the longest of this season, starting against a Zach Parise- and Ryan Suter-led Minnesota Wild on Wednesday night. It’ll will be another round of tough games for the Blackhawks, who will also face Vancouver, Calgary, San Jose, Phoenix and Nashville. And how the Blackhawks will do on this one, Marian Hossa says, will say plenty.
“This is going to be really a good test for us,” he said. “We’re pleased with how we started but this is going to be a great challenge starting in Minnesota, which is going to be a huge game. They’re a strong team with new additions. When we come back after these six games, we’ll really know where our team is.”
If their first four road games provided any indication, the Blackhawks are all right. They’re still rolling their four lines, still getting great contributions from everyone, be it even strength, power play or short-handed. That goes for Corey Crawford, too, who earned five victories last week en route to earning NHL second-star honors. Even in Columbus, where they didn’t play their best hockey, the Blackhawks found a way.
“We work hard, we support underneath the puck, take pucks to the net and drive. When you go to the net, good things come with it,” center Andrew Shaw said. “It just shows we have to stick together. We take every game as it comes, go in and battle. If we focus on each game as they come, we’ll do fine on this road trip.”
The phrase “keep it simple” usually comes up regarding road-game hockey. But coach Joel Quenneville said he just wants the Blackhawks to keep doing what’s worked for them, regardless of where they’re playing.
“We want to play the same way, home or away,” he said. “Every game’s been like a playoff game, and there are going to be swings in the standings. It’s early season but it really isn’t in regard to the meaning of the games.”
The Blackhawks are going to be tested away from home again. How they handle it will be judged, as Hossa said, when they return. But the Blackhawks like how they’ve handled the road thus far, and say they can continue it.
“We’re playing good hockey out there, we look solid overall. We’re not giving up too many chances or odd-man breaks,” Viktor Stalberg said. “This trip’s going to be tough, but we’ve already got a few road games down. We’ll try to keep this streak going as long as possible.”