Sensational, a word that I feel is appropriate for the description of the 2008/'09 season of the Chicago Blackhawks.
Having taken in first hand many game at the United Center this season, I have felt the energy surrounding this team. Let me tell you, it is sensational.
For a while it was almost a coin toss effect happening every time you decided to attended a Blackhawks game. The only constant of course being the cost to make the decision to go.
The team had little to offer, the fans that went to the game went for one of two reasons. Fights and to scold the home team for lack of performance.
It seems that the winds in Chicago have been able to sweep in a sense of change.
A lot of credit has been handed to John McDunough for coming in and developing a marketing strategy that has worked about as well as anyone involved would have ever imagined.
But really I have a soft spot for the nitty gritty.
How much of this amazing turn around has to do with commercials, contest and outdoor games at Wrigley? How much of it is Dale Tallon being able to put together a group of guys that with every game that passes are becoming more and more comfortable with their individual roles.
Remember, all the fancy gimmicks and marketing schemes would be nothing but run of the mill false advertising if these guys were out there playing lackluster hockey.
This just is not the case. The Blackhawks seemingly have found the winning formula in almost any type of organization.
A group individuals completing their own specific tasks or reaching their own personal benchmarks all working toward a common goal. Each individual has different tasks that are essential in the group reaching that final pinnacle.
This is exactly what is happening on the West side of Chicago. You have a team that has most of its individuals adapting to their specific roles.
The obvious is your group of stars starting with the two poster boys for the organization: Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews.
A lot of pressure is on these two 20-year-old kids. First the pressure of wearing the "C" on the best jersey in sports for Toews. For Patrick Kane, he is expected by the masses to produce numbers that for any player are mammoth especially a 20 year old.
These guys have taken this pressure and ran with it. Although Toews has not been producing huge numbers. His solid two way play along with physical play is opening up room for his teammates. He seems to fit the captain roll very well and will continue to grow there.
Kane has been pretty much what all Blackhawks fans wanted so far. He has had a couple slow periods but all in all has done the job points wise leading the team with 45 pts.
The real success is not with just those two guys. Go down the list and you will see solid contributions from so many players that really were unknown to the Fans let alone expected to produce.
You have got Kris Versteeg, Dave Bolland, Andrew Ladd of course Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook (have to be paired even in article lists).
I really could name every one on the active roster and praise them on some part of their game that is a big help to this team.
Guys like Adam Burish, Ben Eager and Colin Fraser. These are the unsung heroes of the game and this team. These guys will never get the most money or be given prestigious awards and bonuses for offensive achievements.
They will however be remembered by their teammates for being all energy all the time, for being the first guys in a tussle and the last guys out. These guys do the little things that help teams gel as well as anything else.
All of these guys mentioned and obviously guys that were left out of this are doing spectacular jobs this season for the 'Hawks. All of the good efforts would be for nothing if the MEN between the pipes were not BOTH playing at a high level.
Nikolai Khabibulin and Cristobal Huet have 27 and 25 games played respectively. Khabibulin has a 2.33 GAA with a record of 16-4-5 with one shootout win. Huet has a 2.32 GAA with a record of 13-9-3 with 2 shootout wins.
I would have to give the upper edge to Khabibulin at this point but will not take anything away from "the man from France". Both have been extraordinary. The fact that we have yet to see one or both complain about not being "the guy" is also extraordinary.
A testament to this teams togetherness. Even if they are feeling like the are sharing duties, they are both executing the duties very well. I mean, wouldn't you want to share time on a team that is in the mix and selling out every night at home. Rather than be "the guy" on a team that is struggling and playing in front of a bunch of empty seats?
I sure would and it seems these guys are not different.
So as of now with 50 games played and a record of 29-13-8 where do the Blackhawks go from here?
It seems simple. They go the same way they have been going all season long. Up!
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